Everything Is OK – Debbie Tung

As far as I can tell, Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love were essentially her way of not so subtly telling me she’s been stalking me for my entire adult life. She tried to throw me off the trail by focusing on the ‘aww, aren’t they adorable?’ relationship she and Jason have in Happily Ever After & Everything In Between. Now, in her fourth graphic novel, Debbie takes a deep dive into my mental health.

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From telling people you’re fine when you’re anything but to sleepless nights spent questioning every decision you’ve ever made, Debbie speaks honestly about mental health. Depression. Anxiety. Panic attacks. Suicidal ideation. You not only hear the thoughts that accompany them, you see what they feel like.

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Sometimes just knowing you’re not alone is enough and that’s what this graphic novel does. Debbie’s story acknowledges the darkness but also provides hope.

Asking for help was the most courageous thing I ever did.

It meant that I refused to give up and I wanted to give myself a chance to heal.

It’s one thing to know the types of things that can have a positive impact on your mental health – counselling, self care, celebrating the small wins, gratitude, mindfulness – but hearing how those strategies have helped someone with lived experience gives them more weight.

I’m not an artist so can’t explain this very well but some art feels lofty and unapproachable to me, like I’m being kept at arm’s length. Debbie’s style, though, feels relatable and down to earth. She draws me in with her art and her words.

One thing I really loved about this graphic novel was the use of blue throughout. It’s such an appropriate choice given the subject matter and the muted tones somehow both set the tone and made the content feel non-threatening. The bursts of colour, when they did make an appearance, had a greater impact.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everything Is OK is the story of Debbie Tung’s struggle with anxiety and her experience with depression. She shares what it’s like navigating life, overthinking every possible worst-case scenario, and constantly feeling like all hope is lost.

The book explores her journey to understanding the importance of mental health in her day-to-day life and how she learns to embrace the highs and lows when things feel out of control. Debbie opens up about deeply personal issues and the winding road to recovery, discovers the value of self-love, and rebuilds a more mindful relationship with her mental health.

In this graphic memoir, Debbie aims to provide positive and comforting messages to anyone who is facing similar difficulties or is just trying to get through a tough time in life. She hopes to encourage readers to be kinder to themselves, to know that they are not alone, and that it’s okay to be vulnerable because they are not defined by their mental health struggles. The dark clouds won’t be there forever. Everything will turn out all right.

The Girl in the Green Dress – Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West

With Alley Pascoe

Four years of police interviews, 900,000 words in victim statements, endless therapy sessions, a lifetime of pain

I thought I was going to tell you that this is one of the best books I’ve read about mental health and sexual assault but, while that’s accurate, it falls short of what I really want to say. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. One of the most painful and difficult to read, sure, but absolutely one of the best.

I’ve read about Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD/DID) before so I thought I already knew the basics and I guess I did. Before this book, though, I’d never truly appreciated how incredible people with MPD/DID are.

There are three factors that typically cause DID: the experience of the most extreme forms of abuse, usually extending over many years; this abuse is perpetrated by caregivers, typically parents, that the child relies upon; and it begins while the child’s mind is young, or plastic, enough, to employ high-level dissociative strategies.

The fact that such unimaginably horrific abuse is perpetrated on young children by people they should be able to trust to protect them is mind-boggling. That the brain is able to develop such a highly developed coping strategy to survive abuse of this magnitude is awe-inspiring.

Told by Jeni, some of her alters and their psychiatrist, Dr George Blair-West, this is the most comprehensive account of MPD/DID you are likely to ever read. Jeni has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) so is able to recall, in detail, her experiences from when she was an infant.

MPD/DID is a response to being a victim of extreme criminal acts.

Because so much of what Symphony and the alters she created have experienced is more brutal than anything you’ll likely see in your worst nightmare, this isn’t a book you’ll want to binge. You’ll need time out to take care of yourself: go for a walk, remember that the world still holds beauty, remind yourself that Jeni, against all odds, is okay.

I really appreciated the care shown by both the publisher and Dr Blair-West, warning readers of the potential impacts of reading this book before you’ve even begun. A couple of times Jeni warns you that the content you’re about to read is even more difficult than what you’ve encountered to that point, giving you the option to skip that section.

