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Star Wars: Myths & Fables by George Mann and Grant Griffin

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, sacrifice, mentions of bullying, violence, oppression, loss of a parents/loved one, kidnapping, slavery, abandonment

Oh how I loved this so very much! I meant to read this book last year during the winter, after it had released, but never got around to it because of the holidays and family gatherings. So when the opportunity came around for me to finally sit down and read this, I couldn’t resist!

This is a beautifully written and illustrated book, compiled of nine short stories and fables in the Star Wars universe. From fierce warriors defending the innocent to bounty hunters avoiding being caught, this is a great book to introduce those not familiar with the Star Wars universe.

As always with anthologies, short story collections, and bind-ups, I like to do a break down of each one and keep them as spoiler free as I possibly can.

“… stories were told told amongst the people of a kindly wanderer who would emerge from the mist to aid the people in their hour of need, assisting them with their most difficult or dangerous plights.”

🌌 The Knight and the Dragon – A great dragon by the name Krayta becomes awoken by a nomadic people who made their home in in the harsh desert sands on the planet, Tatooine. With the dragon stealing their livestock and their people, these nomadic people are reduced to desperate measures. Until one day, an old knight started looking into the disappearing people of the nearby town.

🌌 The Droid with a Heart – This story follows two characters. The first bit follows a little big about the backstory of General Grievous, how he became obsessed with becoming a droid. However, his cruelty well known among the droids who work under him. In the midst of a war between the Republic and the Separatists, a singular tactical droid stands against the general to save it’s fellow droids from destruction in the general’s tactical plans.

🌌 Vengeful Waves – Our fable follows two races, the Nautolans and the Anselmi, on the planet Glee Anselm. For two millennia, both races thrived and their cultures flourished. Until one day, Anselmi allowed their greed to get the better of them. After ignore all warnings, they’ll be faced with the angered ocean spirit of the planet.

🌌 The Wanderer – On the planet Cerosha, a stranger known as The Wanderer helped the people of Solace during three major events. After those three events, the kind Wanderer never returned to Solace.

🌌 The Black Spire – At the heart of the Black Spire Outpost, there stands an ancient tree tall, black tree that has survived thousands of years. The tree has witnessed many terrors, but has witnessed the advent of heroes. One hero in particular, a young girl named Anya, who saved her siblings from a terrible fate. A story of heroism that is all but forgotten, except with the spire and Anya, herself.

🌌 Gaze of Stone – A strory that follows the tale of a Twi’lek boy, Ry Nymbis, who was gifted with the force and taken under apprenticeship of Darth Caldoth. Though, this is not a happy tale and soon Ry learns he’ll experience a fate worse than death itself.

🌌 The Witch & the Wookiee – In the Outer Rim, a small band of pirates came to find themselves on a ship with a huge haul of treasure. After they betray their fellow criminals, they soon find themselves hunted by their former allies and the Imperial governor. So they create a plan to escape to Wild Space and find themselves landing on the moon of Jhas Kill. But even in the darkest corners lurk danger and sometimes you’ll cross the one that delivers the worst punishment.

🌌 Dark Wraith – Returning to the planet Cerosha, the city of Mock faces the ruins of Solace. Whispered even in hidden most places, the citizens talk about the Dark Wraith, the one who punished the people of Solace into a melancholy graveyard.

🌌 Chasing Ghosts – The scoundrel named Misook has been on the run from a bounty hunter ever since he reneged on a deal with a notorious crime boss. Now he flees to Wilder Space, hoping to shake his bounty hunter. But Mirialan is persistent and trying to make a name for herself. But things changed when Misook made up the tale of Arquel.

Overall, I really enjoyed this. I find Star Wars is the most common reason why I find myself reading Sci-Fi. And this book definitely hinted at some of my favorites from this universe. This book really shows how vast this universe really is and I hope we see more books like this come out in the future. If you’re interested in reading more about the Star Wars or you’re trying to get someone into the Star Wars universe, I think this is a great book to start with.

Read for The Reading Rush 💚

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Almost Home by Joan Bauer

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“sometimes a kid has to act older than they are”

Content/Trigger Warnings: Alcoholism, talk of animal abuse, homelessness, grief, loss of a loved one, hospitalization

Dearest readers, I’m not going to lie, I got a bit emotional with this book. This touched on a lot of hard topics that I have personally gone through and I was a bit sappy. It had even more of an impact since I was reading this during the month of November and feeling a bit homesick. All of that aside, this is such a heartbreaking yet hopeful tale that everyone should take the time to read.

Almost Home follows the story of twelve-year-old Sugar who just lost her grandfather, and her alcoholic and gambling father just ran off again, and now her mother has lost their house. Leaving everything she loves in Missouri, Sugar and her mother travel to Chicago in hopes of a fresh start. Only things aren’t that simple. Things have never been more rough or difficult to handle. But with the help of a timid dog named Shush, a loving foster family, a supportive teacher, and her love for poetry, Sugar will navigate her way through her hardships with her own grace and positive outlook. She’ll soon come to terms that while she may not be able to control everything happening in her life, she can control how she reacts.

“Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a person is to have a puppy lick your face.”

I really loved the main character of this book. I loved how we got to see her talk about her hardships and talk about how hard she works. I especially loved the way she talked about her poetry and her teacher. She has a very whimsical personality in this book and an even more positive outlook. You can’t help feel a little upbeat even though the circumstances for Sugar are hard and challenging. Despite everything Sugar goes through in this book, she does her best to handle everything with that positive outlook and the wisdom her grandfather left with her. But the bit I love most about Sugar is how real she is. There’s a scene in this book where Sugar ends up talking about how it’s all too much for her and having that little part of just showing how hard she’s internally struggling really made her real for my reading experience. This is kind of the part where I became a bit emotional because in my childhood, I too had to grow up really fast and reading these bits my memory flickers to life and goes “Oh yeah, I remember the time when it was like that.” So reading how hard Sugar was trying to be positive, be the grownup, but reading how much she internalized, it really pulled at my heartstrings.

