She Used to Be on a Milk Carton – Kailey Tedesco

Illustrations – Whitney Proper

You know that book that makes you feel like your brain has liquefied and is slowly draining from your ears with every page you read and by the end you are fairly certain that you qualify for the Dumbest Person on the Planet award? I just finished it.

Do you want to know what this book of poetry is about? Me too! I don’t know why She Used to Be on a Milk Carton. Maybe she was lost, just like I was while I carefully read each poem trying to extract its meaning. I know what the blurb said and I know I was really interested in reading these poems.

There were a couple of poems where it’s possible I may have cottoned on to the central theme but I’m afraid I needed someone to dumb it down for me. There was a girl in my English class who would write poems that she read to the class frequently. I never understood those either but my teacher practically fell over herself declaring their literary masterpiece worthiness.

I assume these poems were very well written and that people much smarter than myself will rave about how full of deep and meaningful ideas they were. I’m certain that English teacher could wax lyrical about every poem in this book. If you read these poems after checking out someone else’s review (preferably someone who can actually provide valuable feedback about this book) I really hope you love it.

Personally I’m going to go find a sponge to mop up as much of my brain as possible and hope I can find a way to reverse the liquefaction process.

Thank you to NetGalley and April Gloaming Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Between body and spirit, place and soul, love and trauma, and logic and magic, Kailey Tedesco finds herself between two worlds in this stunning collection of debut poetry. Treading the line between the dual nature of our human spirit, this collection brings to light what our physical, and then spiritual, selves’ place is in the cosmos and the realm beyond our immediate sight.

Through images of Catholicism, heavenly bodies, caul births, dark magic, serpents, and God, Tedesco challenges what it means to be Woman in a world so clouded by opposing truths, illuminating herself and elevating our human experience.

Archival Quality – Ivy Noelle Weir

Illustrations – Steenz

This should have been the perfect graphic novel for me. I hate writing negative reviews and I want you to know there are plenty of really positive reviews too. I would encourage you, if you’re considering reading this graphic novel, to check out some of the 4 and 5 star reviews as well. Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you. 😊

Our main character, Celeste Walden (Cel), has lost her dream job in a library as a result of a breakdown, lives at home and has been in a five year relationship with Kyle. Kyle sometimes comes across as fairly passive aggressive but most of the time he appears genuinely concerned about his girlfriend’s mental health. Kyle like The X Files so I figure he must be a good guy.

Despite Kyle’s concerns Cel winds up with a job at the Logan Museum as an archivist. The archivist job comes with a fully furnished apartment, which is pretty sweet deal for someone who scans antique medical documents and photos for a living.

Almost immediately Cel starts losing time, dreaming of a girl she’s never met but feels compelled to help and items tend to move around unassisted. Her boyfriend is understandably worried about her mental health and she’s pretty good at being the cranky girl pushing people away.

Cel’s boss is Holly Park, the Head Librarian, who’s worked at the museum for three year, has a girlfriend called Gina, and rocks purple hair with a couple of sections of blue. Prior to this job Holly was a medical student.

Abayomi Abiola (Aba) is the 29 year old chief curator who manages the collections and is kind of a mystery for much of the book. He’s standoffish and cold, and you get the impression he knows more about the museum than he lets on.

I spent the majority of the graphic novel wondering how the museum stays open when there are apparently very few customers. I was so close to giving up for more than half of the story because it seemed to drag out, I had no connection with (and didn’t particularly like) any of the characters and the plot didn’t seem that cohesive.

There were mysteries of who the girl was that Cel was dreaming about and if there was a connection between Cel and her, who the Board members were, what they did and why Cel wasn’t allowed on the third floor, what happened to the previous curator that vanished, and what the deal was with Aba. Some questions were answered but frustratingly others weren’t.

I did appreciate the diversity in the characters as well as the exploration of how people with mental health conditions have been treated and mistreated throughout psychiatric history.

Ultimately though, I was expecting more from this paranormal mystery and unfortunately I was fairly bored for most of the story. While I know people experience mental health conditions differently I found Cel’s character irritating, particularly the amount of time she spent snapping at the other characters. Frankly I was surprised she made it past the interview to get the job in the first place and shocked she managed to keep the job.