While I read those parts, I was grateful for the warnings so I could prepare myself as best I could. At the same time, though, the fact that Jeni and her alters spent their entire childhood protecting her mother and siblings and is now taking steps to protect readers both touched and saddened me. No one protected Jeni from the torture she experienced, yet she cares enough about people she’ll likely never meet to want to make sure they’re okay.

Jeni even protects the reader by not including all of the details of the unrelenting abuse she was subjected to. Her police statement, at 900,000 words, didn’t even cover everything that happened to her. For context, that’s significantly longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Jennifer Margaret Linda was the original birth child, with Symphony taking her place when she was six months old. Symphony then created the alters. In this book we hear from Jennifer Margaret Linda, Symphony, Erik, Little Ricky, The Rulebook, The Assassin, Jenny, Linda, Muscles, Captain Busby, Janet, Squadron Captain, Amber, Judas, Happy, Zombie Girl, Magsy, The Joker, Maggot, Volcano, The Student, Ed the Head, Charlotte, Gabrielle, Mr Flamboyant, Jeni and The Entity Currently Known as Jeni.

That Jeni even survived her childhood is a testament to how incredibly well her system works. The fact that she’s able to function and is even surthriving is remarkable.

Life should be about thriving as we find meaning and purpose – hence the idea of rising above to ‘surthrive’.

Everyone who works in a helping profession should read this book. Jeni’s case was the first to use a diagnosis of MPD/DID for the prosecution, not the defence, paving the way for other survivors of extreme abuse to seek justice. This book, because of the openness of the alters who contributed to it, will provide much needed insights, so hopefully others with MPD/DID won’t be failed by the people who should be helping them the way Jeni was.

My abuse didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened before a school fete, behind the closed doors of my father’s respectability.

I’ve spoken a lot about Jeni and her alters but I need to point out that I found the insights Dr Blair-West gives in this book so helpful. He has the ability to take something that’s complex and explain it in a way that makes it feel like it’s not complex at all. I’ve read a lot about PTSD, dissociation and the way the brain manages trauma but Dr Blair-West’s explanations have given me a much better understanding of them.

To Jeni, Symphony, the alters who contributed to this book and those I haven’t met: Thank you for telling your story. I feel honoured to have been introduced to so many of you. I can only imagine how traumatic it was to revisit these experiences in order to write about them. Your story means more to me than you’ll ever know. You are brave and resilient and I’m in awe of you. You are truly extraordinary.

Content warnings include death by suicide, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, mental health, miscarriage, neglect, physical abuse, sexual assault, suicidal ideation and torture.

Thank you so much to Hachette Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

‘I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.’

An intelligent, poised woman, Jeni Haynes sat in court and listened as the man who had abused her from birth, a man who should have been her protector, a man who tortured and terrified her, was jailed for a non-parole period of 33 years. The man was her father.

The abuse that began when Jeni was only a baby is unimaginable to most. It was physically, psychologically and emotionally sadistic and never-ending. The fact she survived may be called a miracle by some – but the reality is, it is testament to the extraordinary strength of Jeni’s mind.

What saved her was the process of dissociation – Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – a defence mechanism that saw Jeni create over 2500 separate personalities, or alters, who protected her as best they could from the trauma. This army of alters included four-year-old Symphony, teenage motorcycle-loving Muscles, elegant Linda, forthright Judas and eight-year-old Ricky.

With her army, the support of her psychiatrist Dr George Blair-West, and a police officer’s belief in her, Jeni fought to create a life for herself and bring her father to justice. In a history-making ruling, Jeni’s alters were empowered to give evidence in court. In speaking out, Jeni’s courage would see many understand MPD for the first time.

The Girl in the Green Dress is an unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. This is a unique and profoundly important book as it is not only a story of survival, it also includes incredible insight from Dr George Blair-West, Jeni’s psychiatrist and an expert in DID.

Library Girl – Karen Henry Clark

Illustrations – Sheryl Murray

When she was a child, Nancy was teased about her love of reading. The school library was her favourite place and when she learned about the existence of the public library, entire worlds opened up to her. She devoured everything she could, starting with books about horses.

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With some encouragement from the librarians, Nancy stepped outside of her comfort zone, giving a talk about horses at the library. This is how Nancy found both her confidence and her calling.