This book has so many important points especially for a middle grade book, but I think out of everything this books offers, I love how it normalizes how animals can be more than a pet and just how truly magical they really are. Our main character goes through a lot of hardship and when she receives this little puppy, it seems like she has a friend who on her side through all these struggles. Shush becomes a beacon of love, understanding, and a source of comfort for Sugar as she handles her father reappearing, her mother struggling to get back on her feet, and trying to find all the normal among all the chaos. There’s also a scene where Shush is licking Sugar’s mother’s face during a depressive episode and how it restores a little happiness into her. As the book progresses, I love how important the representation of animals become in this book and how important they become for Sugar.

Unfortunately, I did have some issues with this book. My biggest issue was things seemed to happen so quickly. While the reading pace of this book is steady, it seemed a lot of conflicts or situations wrapped up incredibly quick or resolved almost instantly. And my final issue I think a lot of readers will have with this book is nothing exciting or shocking really happens in this book. I guess my issue was it became predictable. It was obvious Sugar’s father was going to come back into the picture, it was obvious that Sugar was going to get relocated to a loving foster family (even though reality doesn’t always work like that), and many other points in the book. I feel like this book had the opportunity to be a really emotional read, really dip into reality, and this just didn’t drive it all the way home for me like other books have.

“Almost. It’s a big word for me. I feel it everywhere. Almost home. Almost happy. Almost changed. Almost, but not quite. Not yet. Soon, maybe.”

Overall, this was a good, solid story to read especially this time of year if you’re feeling a little homesick or need a reminder to be grateful for what you have. And of course, as I mentioned before, this book has so many important topics! From homelessness all the way to how we cope hardships. I find that this is a great book to introduce to children to the reality many other kids their age face and struggle with every day. I also find this to be a great book to comfort those who are going through similar situations like Sugar. A beautifully heartbreaking story that every child should be introduced to.

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Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of homelessness, starvation, grief

“And right then I knew, the way you know that it’s going to rain long before the first drop splatters on your nose, that something was about to change.”

Things couldn’t be more dark and difficult. Jackson and his family has fallen into some hard times. And each inching second seems like their family is one step away from living in the family car. Again. Then Crenshaw starts reappearing, again. He’s large, outspoken, and he’s Jackson’s imaginary friend. He’s back and this time he’s here to help save Jackson and his family from losing everything.

Friends, I have one again fallen into an emotional hole of books that hit close to home. In read this book back in October 2018 and I decided to pick this book back up again this fall as well. There couldn’t have been a more perfect time to read this book! I’m going to be honest, I’m about to get sappy, emotional, and I’m going to get personal. Crenshaw is the book I needed as a child, but is the book I longed for as an adult.

Jackson is a no-nonsense kind of kid. He believes in science and he prefers the facts over stories. He’s determined to grow up to be the best animal scientist he can be. Oh yeah, and he has an imaginary friend who just so happens to be a giant cat. Crenshaw is outspoken, appears at the most random moments, and adores Jackson. Only Jackson doesn’t want Crenshaw around. He wants Crenshaw to disappear so he can deal with much bigger issues. However, Crenshaw is here to help and he’s going to help Jackson whether he wants it or not.

“Imaginary friends are like books. We’re created, we’re enjoyed, we’re dog-eared and creased, and then we’re tucked away until we’re needed again.”

I love this book with my whole heart and soul. Applegate does a beautiful job of weaving together a story that address really important topics that hit close to home. One of those topics is how parents handle life changing, hard situations when their kids are involved. In Crenshaw, Jackson’s family falls on incredibly hard times. The money is all gone, the rent bills are piling up, there’s no food in the apartment, they’re selling off a lot of their things, the parents are fighting a lot, and Jackson’s parents keep putting up a happy front to make things seem fine. You can really see how the happy front really affects Jackson and his sister in this book. While Jackson’s sister it’s fully aware due to her age, Jackson is old enough to put all the clues together and knows that things are changing, history repeating itself. I loved that. I love that we get to see things from a child’s perspective and truly see children are very much aware of the things going on in their surroundings. To truly see that they really just want the truth from their parents. What had me breaking at the seams was the fact that this middle-grade book addresses homelessness and hunger. It’s not often talked about in books, let alone middle-grade books, but every second broke my heart. Looking at the way Jackson handles a lot of the situations that pop up in this book, I couldn’t find a more better character who mirrors my own. And I think Crenshaw does a marvelous job of accurately showing what so many children go through out there when it comes to families struggling financially or going through homelessness.

For me, personally, Jackson is so easy for me to relate to. Growing up, while my family never ended up homeless, we had a lot of financial struggles. There were times where we would go a week or two without food or we would go a whole month just eating ramen before we could actually have groceries in our house. I was also in a same position like Jackson when he was constantly seeing his parents fight from a distance. It’s not often talked about, but at such young ages children are very perceptive and can figure things out without too much details. It’s not hard to see things from a distance and notice just how bad things are becoming. Schooling wise, Jackson wasn’t really able to participate in things he had a deep interest in like soccer camp for example. Even though he said it was fine he was deeply conflicted and upset about the whole thing. From my own experiences, when you’re growing up in a situation where there’s financial struggles, there’s hardly any food on the table, you constantly sacrifice things you want to do at school or even sell off your own items so you can help your family, you convince yourself that things are fine or they’ll get better, but there’s a lot of internal damage that comes with all of that. However, convincing and believing are two different things when you’re a child. As you read in this book, you see at what lengths Jackson reaches because he’s spent most of his childhood convincing himself he’s fine with everything . He reaches a point where he is splitting himself in two with what he’s trying to convince himself and what he truly believes and feels. It’s absolutely heartbreaking and really hits in the gut. His story is so strong that you can’t help, but getting emotional just like he does.