Favourite line (by Holly)

Content warnings include mental health.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Oni Press for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everything you need to know is in the archives.

The Logan Museum is a mysterious old building practically covered in skulls, and also the new workplace of Celeste “Cel” Walden, a librarian who was let go from her previous job after a mental breakdown. But Cel is desperate to feel useful, and Abayomi Abiola, the Logan Museum’s chief curator, is desperate to hire a new archivist. 

Cel soon realizes the job is unlike any other she’s had. There’s an apartment onsite she’s required to live in, she only works in the middle of the night, and she definitely gets the impression that there’s more to the museum than Abayomi and her new boss, Holly Park are letting on. 

And then strange things start happening. Odd noises. Objects moving. Vivid, terrifying dreams of a young woman Cel’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. A woman who for some reason needs Cel’s help.

As Cel attempts to learn more about her, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out – there’s no denying the job is becoming dangerous. But Cel can’t let go of the woman in her dreams. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save herself?

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One – Amanda Lovelace

⚠️ Warning – High Probability of Unpopular Opinions Ahead ⚠️

I’ve read Amanda Lovelace’s the witch doesn’t burn in this one twice now. I wasn’t familiar with Amanda’s poetry and was intrigued so read it immediately after I downloaded it. I had strong contradictory feelings about it and wanted to know how I’d feel after it sat with me for a while and then reread it. So, here we are straight after the reread.

My review may well feel like one big soapbox moment but if this book has reminded me of anything it’s that I am entitled to speak my truth and you are just as entitled to speak yours, whether we agree or not.

What I Loved

Content Warning – I really respect an author who knows the content of their writing may be triggering for some and points it out at the beginning so readers can make an informed choice about the suitability of that book for them personally. This book came with a detailed trigger warning for topics including: “child abuse, intimate partner abuse, sexual assault, eating disorders, trauma, death, murder, violence, fire, menstruation, transphobia & more.”

The Girl Power – I’m all about women speaking their truth. I love anyone of any gender overcoming adversity and stereotypes to achieve what others told them was impossible for them. I love strong role models and people who are able to transform what could have destroyed them into something that’s able to inspire others.

This Book Being Published – Just the fact that a woman who’s openly refuting the patriarchy and speaking her passionate truth has had her words published for anyone who wants to read them is a triumph. Sure, western society as a whole has a long, long way to go in terms of equality, glass ceilings, you name it. But this book has been published. This woman has not been silenced. We are free to read or not read it, and we are free to have our own opinions about it, even if they differ from other people.

What I Didn’t Love

The Generalisation of Men – While I certainly acknowledge the unfathomable acts that some men have perpetrated against women and have known my fair share of them, I also want to acknowledge all of the men that don’t fit in the perpetrator category. I know some extraordinary men who I know I could trust with my life and I don’t think it’s fair to make sweeping statements that are true of some but certainly not all. Yes, I realise this book isn’t about the trustworthy, respectful men but sometimes I worry that by generalising and only pointing out the bad (that I don’t deny is there), we forget to recognise those who have a positive impact on those whose lives they touch.

The Style of Poetry – By all of the positive feedback this collection is receiving it’s obvious this poet and her writing is resonating with a lot of people. It’s just not the type of poetry I typically enjoy and while I felt like shouting out a “Woohoo! Girl power!” at the beginning, by the end the almost constant rage against patriarchy and men exhausted me. There were a couple of instances of positivity such as “we can’t lose our empathy” and “you can be benevolent & love this world back to life”, but I felt emotionally and physically drained when I finished reading.

If you loved this book and were empowered by it, that’s fantastic. I do expect it will be very well received by plenty of people. I think in the end it boils down to this book and I not being made for one another.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now – indestructible. These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

Everything is Mama – Jimmy Fallon

Illustrations – Miguel Ordóñez

I’m sorry but this was terribly boring. By now you all probably know how I hide Clifford and Grug books at random times for my Mum to find. On Mother’s Day I’ll usually try to find her a really sweet kid’s book about how wonderful Mum’s are. I was test driving this book for this Mother’s Day’s selection and while the cover is so sweet, it quickly became a big fat ‘no’.