Once challenged to write a six-word memoir, Nancy wrote: “Girl discovers books, then discovers life.”

And what a life it’s been. Nancy has won awards and written books. She even has her very own action figure !

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Nancy’s story speaks to the magic that exists in libraries and the superpowers librarians have to change lives.

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More bookish superheroes need action figures.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Little Bigfoot, an imprint of Sasquatch Books, for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Library Girl is the inspiring childhood story of how beloved librarian, author, and Seattle icon, Nancy Pearl discovered her strengths and realised her passion. It is a loving tribute to the power books and librarians have to transform children’s lives.

Nancy Pearl loved books and spent so much time in her school library that her grade school classmates teased her, calling her “library girl.” When she discovers her neighbourhood public library is open on Saturday, she begins the adventure of her lifetime. There, an inspiring librarian recognises her abilities, recommends books that ignite her vivid imagination, and provides experiences to bolster her burgeoning self-confidence. As she loses herself in the books she finds herself in their pages and comes to recognise her strengths. Her self-discovery brings a realisation at a young age that she wants to become a librarian so she can help children discover their dreams. 

This young girl, Nancy Pearl, grows up to become “America’s Most Celebrated Librarian,” devoting her life to talking about books up and down library aisles, on radio and television, at conferences and colleges around the world. Ultimately, she authors books about books, believing that reading allows people to find dreams of their own … with the turn of every page.

Crochet Magical Creatures – Drew Hill

You’ll find my crocheting skills about fifteen steps and many tears below beginner level. I can do a slip knot and my chain stitch actually looks like a chain stitch now. I think I did two rows of single crochet stitches one time.

Because my imagination is much more advanced than my ability to actually make yarn do what I want it to, I saw the cover of this book and decided that I was going to crochet a dragon.

I’m now just the teensiest bit obsessed with amigurumi.

This Japanese term combines the words for “crochet” and “stuffed toys”

Part 1 covers everything you need to know before you create your magical creature, including the supplies you’ll need, the stitches you’ll be using, how to read patterns and giving your creation life, AKA assembly.

Part 2 provides instructions that will allow you to create twenty magical creatures. My current favourites are:

🐉 Davina the dragon

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🐷 Basil the flying pig

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🐙 Konrad the kraken

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🦄 Moira the pegacorn.

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One day in the hopefully not too distant future I’m going to crochet a dragon and it’s going to be amazing!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Rockridge Press, an imprint of Callisto Media, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Make a little crochet magic, one stitch at a time.

Grab your hook and dive into a world of fantastic creatures with this whimsical crochet book. Learn about amigurumi, the Japanese art of crocheting stuffed toys, and use it to make a collection of cute, magical creatures. Easy patterns for critters like griffins and caticorns are simple enough for beginners while also offering plenty of fun for experienced enthusiasts.

  • Build your tool kit – Learn all about choosing different hook sizes, selecting the perfect yarn for your project, and stocking must-have amigurumi accessories like stuffing and stitch markers.
  • Stitch, please – Use clear step-by-step instructions to review essential crochet techniques, including the magic ring and single and double crochet, as well as fun stitches like the picot.
  • Jump into easy crochet patterns – Make dazzling dragons, marvellous mermaids and more, with 20 simple amigurumi patterns that will have you crocheting with confidence.

Add a little enchantment to your life as you discover the joy of crocheting fantastical creatures!

The Butterfly Assassin – Finn Longman

No mercy, no hesitation, no witnesses.

I finished reading this book two weeks ago and I’m still having trouble figuring out what to say about it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it. I did. I flew through it. It’s not that I didn’t love the characters. I did. So much! It’s that practically everything I want to say about this book wanders into spoiler territory and I don’t want to ruin it for you.

Isabel Ryan is trying her best to reinvent herself as Bella Nicholls. Isabel was trained as a contract killer by Comma, one of Espera’s two guilds. Bella is an ordinary high school student, a civilian.

She’s seventeen, she’s safe, and she got out.

One day maybe that will feel true.

Isabel is one of the best badass characters I’ve ever survived. She’s resilient, surprisingly vulnerable and all kinds of lethal when the situation calls for it.

‘It’s my trauma. You don’t get to tell me how to deal with it.’

Emma is one of the best friends you could ever hope to meet.