Then we have Crenshaw himself. We find out that Jackson doesn’t really have a lot of friends. In fact his social circle just consists of one girl named Marisol. Other than that his other friend is one black, giant cat named Crenshaw. Crenshaw is basically Jackson’s helper of coming to terms with his true feelings about his situation and convinces Jackson to just speak his mind. “Tell the truth; it will set you free.” As you read you come to terms that Crenshaw isn’t any imaginary friend, but he’s like a guide for Jackson. The best term I can think of, Crenshaw is like a lighthouse in the eye of a bad storm and Jackson is a boat who needs to get to shore. Crenshaw may be an imaginary friend, but for Jackson he is very real. We get moments of Jackson trying to understand how he can be his imaginary friend and touch him, but no one else can really experience him or see him. He’s like this embodiment of the childhood Jackson should of have, but due to all the struggles his family is going through Jackson has somehow convinced himself that he’s too old for an imaginary friend, there’s a scientific reason for him seeing his imaginary friend, and just overall Jackson wants to reject that part of himself without realizing just how badly he needs Crenshaw in his life in this moment. Crenshaw is such an important key to this story. Without Crenshaw, Jackson would never come to terms with his feelings or even confine in Marisol about his imaginary friend and some of the things happening with his family.

“What bothered me most, though, was that I couldn’t fix anything. I couldn’t control anything. It was like driving a bumper car without a steering wheel. I kept getting slammed, and I just had to sit there and hold on tight.”

The greatest thing this book offers is this book opens the floor up for so many discussions. From ‘How do parents deal with a curve ball unexpected life situation- totally unplanned that affect their children?‘ to ‘How does a father help support his family when disabled? How can a wife/ mother be most supportive in the most challenging situations?‘ It’s an incredibly powerful book that young kids will be able to relate to and it allows them to go to their parents and have open discussion. This is also a really touching book that many adults can read to because it allows them to become more open with their children and have a larger family discuss. It’s incredible to think have much this one little book can change and impact. I have never been the same since reading this book and I always think about it around this time of year.

Overall, this was a beautiful book to read. A piece of me has been taken by this book and I couldn’t be happier with it. I definitely wish more readers were reading Crenshaw and having discussions about this book. This is a book that truly shows how messy life can be and how even though things may become really hard, you will always have the ones who love you. If you find you have a chance to pick a copy of this book up, please do. It’s a remarkable book and I just can’t stop recommending it with my whole heart and soul!

“Life is messy. It’s complicated. It would be nice if life were always like this.” He drew an imaginary line that kept going up and up. “But life is actually a lot more like this.” He made a jiggly line that went up and down like a mountain range. “You just have to keep trying.”

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The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

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ARC was given by in exchange for an honest review

Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, harassment, minor racism, scene of parental abuse/child abuse, talk of death

Magic is harder than it looks and it always comes with a price.
Moth Hush is a thirteen year old who loves all things witchy and is just trying to survive school. She’s about to learn witches aren’t like how they are in fairy tales and movies, they’re more complex. When the bullies at her school take things too far, strange things begin to happen. Now Moth’s world will open up to things she never even knew about before. That is if her mother doesn’t stop her first. From talking cats, to family secrets, all the way to flying brooms… Moth’s life will never be the same again.

Readers, this was the perfect book to put me in the mood for the spooky season! Black cats, magic, and witches, oh my! I have been eager for all things witchy and spooky. And this graphic novel was the perfect way to fall into the mood. From the fall setting to all the magical witchy things happening, this is a super cute graphic novel to get anyone ready for Halloween.

This was such a cute and precious middle grade book to read! From the bond between Moth and her mother to the talking cat, all the way to Moth making a friend who’s just as quirky as she is, I loved every piece of this book. This graphic novel has so much to offer and I think many readers will enjoy this book. Plus, what better way to bring in the fall season then to curl up with a graphic novel packed with witches and magic with a gorgeous fall setting?! There’s also some really great representation in this graphic novel. We get main characters who visibly brown skin and we also get two different family dynamics! Be still my beating heart!

I truly loved Moth’s character in this book. While this graphic novel does take place close to Halloween, you can tell that Moth wears her uniqueness on her sleeve. She doesn’t bend to what the world wants her to be like and it really shows her uniqueness. And when she reveals her room, I couldn’t helping being in awe. She really devotes herself to the things that she loves and it was so nice to have that little glimpse. I also really love the bond Moth shares with her mother. Even though throughout this book Moth’s mother tries to prevent Moth from learning and magic, there’s a lot of love and a strong bond there between the two of them. That bond really shows at the beginning and end of this graphic novel. The way Moth and her mother feel about each other so strongly is so wholesome and touching.

And can I take a moment to gush about the artwork? The artwork is simply stunning and there’s so many pages where the mood it really set thanks to the artwork on the pages. It’s extremely easy to get wrapped up in the story and the artwork because of the way they flow together. I think it’s some of my most favorite art style for a graphic novel that I’ve seen so far and it definitely left an imprint on my memory.

However, my only true issue with this graphic novel and why I feel like I can’t commit to giving it five stars is due to a lot of history. This graphic novel has a way of reading like a history lesson and the readers are in class. There’s a lot of talk about the witch trials and colonization that gets focused on heavily throughout this book. Often times, this graphic novel felt like you really had to pay attention otherwise you would miss a lot of this that happen later on in the book. It all felt very school-y and homework-y for my tastes. It truly felt like I was sitting in history class all over again and I was about to get a pop quiz on witches and colonization. Also, I’m even sure how accurate the witch trials and colonization were represented in this book. I can definitely testify that the witch trials did originally start in the UK and Europe, which later on expanded over into North America, but past that I can’t speak for how accurate things were.