I guess Jimmy Fallon warns us with his title that everything is gonna be mama this, mama that, but after the second or third time I was wondering if this book would ever end. I can see the marketing potential for it and am sure plenty of Mums to be are going to receive this at baby showers around the world but if you’re looking for a baby shower book, you can do so much better!

The only saving grace of this book for me was illustrator Miguel Ordóñez who probably won’t get the credit they deserve for their lovely, age appropriate illustrations. They are the sweet I was looking for. It’s a shame the words didn’t work for me.

Reason to love your library #586: You can test drive books that you think you’ll love but don’t without having the regret of spending money on something you wouldn’t be happy with.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jimmy Fallon, one of the most popular entertainers in the world, was on a mission with his first children’s book to have every baby’s first word be DADA. And it worked! A lot of babies’ first words were DADA. However, everything after that was MAMA.

So take a lighthearted look at the world from your baby’s point of view as different animals try to teach their children that there are other words in addition to MAMA for familiar objects and activities. 

Honey Moon #3: Not Your Valentine – Sofi Benitez

Illustrations – Becky Minor

Sorry but this one wasn’t for me. I really enjoyed the first two Honey Moon books though.

Thank you very much to NetGalley, Rabbit Publishers and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Sleepy Hollow Valentine’s Day dance with a boy! NO WAY, NO HOW is Honey Moon going to a scary sweetheart dance with that Noah kid. But, after being forced to dance together in PE class, word gets around that Honey likes Noah. Now, she has no choice but to stop Valentine’s Day in its tracks. Things never go as planned, and Honey winds up with the surprise of her Sleepy Hollow life.

Peach – Emma Glass

I hate giving a low rating to any book. I have such admiration for authors – for the blood, sweat and tears that go into writing a book in the first place, then having to navigate the publishing world and subjecting themselves to readers who can lift them up or tear them down with their words.

If you are interested in reading this book, please don’t just go by my review. There are a lot of 5 star reviews for this book as well, and who knows, maybe you’ll be adding one yourself after reading it. My review comes from a place of confusion and ‘this wasn’t the book for me’ rather than malice. I applaud the author for successfully navigating the publishing world and for the many positive reviews I’ve read.

Having said that … my brain hurts! Had I borrowed this book from the library instead of requesting an ARC I would not have finished it.

You know those books that hoity-toity book clubs rave about with their “literary masterpiece” this and their “author stunned with their use of [some big fancy word that the general population can neither spell nor use in a sentence]” that? You may listen to these people and smile and nod, but on the inside you’re thinking, ‘How did you get that from this book?’ and ‘I must be completely stupid. I have no idea what you’re going on about.’ I think that’s going to be the unfortunate fate of this book; a polarising “most exquisite piece of writing ever!” or “what the hell did I just read?!”

Reading like a stream of consciousness, Peach (the novella) opens with Peach (the person) having just been brutally sexually assaulted and follows her down the rabbit trail of its physical, emotional and psychological aftermath. I came away from Peach having very little grasp on which words were literal, fantasy, hallucination, nightmare or flashback – and I’m not sure I was supposed to. I can handle gruesome, triggery books, I understand the internal turmoil following sexual assault and revenge fantasies, but I. don’t. UndErsTand. This. book.

Which brings me to the writing style. There are so many one word sentences, some sentences start with a capital letter and others don’t, words have randomly capitalised letters scattered through them. I expect it was deliberate, intentionally messy and disjointed to reflect the emotional state of Peach and her internal dialogue, but I just found it messy. I understood what was happening (sometimes) but I couldn’t figure out if the author was going for prose, poetry, some combination or something else entirely.

There’s the use of food to describe people, including:

  • The rapist / stalker / maker of creepy hand delivered notes with words cut out of magazines, Lincoln, is sausage, pork, oily, greasy, slimy
  • Mr Custard, college biology teacher made of custard
  • Baby, Peach’s brother who remains unnamed is icing sugar, jelly.

Mam and Dad are overtly sexual, so much so that I found it as uncomfortable to read as I did the sexual assault. Speaking of Green, Peach’s boyfriend, the same evening of his daughter’s sexual assault –

“You make such a cute couple, and the sex sounds amazing, says Dad.”