She smiles like it’s nothing. Show her how she can help, give her the knowledge to do it, and there it is: joy.

Grace is a librarian, which made her one of my favourite characters even before I knew anything else about her.

‘All I can offer is books and friendly advice, I’m afraid.’

This is a book about surviving against the odds. It’s about extricating yourself from the past when it’s holding on for dear life. It’s about control: being controlled, losing control and taking it back.

Isabel’s past is essentially layers of trauma and her present isn’t any easier. Not only is she trying to cope with the physical and emotional fallout from her life in the guild, she’s doing her best to create a new life for herself in hopes of having a future. Although not specifically identified as such, the portrayal of PTSD was authentic.

I loved that the chapter titles were in Esperanto as well as English. I loved the worldbuilding. I hated being constantly worried about the safety of my favourite characters but loved that, despite the darkness of this book, there was enough light to find them in the first place.

Favourite no context quote:

‘A candle can’t do much against a black hole.’

‘So light another candle.’

Content warnings include child abuse (emotional, medical, neglect, physical, verbal), foster care and mental health. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Children’s UK for the opportunity to read this book. I need the sequel immediately!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Trained and traumatised by a secret assassin programme for minors, Isabel Ryans wants nothing more than to be a normal civilian. After running away from home, she has a new name, a new life and a new friend, Emma, and for the first time in Isabel’s life, things are looking up.

But old habits die hard, and it’s not long until she blows her cover, drawing the attention of the guilds – the two rival organisations who control the city of Espera. An unaffiliated killer like Isabel is either a potential asset … or a threat to be eliminated.

Will the blood on her hands cost her everything?

Last Rites – Todd Harra

Who knew reading about death could be so much fun?!

I absolutely loved this book. I learned so many fascinating things about the dismal arts. How Lincoln’s death changed traditions relating to flower tributes and embalming. What preceded the shift from inhumation to cremation. How mourning has changed over time. The privatisation of funerals. Mourning gloves. Mourning gifts. Mourning jewellery. How war brought about “practical” mourning. Hearse design. Post-mortem photographs. The “coffin-torpedo”. Taphephobia. This book covers so much and explores everything in a way that made me want to keep delving deeper.

I discovered that all of the books I read about Ancient Egyptians as a child omitted some things. Like the mythology of the five children of Nut (the goddess of night). It’s the decidedly messed up story of the first mummy. Or how, according to Herodotus, when a “beautiful woman or the wife of a wealthy man” died, their body was left to decompose for three of four days before summoning the kher-heb (high priest) … to prevent necrophilia.

I decided that while I could see myself as a thanatologist, I won’t be applying for any dissector or beadle positions any time soon. The job of a dissector in Ancient Egypt was to make the incision for evisceration but as soon as they were done they’d be chased by their coworkers and stoned because they’d defiled the body. Beadles were routinely beaten by family members of the deceased as they went about their job of retrieving the bodies of hanged criminals so barber surgeons could dissect them.

I had to look up the Last Things website, where designer Chuck Lakin provides free blueprints for six coffins you can build yourself. Two of the six can be used as furniture while your heart is still beating. One is a bookcase coffin!!!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started this book. Learning about death rituals and how they’ve changed over time sounded really interesting but I wondered if the delivery would be dry and boring. It was anything but.

This book took me a lot longer to read than I’d anticipated because I kept stopping when I found something I couldn’t keep to myself so I could read it to whoever was nearby.

I never expected to be in a position to say ‘I read the most wonderful book about death’, but here we are. I read the most wonderful book about death!

Memento mori

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sounds True for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Why do we embalm the deceased? Why are funerals so expensive? Is there a reason coffins are shaped the way they are? When – and why – did we start viewing the deceased? Ceremonies for honoring the departed are crucial parts of our lives, but few people know where our traditional practices come from – and what they reveal about our history, culture, and beliefs about death. In Last Rites, author Todd Harra takes you on a fascinating exploration of American funeral practices – examining where they came from, what they mean, and how they are still evolving.