Overall, I truly did enjoy this graphic novel. It was a great way to kick off the fall season and get in the mood for all the spooky things to come. If you’ve been here a while, you know I love different family dynamics and this graphic novel offers so much of that in that diverse family department. It truly warmed my heart o see a single mother and her daughter in this book, but also see the dysfunctional family side of things as well. It was a breath of fresh air. But in all honesty, if you’re looking for a book to put you in the mood for fall, Halloween, and everything that comes along for the ride then this is the book for you! There’s so much representation and the main character is absolutely precious! Plus, there’s a talking cat!

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Song for Whale by Lynne Kelly

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Grief, loss of a loved one, minor bullying/harassment, abandonment/isolation

“He keeps singing this song, and everything in the ocean swims by him, as if he’s not there. He thinks no one understands him. I want to let him know he’s wrong about that.”

Friends, I’m feeling incredibly soft and sappy after reading Song with a Whale. This book is about so much, offers so much and I still can’t believe how much passion radiates from this book. I have fallen head over heels for this book and I can only hope many others will give this book a chance like I did. If you find yourself looking for a book that offers hope in dark times, immense passion, and unconditional desire to find a place in the world then this is a book you need to pick up.

Iris is a twelve year old tech genius who’s the only deaf person in her school. She struggles to fit in because most of the staff and students treat her like she’s not very smart. Constantly feeling isolated, alone, and like no one is listening to you, Iris keeps trying to find a small bit of understanding. Until her science teacher reveals Blue 55, a whale who is unable to speak with other whales, and suddenly Iris’s world has opened up a little more. Now Iris is making it her mission to help this whale and to let him know, he’s not alone and someone out there understands him.

I fell in love with Iris right away. She is so intelligent and works so hard at computer repairing. I think it’s absolutely incredible and it’s so unique to finally see a character like Iris in a middle grade book. I adored her even more when we truly get to see her desire to meet Blue 55 and how she would stop for nothing to meet this whale. That passion was so beautiful to read about and watch unfold in this book. Not to mention the way her relationships with her family and friends flourished in this book was something so raw and realistic that you really become sucked in. I also think the author did a wonderful job expressing to the reader Iris’s isolation, her loneliness, and her desire to be around others who understood her and her struggles.

Iris is such a great character and I love how inspired she became in this book. While I mentioned that she is a tech prodigy, the way she goes about handle the “puzzle” of Blue 55 was so captivating and I really enjoyed reading how Iris wanted to help Blue 55. Blue 55 is a whale who sings on a different frequency than other whales and therefore he can’t really communicate with other whales or pods. So Iris creates this master plan of recreating a song that he’ll be able to understand and on the exact frequency that Blue 55 communicates on. With the help of some old radio parts, the school’s music class, and the knowledge she’s learned about Blue 55, Iris creates the perfect way to communicate with Blue 55.

Out of all this book though, I loved the family dynamic and I love the way Iris talks about her grandfather. I’m a huge sap for books that have a family focus and this book has so much family focus. I love how we see the challenges in a family and the struggles of trying to communicate with one another. I loved how the death of a loved one can be a reason to bridge two family members together. And most of all, I love how the death of a loved one can imprint on us and how bit and pieces of them can inspire us in a time of healing, to never stop living. It was a beautiful underlying theme and I adored how lyrically it was woven into the story. I also like how near the end we saw the internal struggles of a mother feeling like she will never be needed only to be reassured that she will always be needed by her child. I read that and it felt like a thousand bolts of lightning to the soul. It was so moving and impactful, it had me thinking about my own mother and how I still need her thoughts and opinions on things from time to time. It was a brilliant way to show the meaning and importance of family.

While I can’t relate on a deep personal level with this book, I do have family members from my spouse’s side who are going deaf and have to use equipment to help enhance their hearing. So this book does touch home for me and this was such an important read for me. I also really appreciate while the author isn’t deaf, herself, she is a sign language interpreter and she based this story off a lot of her own experiences with the children she has encountered in her career. I also really loved that she went into more details in the back of the book on deafness and sign language. I think it will help many readers better understand where Iris’s character comes from and what inspired her to be who she is in this book.

“Your music sailed through the ocean
and over the land
and carried me here.
Sing your song.”

My only issue with this book was the perspective of the whale or Blue 55. While I don’t think this will be an issue for middle grade children who read this book, this was something that definitely threw me off from time to time when that perspective would pop up. I think for many readers who aren’t used to reading middle grade, I think that will be something that will throw them off or be difficult to look past especially since there’s only a small handful that are thrown in there. I also want to take a moment to further explain the “minor bullying” in this book. There are quite a few things that will stick out in this book that caught my attention and I wanted to take a moment to discuss them. The first issue is a teacher who constantly picks on Iris and pins Iris to be unintelligent. So the teacher constantly goes out of her way to cause a scene and make Iris feel like she’s less intellectual than the other students in her class. The second issue is the student who thinks she knows how to preform sign language. She’s constantly getting into Iris’s personal space, there are scenes of her preforming “sign language” in Iris’s face, and this student doesn’t stop when she is asked to stop. These are the two biggest issues with these side characters. I personally interpret as minor bullying or minor harassment, but for other readers it might not be too big of an issue. I just found it to be a hard thing to forget and a lot of those actions to be unforgivable because of how inappropriate they were during specific times during this book.