Immediately following his daughter’s face flushing red with embarrassment,

“It’s okay, Peach. Sex is a good thing. Me and Mam do it all the time. We just did it now on the kitchen table. It’s human nature, Peach, don’t be embarrassed. Green is a lucky guy. Most girls won’t put out until they’re married. But not our Peach. and we’re proud of you.”

I’m sorry, what??? Then good ol’ Mam and Dad, along with boyfriend Green remain oblivious to what Peach is going through for the entire novella.

So, just two of my multitude of unanswered questions:

  • Why does Peach’s stomach continually grow larger and larger and larger?
  • What really happened in the end?

Colour me confused!

Content warnings include sexual assault, murder, animal abuse and possible (?) cannibalism.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bloomsbury Circus, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ) for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Slip the pin through the skin. Start stitching.
It doesn’t sting. It does bleed. White thread turns red.
Red string. Going in. Going out. I pull. Tug. 
Tug the pin. In. Out. Out. Out. Blackout.

Something has happened to Peach. Blood runs down her legs and the scent of charred meat lingers on her flesh. It hurts to walk but she staggers home to parents that don’t seem to notice. They can’t keep their hands off each other and besides, they have a new infant, sweet and wobbly as a jelly baby. 

Peach must patch herself up alone so she can go to college and see her boyfriend, Green. But sleeping is hard when she is haunted by the gaping memory of a mouth, and working is hard when burning sausage fat fills her nostrils, and eating is impossible when her stomach is swollen tight as a drum. 

In this dazzling debut, Emma Glass articulates the unspeakable with breath-taking clarity and verve. Intensely physical, with rhythmic, visceral prose, Peach marks the arrival of a visionary new voice.

Secret Agent Josephine in Paris – Brenda Ponnay

I really liked the blurb for Secret Agent Josephine in Paris but was ultimately disappointed. I was looking for some girl power, as this female spy and her daughter (codename: Bug) travel to Paris on assignment to track down Sean Slippy, a renowned smuggler of forged art and rare birds. While it had potential, Secret Agent Josephine wasn’t the role model I was hoping she’d be. Instead of using her quick wit to apprehend this international smuggler, upon reaching Paris she decides to go shopping and sightseeing.

I did like the use of a case file to provide background information about Slippy but the interesting bits of information about him found in the file had no bearing on his eventual capture. It would have been useful to know ahead of time that several conversations would be in French. I’m sure I couldn’t pronounce the names of some of the locations they visited, so had I attempted to read this book to a child they would have been laughing so hard at me that they wouldn’t have gotten anything from the story anyway.

I’m unsure why this mother is taking her daughter undercover on spying missions but it’s a good thing she did as she’d probably still be locked in Slippy’s bathroom if it wasn’t for Bug’s assistance. I expect children will enjoy searching for Slippy poking his head out behind objects in the illustrations.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Xist Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There’s a new super spy in town! 

Secret Agent Josephine may not look like a super mum, but when she goes to work, bad guys better watch out for her crafty tricks. 

In this Secret Agent Josephine adventure, our heroine travels to Paris to scope out some new craft supplies and stop an infamous art thief. Donning disguises and stocking up on the tools of her trade, Secret Agent Josephine tracks the thief through the streets of Paris. But when she’s spotted, will her crafting skills be able to get her out of a jam?

The Flintstones Volume 2: Bedrock Bedlam – Mark Russell

I grew up watching The Flintstones and then bought the seasons on DVD as an adult. I love everything about it – the characters, the storylines, the catchphrases, the prehistoric household appliances. Needless to say, I was all yabba dabba doo at the chance to read The Flintstones Vol. 2: Bedrock Bedlam.

I tried so hard to love this one but unfortunately my get up and go just got up and went. I didn’t find it funny and never connected with the characters. Maybe it was a case of my expectations being too high for a childhood favourite but it never really felt like I was reading about my favourite modern Stone Age family. I’m so sad to say that it never lived up to the Hanna-Barbera cartoons for me.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and DC Comics for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Fred and Barney reunite for Mark Russell’s modern take on Hanna-Barbera’s most famous stone-age family!