Our conventions around death, burial, and remembrance have undergone many great transitions – sometimes due to technology, respect for tradition, shifting sensibilities, or even to thwart grave robbers. Here you’ll explore: 

• Influences for American rituals – from medieval Europe, the Roman Empire, and even ancient Egypt
• When mourning fell out of fashion – and how George Washington’s passing brought it back
• Abraham Lincoln’s landmark funeral and its widespread impact
• Flowers, liquor, mourning gifts, and caskets – the reasons behind our grieving customs
• Unknown soldiers – how warfare influenced funeral and bereavement practices … and vice versa 
• How growing populations, religion, inventions, and media have changed and continue to shape our traditions
• The future of our death rites – mushroom suits, green burial, body donation, flameless cremation, home funerals, and more

The rich story of the American funeral is one of constant evolution. Whether you’re planning a funeral service or are simply intrigued by the meaning behind American burial practices, Last Rites is an informative and compelling exploration of the history – and future – of the ceremonies we use to say farewell to those who have departed this world.

When Women Were Dragons – Kelly Barnhill

“All women are magic. Literally all of us. It’s in our nature. It’s best you learn that now.”

Sometimes a cover image is enough to reel me in. Sometimes I only need to read the blurb to know for sure that a book is destined to become a favourite. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll only make it to the third page before I buy the ebook so I can highlight passages to my heart’s content. This is that book.

Marya Tilman’s transformation on 18 September 1898 was the “earliest scientifically confirmed case of spontaneous dragoning within the United States” but there were records of dragoning occurring centuries prior. You might believe that it was all over after the Mass Dragoning of 1955 but you’d be wrong. So very wrong.

For those whose feet remained firmly on the ground on 25 April 1955, life went on. People still went to work. Children still went to school. It was business as usual. But this new normal came at a cost.

Dragoning is unmentionable. Don’t talk about what happened.

Forget those who dragoned. They never existed in the first place.

Keep your eyes on the ground. You don’t want any dangerous ideas.

Perhaps this is how we learn silence – an absence of words, an absence of context, a hole in the universe where the truth should be.

This is Alex’s memoir (of sorts). Alex saw her first dragon when she was four. She was still a child when the Mass Dragoning happened. Through her eyes, we not only see how the Mass Dragoning changed society as a whole but also how it impacted upon Alex’s own family.

Through dragoning, this book explores trauma and the silencing that often takes place in its aftermath. It’s about how women diminish themselves to fit into the shape that society prescribes and the toxicity of secrets. It’s the power of women taking up space and refusing to be gaslit anymore.

When I started this book I thought it was going to be about an alternate 1950’s, one where women got pissed off with the patriarchy and turned into dragons. And it is. Sort of. But it’s so much more. There’s rage in this book but there’s also joy.

It is joy that burns me now, and joy that makes my back ache for wings, and it is joy that makes me long to be more than myself.

I fell in love with auntie Marla and Beatrice. I met the best librarian ever. I felt rage and helplessness alongside determination and hope and love. I ugly cried. Oh, did I ugly cry.

I felt a kinship with the characters who dragoned and a fire inside that I fully expected to result in my own dragoning. I love this book so much!

“Today’s the day!”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, death of animals, domestic abuse, racism and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, set in 1950’s America, Kelly Barnhill exposes a world that wants to keep girls and women small – and examines what happens when they rise up. 

Alex Green is four years old when she first sees a dragon. In her next-door neighbour’s garden, in the spot where the old lady usually sits, is a huge dragon, an astonished expression on its face before it opens its wings and soars away across the rooftops.

And Alex doesn’t see the little old lady after that. No one mentions her. It’s as if she’s never existed.

Then Alex’s mother disappears, and reappears a week later, one quiet Tuesday, with no explanation whatsoever as to where she has been. But she is a ghostly shadow of her former self, and with scars across her body – wide, deep burns, as though she had been attacked by a monster who breathed fire.

Alex, growing from young girl to fiercely independent teenager, is desperate for answers, but doesn’t get any.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Mass Dragoning is coming. And nothing will be the same after that. Everything is about to change, forever.

And when it does, this, too, will be unmentionable…

Just Like Home – Sarah Gailey

You’re returning to your childhood home for the first time in twelve years. Your job is to watch your mother die and then clean out the house. There’s a stranger living in the shed because your mother’s been cashing in on the fact that your father, who built the house, was a serial killer. Everyone in town hates you because of who your father was.

Welcome to Vera’s world.

The house was the same, but everything everything everything was different.