Overall, this book was an emotional read and as I said, this book does hit close to home. It’s such an important read especially for any child who has big struggles. There’s just so much inspiration, hope, and determination in this book that the author brings to life so well. I definitely recommend this to anyone who wants to feel inspired, needing of hope, or just wanting to read a more fascinating book. The author truly did a marvelous job with this book.

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The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon #2) by Katie O’Neill

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“There’s no reason you can’t start being a guardian now, even if it’s a little later than you intended.”

Dearest friends, if you thought I was going to miss this book then you are mistaken. I have eagerly been waiting for this book to drop ever since I finished The Tea Dragon Society. I loved the first book so much that I constantly go back and reread it just for something light and sweet. Now I can finally say that I will be rereading both of these books for comfort and happiness! And friends, I love this book, I love it with my whole heart. I love it as much as the first one and I truly hope we’ll be seeing plenty more in this series. If you haven’t thought about picking up either of these books, let me be the one to recommend both of these books to you with my whole heart and soul. If you love dragons as much as I do, you need these books.

This graphic novel starts off by showing us some very familiar faces. Erik and Hesekiel are back again, and it feels so good to see their pleasant, adventuring faces once more. They’re back to give us some good banter, but also as bounty hunters back to track down something ancient that’s causing people to fall asleep for years. But this story isn’t just about them. Our true star of this book is Rinn, who wants to become a great chef/cook. And one day while Rinn is out gathering some supplies for the village, she stumbles upon a sleeping dragon named Aedhan. After finding out their story, Rinn invites Aedhan to the festival.

What I love most about O’Neill’s work is she always makes them so diverse and this book delivers so much. There is a strong presence of Sign Language being used and taught throughout village in this book. O’Neill also included a section in the back of the book for more information on Sign Language for readers to learn more. Also, our main character Rinn is nonbinary/genderfluid. There’s also a conversation between Rinn and Aedhan about dragons being genderfluid and how dragons like to choose between the two genders, as well. And remember Erik and Hesekiel? Well they’re in an m/m relationship and they’re the cutest! Plus, the cast of characters is visible with brown skin.

“Just because something comes easily to you, does not mean it has no value. You find it effortless because you love it, and that is why it is your gift.”

Something I truly appreciated in this book was that moment between Rinn and Aedhan where Aedhan was teaching Rinn about how dragons can shift between genders. It was so beautiful and it made me feel very soft. As someone who used cross-dress and go by a gender neutral name; it was such an emotional moment and it made a huge impact with my reading experience of this book. I wish I had books like this growing up to say, “This is a thing, it’s normal, and there’s other out their like you.” Not only was that moment so movie, but seeing Aedhan tell Rinn how they’re worthy, they have value, and they shouldn’t feel lesser for the enjoyment and pride they get out of doing what they love… my soul left my body. Even more so because reading that moment shared between them, it came when I really needed to here those words the most. So now this book is completely imprinted on me!

Another thing I truly loved was how much emphasis was put on cooking in this book. Food and cooking is such a universal thing no matter where you come from. And I truly appreciated that this book really showed how you can cook with love, how cooking and learning from your elders is so important, that preparing the food and gathering supplies can be an intimate moment shared between two people. It’s something that can be done by anyone and at the end you can see the joy and the unconditional love shared between everyone who is partaking in the meal. In my family, cook is a very special thing. We’re taught to always cook and bake when you’re in a peaceful mood, a joyous mood, when you feel enlightened, or truly happy because those emotions will be poured into the food you prepare. Even now, I still like to uphold those traditions. So seeing how much the author put a focus and emphasis on the power of cooking, how it can bring people together, the intimacy, and the true beauty of cooking… I’m still very soft and caught up in my emotions.

Overall, I loved this book and I truly, deeply believe it’s a masterpiece that I hope more readers will read! I said it in the first book, but I’ll say it again here, I love the artwork and how captivating it is, how much emotion radiates from a panel. Both books have filled me with so much comfort, happiness, and joy, I truly hope Katie O’Neill will give us more from the Tea Dragon universe. Each book has such meaningful focuses and messages and I want everyone to read her books. Plus, I’m truly grateful for the reminder of you’re always worthy, you’re always needed, and you deserve love.

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Stargazing by Jen Wang

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ARC was given by in exchange for an honest review

This review is being published before the release date ( September 10, 2019)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Bullying, guilt, minor violence/fighting, medical issues, stereotypical prejudice

Moon is everything Christine feels like she’s not. She’s confident, outgoing, makes friends easily, and they both live in the same Chinese-American community. Unlike like everyone else, Moon is different from everyone else Christine has ever met. After some struggles brew, Moon’s family ends up moving into the spare unit behind Christine’s family home and soon a friendship starts to bloom between the two. But nothing is ever perfect… When a catastrophe strikes and Moon is soon thrown into a whirlwind of struggles, it’s up to Christine to find her courage and be the friend Moon has always been for her.

Stargazing is a graphic novel that follows our two main characters, Christine and Moon. Christine comes from a strict family and constant stress of wanting to be good enough, being perfect enough. Moon comes from a single parent household and is everything Christine isn’t. Carefree, impulsive, and confidence constantly radiates from Moon and Christine can’t help being drawn to her like a moth to a flame. What seems like an unlikely friendship blooms into the best of friends, if not the perfect friends. Both girls end up sharing secrets, painting toe nails, and even plan to attend the school’s talent show together. However, their friendship gets put to the test when the unimaginable happens.

Friends, this was such a cute read! I couldn’t help feeling connected to both main characters and understanding their individual struggles. I’m just sad that this wasn’t longer and that it ended so quickly! I really wanted to read more about Moon and Christine’s friendship! I think anyone who reads this story is going to understand or fall in love with at least one of these characters and their own tale.

“You actually want her to change. You want everything to be perfect! Especially me!”

Seriously though, the family dynamic in this book made me feel so noticed. Moon comes from a single parent household and Christine comes from a strict family, never have I felt like a book understood my childhood. I find that in a lot of books, we never see the strict family dynamic or see the single parent household too often. So seeing a book have both of those dynamics, it made me feel a little soft. I grew up in a strict household until my mother branched out on her own and I just felt a little mushy seeing my two family dynamics represented. It’s not often where I can say ‘I feel represented from a family aspect’ and I love that I can say that with this graphic novel.

I also need to take a moment to appreciate the fact that both main characters felt like real kids. We all had struggles growing up and I think the author does a really amazing job depicting what it truly means to struggle as a child. There’s so many moments that feel so real that I felt like I was reliving my own childhood. For example, there’s a moment where Christine and her dad go out for dessert and Christine ends up confessing how she feels like there’s a pressure on her to be perfect. That moment had me choking back sobs. It’s a really great moment and there’s so many in this graphic novel that so many readers will be able to relate to. I truly think this is going to be a book that is going to let younger readers know, “Hey, you’re not alone!”

Not to mention there’s parts of this story that tie back to the own author’s experience! When the tragedy in this story comes to light, it’s also something that’s happened to the author. And I can’t express how grateful I am that the author mentions this in the back of the book. I love a book that has a personal touch and you can definitely feel that touch with Stargazing.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I already read The Prince and the Dressmaker and fell in love with that graphic novel. So I went in hoping that I would feel the same way with Stargazing and I’m so glad that I did. I definitely think if you’re a lover of Jen Wang’s work then this is going to be another graphic novel you’re going to want in your library. It’s super cute, very precious, and I think many readers should pick this up on release day. Also, the book tour is posted below!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

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Sheets by Brenna Thummler

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Talk of death, loss of a loved one, grief, depression, manipulation, bullying, depiction of abandonment

“Patience is the thread of healing.”

Marjorie Glatt is thirteen years old and has a lot going on. She’s the one keeping her family together and running the family laundry business, but it’s not only that. Her daily routine consists of dealing with unforgiving customers who want everything perfect, unbearable P.E. classes filled with backstabbing and bullying, and dealing with constant pestering of one Mr. Saubertuck who won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
Wendall is a ghost… a ghost who was once a young boy who died far too soon. Not only that, he’s a ghost who doesn’t like living among his other ghosts. His daily routine consists of ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a badgering need to seek life fulfillment and purpose in the forbidden realm of the living.
Our two main characters will collide as Marjorie’s world gets turned upside down and thrown into chaos. Wendall will uncover something dastardly brewing in the shadows. Together, they come together in a whirlwind of what should be the impossible and the struggles of just making it day to day.

Sheets follows two main characters named Marjorie Glatt, who has one too many struggles for a thirteen year old, and Wendall a ghost who is searching for purpose in the mortal world. Both of these character come together in a ball of chaos when on one night, Wendall slips into the Glatt laundry business and turns it into his own playground. Soon, Marjorie is trying to grasp at the life she’s been working so hard to keep from slipping through the cracks. And just when Marjorie is at her lowest, Wendall is the unlikeliest friend to rush in and save the day.

Friend, I have such mixed feelings, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this graphic novel pulls at my heart strings. My heart was a empathetic mess with this graphic novel and I’m still sorting out my feelings. But I guess the best way to try to sort that out is try to write a review on it. The good, the bad, and all the goopy moop of my feelings that still haven’t stopped aching since finishing this graphic novel. So let’s give this a go and take a trip down this road!

For starters, this isn’t going to be a light heart telling of a tale. There’s some serious underlying messages that this graphic novel sheds some light on. There’s a heavy presence of grief and depression in this graphic novel. We see how Marjorie’s father is struggling with the loss of his with and we also see glimpses of Marjorie who still remembers her mother vividly in flashbacks. There’s even a part that I would say almost borderlines trauma for Marjorie as it flashbacks to the accident of her mother’s death. In all honesty, I’m grateful to see a graphic not only show the grief and depression, but also showing what it means to keep going forward even when everything hurts on the inside. I think anyone who has lost a loved one and has had to carry on with moving forward even when it feels like everything is in shambles. I really appreciated the author diving into that especially since this book is a middle grade read and in my opinion, it addresses grief, death/loss, and depression all in a really great way. And near the end, there was a moment where you could truly feel Marjorie breathe again and finally have the comfort she deserved after everything.

I do want to add a little footnote here. It’s something that I have been debating since finishing this comic and even now I’m still unsure if I should mention it. However, I’m going to mention it anyway! So here goes! Ever book will have a hero and a villain. So we get introduced to a character named Mr. Saubertuck pretty early on and having to read about his character was probably the most frustrating thing, more specifically his actions. Reading this graphic novel, a lot of his actions felt like harassment directed to Marjorie. And with his character acting so business aggressive, I just didn’t find it sitting well with me that this kind of behavior was being directed towards a thirteen year old girl and it definitely felt like he was backing Marjorie into a corner. While I understand he’s supposed to be the “bad guy” in this story, it definitely felt like his character could have been taken in a different direction instead of the way it was taken.

And if you want to talk about art, oh gosh it’s so beautiful. The color pallet is soft and easy on the eyes, but I find that it was really ascetically pleasing to the eye. For me, it feel so familiar and nostalgic; almost like I was being swept away in old photographs or classic movies that had first been released in color. I think my biggest issues was the art style stirred more of my soul than the actual story-line of this book (but we’ll get into that in just a minute). The art work is so captivating especially when the author singles out flashbacks or story-tellings and I find it’s a shame because the art is so moving and it makes you feel a thousand things while the story doesn’t quite match up.

Out of all the things this graphic novel offers, my biggest issue was the pacing. Rating it four stars wasn’t an easy choice, but the pacing is the one thing that definitely prevented me from giving this book five stars. In the beginning, the pace is absolutely delightful. I found myself really enjoying the pacing and how the story was taking the time to get us familiar with Marjorie’s situation. Even Wendall’s parts were more steady and gave off a slow build. However, in this graphic novel you hit a certain point and then it was like someone flipped a switch. The pacing completely changes and it feels like the end was rushed into a wrap up. It definitely threw me off while I was reading because one minute things are a nice steady pace and the next it was like everything escalated in a matter of minutes. It was very hard to get past that change and I definitely feel like this novel could have used a couple more pages to just wrap things up.

Overall, I think this graphic novel is really cute and it addresses some powerful things. I just recently learned that there might possibly be a sequel called Delicates. I might end up picking that up this fall just to see if Wendall and Marjorie’s story continues on. And speaking of fall, this will definitely be a cute graphic novel to read during the fall or more specially during the month of October. You just get so many fall vibes while you read this book and the setting inside the book definitely feels like fall. This was a really cute read and I definitely think many fans of graphic novels and comics should give this one a try!

“I guess any place can be okay if you choose to enjoy it.”

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Warriors: Tales from the Clans by Erin Hunter

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Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, loss, grief, bullying, manipulation

Tales from the Clans features three stand-alone Warriors novellas, which were previously available only as ebooks. Each novella in this paperback bind-up centers on a never-before-told story in the Warriors world—giving both first-time readers and dedicated fans a chance to experience spectacular new adventures in the series.

“Perhaps that’s the best way to recover, to return to the way things were before as quickly as we can. We won the Great Battle, so nothing needs to change.”

This book is a bind-up of three novellas from the Warriors series. Each of these novellas were originally published as ebooks; Tigerclaw’s Fury, Leafpool’s Wish, and Dovewing’s Silence. These three novellas are told in the sequence of past, present, and future. If you’re not familiar with the order of the series then this may be lost to you, but for those who are fans of the series then you probably already made this connection. In this bind-up you’ll read from the perspective of a clan traitor, a medicine cat, and the struggles of a ordinary warrior. You’ll learn about dark thoughts, secrets that can only be shared with a sibling, and how mistakes can impact everyone. Prepare to step into never-told-before stories from the cats of ThunderClan.

This was such a easy read for me and as someone who’s been of this series for a really long time, this was a perfect way to dip my toes back into this world. To be honest, it’s been such a long time since I read anything from this world that I nearly forgot everything that’s happened. But nonetheless, I’m so happy I picked up this novella bind-up. If you’re not familiar with this series then I probably wouldn’t recommend this book for you because you might not be able to enjoy it or even understand what’s happening in these novellas.

In reality, I don’t want to give too much away because I feel that it might be a spoilers for those who have yet to truly read the series or to those who aren’t familiar with the series. So I’m just going to do a breakdown of all three of the novellas and talk a little bit of what I liked and disliked in each one without any spoilers. This is a spoiler free zone!

🌻 Tigerclaw’s Fury

This was probably my least favorite of all of the novellas in this book. For those of you who are familiar with the series you know who Tigerclaw is and you yourselves probably dislike him as much as I do. To those who aren’t familiar with the series, Tigerclaw is known as a super villain throughout this entire series. He’s evil to the core, he thinks the only way to achieve greatness and power is by instilling fear and harm to those around him, and he’s has the horrible idle that only the strongest members of a clan make the clan above all other clans. He’s just a really horrible character and he’s not my favorite. I personally don’t like reading about him because of my knowledge of knowing how evil and toxic he is. He uses lying and fake acts of kindness to brainwash other’s into his cause. On top of all of that, it seems like he has a borderline personality disorder to add to how he goes about doing things. There are parts in this novella where he has an internal conversation with himself, one moment he’ll be talking in a logical manner of plotting and scheming then the next moment he’ll be like “only harm and fear will solve this issue.” So unfortunately for me, this was not the type of novella I wanted to be reading. However, I can appreciate seeing how he got from one phase in his life to the next phase in his life. It was definitely interesting to see that process and read about how he went from one clan to the next. Overall all though, this wasn’t my cup of tea and it definitely shifted the vibe of the other two novellas.

“If mercy is power, then I have never been more powerful.”

🌻 Leafpool’s Wish

Now this is the novella that might get you a little choked up. I’ll admit, I got soft and sappy while I was reading this novella. Leafpool is ThunderClan’s medicine cat meaning she’s a healer, a nurse, a doctor, a shaman, etc… any of those terms could be used to describe what she does for her clan. However, the terms of how she’s supposed to live her life is like that of a nun. No children, no relationships/lovers, only devoted to StarClan and helping her clan as their medicine cat. I have always had a soft spot for Leafpool and even more so with her relationship with her sister Squirrelflight. I’m always here for a sibling relationship. And one of my older favorites, Yellowfang, makes a few appearances in this novella.So the nostalgia was hitting hard. However, I went into this novella knowing what she had done and if we’re being honest, I was a little bitter about how she handled everything. Not to mention, I found her dumping her situation on her sister just for the sake of her staying the clan’s medicine cat was a selfish act and even more shocking of her trying to play it off as selfless act, for the “good of the clan”. I understood the reasoning and I know why she was so hellbent on staying as the clan’s medicine cat, but it still gave me insight to a side of her character that I never saw before. Nonetheless, I still like her character and I still felt sympathy for everything coming full circle for her.

“Leafpool stood outside the barrier of thorns and closed her eyes. Three tiny shapes filled her mind, three pairs of eyes—amber, green and blue—glowed from the shadows.” 

🌻 Dovewing’s Silence

Let’s just be honest, this was probably my favorite out of all the novellas in this book. Granted, there is a lot of pain, there’s death, and you can feel the resentment radiating from the pages, but this was so brilliant. This novella makes me wish I had read from end to beginning because this one novella is worth a thousand reads. I got so emotional with this one. There were so many characters I became familiar with, had fallen in love with, only to read that they were taken away by doing what they were destined to do or what they wanted to do. But this was so beautifully written and it will make your heart ache especially anyone who has experienced loss. We also get to see the three siblings come together again and we got to see them struggle only to come together. I was real soft and sappy, I still am! I do, however, think a lot of fans/shippers of the Dovewing and Tigerheart romance are going to be let down by this. This novella isn’t about that relationship, it was never going to be about her romances. This novella is more centered around her trying to find normalcy after a really intense battle that claimed the lives of loved ones and friends, making sense of losing her abilities and what that means for her and her siblings, and standing up for what’s right. I think if more readers, especially fans, go in knowing this then it will be less of a disappointment. For me, I wasn’t bothered by the lack of her romances being addressed more or not enough. However, I can understand why some readers would see this as a let down. I still really enjoyed it, but it’ll definitely make readers soft especially if you’ve read the majority of this series!

“All battles leave deep wounds, whether you can see them or not. And wounds take time to heal. You know that, Dovewing. Don’t give up hope.”

Overall, I truly loved the novellas in this bind-up. As I stated, I think this bind-up could have been done without Tigerclaw’s Fury. It just shifts the mood too much of the book as a whole. I would say that two-thirds of this book is very soft, sappy, and bittersweet while the other third is enough to turn readers off or have a reader dnf the book. I definitely think if you’re a fan of the Warriors series then you should pick this book up. I know I’m glad I picked this book up and have it to add to my library.

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Sea Sirens (A Trot & Cap’n Bill Adventure #1) by Amy Chu & Janet K. Lee

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Other creators involved in the making of this graphic novel include: Lettering by Jimmy Gownley

This graphic novel was inspired by The Sea Fairies, L. Frank Baum’s “underwater Wizard of Oz.” It weaves Vietnamese mythology, fantastical ocean creatures, and a deep-sea setting.

To Trot, life has always been about riding the waves and taking care of her grandfather. When Trot’s grandfather reappears after disappearing, Trot’s mother loses her temper and grounds them both. Deciding that being grounded and having her surfing taken away is completely unfair, Trot and Cap’n Bill escape to go ride the waves. However, it only takes one giant wave for every thing to go wrong. Suddenly, Trot and Cap’n Bill get sucked down into a magical kingdom where an ancient sea-battle rages on. With the Sirens and the Snakes at war, how will they ever get back home now?

Sea Sirens follows our two main characters, Trot and Cap’n Bill. Both of them love surfing, but when they get caught up in the delight of surfing, things seem to start falling apart. Trot’s grandfather has dementia and when he suddenly goes missing, a chain of events throw our main characters in a whirlwind of trouble.

I really liked this graphic novel! I don’t want to say ‘loved’ because few patrons of any age will be familiar with Trot from Oz and so there can be no guaranteed readership based on this connection alone. However, the opening dedication clues readers in that Trot was originally a character created by L. Frank Baum in the Land of Oz. Without familiarity with this character, it was good to have a full introduction to her personality through the first few scenes. So most readers will pick this up because it’s a very simplistic or easy read or due to the fact that this graphic novel is so diverse.

This graphic novel drew my attention because it features a Vietnamese-American girl, an animal companion who likes surfing and has one-eye, a surfer-protagonist, a single mother family dynamic (my heart!) and magical elements. To top it off, the California beach setting and underwater adventures are perfect for a summer read. Not to mention, we also get dementia representation that we don’t often see talked about in books, let alone graphic novels.

Now into the good stuff! The biggest thing for me reading this book was the family dynamic. As a reader, I love books that have diverse family dynamics or strong family bonds. While this graphic novel does show two single mother household dynamics, this book is very grandfather-granddaughter relationship focused. And I loved this! Being someone who was very close to her great-grandfather, this book hit very close to home. It hit even more when we really see how the dementia takes hold of Trot’s grandfather. It’s definitely a little emotional, it will get readers thinking, and I think anyone who is close to a family member who has dementia will feel touched by this relationship in this book.

The plot for this graphic novel is very straight forward with very little suspense, twists or turns, and our protagonists get out of bad situations with very little, if not none, consequences. Even though these elements have been removed, this graphic novel does deliver on an adventure and some action. We do get some fighting scenes and even a secret rescue mission that nearly leads into war. I definitely would have preferred more complexity to the characters and the entire situation, but overall, I think younger readers will definitely get swept up in the story and the characters, themselves.

And can I take a moment to talk about the illustrations?! For myself, I loved the art style. I loved the color pallet and the use of color tones. However, I will openly admit that this is not going to be an art style for everyone. If you’re someone who likes really bright pops of color in their graphic novels, this graphic novel will be very underwhelming for you. Most of this book does take place underwater and there is a realistic side to the dark and bright parts, but it definitely could have used more elements to make it feel like the characters were underwater.

Aside from all of this, I think the two messages near the end are really great messages to pass on to younger readers. The first one is really obvious; Recycle, Reuse. However, the second message is something we could all learn from and it’s such a universal message; many of our differences can be resolved if we quit seeing everyone who is not like us as the enemy. I think both of these message will have a positive influence on our younger readers who pick this book up.

Overall, this was a diverse, fun, quick read. I definitely think this is going to be a graphic novel a lot of younger readers will enjoy. As someone who’s an avid reader of graphic novels and comics, if was very simplistic without a lot of action or suspense. The ending does leave things open enough for a second book so if you did enjoy this book then keep your eyes peeled.

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