This second volume starring the first family of Bedrock (and civilisation, really) tells the story of who we are and why we do what we do as if it all began with Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty and the rest of the citizens of Bedrock. Shining a light on humanity’s ancient customs and institutions in a funny origin story of human civilization, Mark Russell (
Prez) blends modern interpretations with Hanna-Barbera’s classic characters, bringing a breath of fresh stone-age air.

Hanna-Barbera has created some of the most recognizable animated characters of all time. As part of DC Comics’ reimagination of cartoons like
Scooby-Doo, Johnny Quest, Space Ghost and Wacky Racers, these new series are infused with modern and contemporary concepts while keeping the heart and soul of the classic animation.

Collects
The Flintstones #7-12. 

The Little Red Wolf – Amélie Fléchais

Illustrations – Jeremy Melloul

Spoilers Ahead!

Well, that was dark and depressing. The young wolf is on his way to his grandmother’s house to deliver a freshly slaughtered rabbit and is warned to stay away from a certain area of the forest because that’s where the horrible hunter and his daughter live. On the way he gets distracted, hungry and lost. He eats the rabbit intended for his grandmother and then worries about getting into trouble.

Along comes a nice young girl who offers to take him to her place for a replacement rabbit and he naïvely follows, unknowingly walking into a trap. We end up hearing two versions of the same story at the end of the book, both told as songs to the same tune. In one version the wolves killed the hunter’s wife. Therefore, wolves are evil and we must kill them all. In the other version the hunter’s wife was friends with the wolves and when the hunter couldn’t find his wife one night he got worried and searched for her. Seeing her with the wolves he was afraid and shot at the wolves, accidentally killing his wife.

While some of the illustrations are intricate and gorgeous, others are dark and would most likely give young children nightmares if this was their bedtime story. I know that generally the fairy tales we’ve known all our lives didn’t originate with the Disney version we’re used to but that doesn’t mean I want to read them to a young child. I can see this book being appreciated by some older children and adults but I personally wouldn’t want to buy it.

Thank you very much to NetGalley, Lion Forge and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A young wolf, on a journey to bring his grandmother a rabbit, is charmed by the nice little girl who offers to help him … but nice is not the same as good.

Not F*ing Around: The No Bullsh*t Guide for Getting Your Creative Dreams Off the Ground – Jeff Leisawitz

This book in a nutshell? Stop dreaming and start doing.

If you want the experience of having gone to see a motivational speaker while sitting on the lounge in your pyjamas, then this book may be what you’re looking for. It read to me like a motivational speaker’s speech that basically went along the lines of ‘if you can dream it then you can do it’ along with other clichés and plenty of anecdotes.

What you’ll get from this book is common sense advice to move you from thinking about it to doing it, whatever your creative ‘it’ may be. I didn’t read anything revolutionary but it was a quick read. If you feel the need to read something positive to get your butt into gear, try this book. More power to you.

My favourite sentence:

“The more people who align their lives with love, passion and action, the better this world becomes for everyone.”

Biggest annoyance of the book? Following a statement about how we’re all on our own hero’s journey and an anecdote about Luke Skywalker saving a planet with a suggestion for how you can step up your own hero game … by fixing the photocopier again even though you didn’t break it … Really?

At times I felt like I was sitting around a campfire listening to a guy in a tie dye shirt chilling out and telling me, “The Universe will guide you towards your highest good” and that my inner critic is a “snotball” (actual quotes).

This book wasn’t for me and if I hadn’t committed myself to reviewing it I wouldn’t have made it past the first 20%, but just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean you won’t get something from it that launches you into creative overdrive.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Smith Publicity for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Can’t quite get your creative juices flowing? The day job sucking your soul? Fizzled out before you put the finishing touches on your amazing creation?

With relentless positivity, full-on authenticity and a punk rock thunder spirit, author Jeff Leisawitz pulls back the curtain on the creative process and reminds us that we are all creative SuperStars.

It’s time to get off the couch and get on the path. It’s time to tap into the cosmic heartbeat that thumps in your chest and shines from your soul. It’s time to get NFA!