This is my first Sarah Gailey book and it was amazing! It was unsettling in the best way possible.

I know what it is to love a ‘monster’. Some of Vera’s responses to hers were scarily familiar. Others were (thankfully) more foreign. The ritual she completed to ensure her safety as a child made complete sense to me, as did its reappearance when she returned to Crowder House.

They remembered what they were supposed to do to keep her safe, remembered from when she was young enough to develop a superstition without reasoning herself out of it.

This book introduced me to a mother-daughter relationship that has been twisted and contaminated by their shared history. This is a story that explores the power of secrets to change you and a past that no longer wants to remain in the shadows.

It’s about loneliness and belonging, what makes a house a home and the inexplicable loudness of the things have been left unsaid in our lives.

Lemonade will never be the same.

I want to see.

Content warnings include domestic abuse.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“Come home.” Vera’s mother called and Vera obeyed. In spite of their long estrangement, in spite of the memories – she’s come back to the home of a serial killer. Back to face the love she had for her father and the bodies he buried there.

Coming home is hard enough for Vera, and to make things worse, she and her mother aren’t alone. A parasitic artist has moved into the guest house out back, and is slowly stripping Vera’s childhood for spare parts. He insists that he isn’t the one leaving notes around the house in her father’s handwriting… but who else could it possibly be?

There are secrets yet undiscovered in the foundations of the notorious Crowder House. Vera must face them, and find out for herself just how deep the rot goes.

Where to, Little Wombat? – Charles Fuge

It’s spring cleaning time and Little Wombat has decided he doesn’t want to live in a burrow anymore.

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Determined to find somewhere better to live, Little Wombat sets off on an adventure.

“Can I live with you?”

Little Wombat enthusiastically tries out the homes of his friends, only to discover that there really is no place like home.

As I’ve come to expect from Charles Fuge’s picture books, the illustrations are absolutely gorgeous. The colours are beautiful, the characters are expressive and the little details are always worth paying attention to.

I loved the faces of the critters who were being flung from the burrow by Little Wombat’s mother as she cleaned. I chuckled as Little Wombat discovered that the homes of each of his friends were not quite suitable for a wombat.

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Although Charles Fuge is one of my favourite illustrators, this was my first Little Wombat book. I’m more convinced than ever that I need to read every Charles Fuge book.

Thank you so much to Walker Books for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Do Little Wombat’s friends live in more exciting places than him? Little Wombat is determined to find out! But it’s not long before he realises that for little wombats, burrows are simply the best!

A fun-filled tale about being happy with the things you have.

Black Mouth – Ronald Malfi

Any day that includes me being able to say that I’ve found a new favourite author is a good day. Today is a good day!

I’m a tad embarrassed to admit that this is my first Ronald Malfi read. On the flip side, because I’m late to the party, I’ve got so many books to catch up on and new favourites to find. Did I mention today is a very good day?

Black Mouth is essentially a big melting pot of the types of characters and themes I will always want to read about. You’ve got your group of outcasts who experienced something scary, traumatic and potentially supernatural when they were kids. The ghosts of the past, possibly even the literal kind, haunt said kids well into adulthood. Adults who have been trying to outrun their childhood trauma can’t run anymore, and it just keeps getting better and better.

The things that happened down in the heart of Black Mouth that summer had been inexplicable, magical, and ultimately deadly things – things I still can’t fully comprehend or even care to dwell on.

There’s a carnival. Magic. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A group of friends I want to join. And best of all? There’s Dennis, who is now one of my all time favourite characters. I adore Dennis!

I loved this book so much! The characters, the location, the atmosphere, the way the past bled into the present, even the surprise misty eyed moment. I loved it all!

I can’t wait to read more books by this author.

As usual, I sent test emails to the email addresses listed for two characters in this book. As usual, they were undeliverable. Yes, I’m going to keep sending random emails to book characters until one finally responds.

“Do you want to see a magic trick?”

Content warnings include abuse of animals, alcoholism, bullying, child abuse, death by suicide (including method used), domestic abuse, sexual assault and a suicide attempt. Readers with emetophobia, beware. There are also a bunch of cringeworthy slurs that I won’t be repeating here; although I hated reading the words, it made complete sense that those characters would be saying them.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster.