A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion – Ton Mak

It’s a well established fact that I’m an introvert. Besides my lived experience, I have also found multiple books that could have been written about me.

I found myself on almost every page of Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World. If my introversion was ever in doubt (it wasn’t), the perfect score I achieved on Jenn Granneman’s signs I might be an introvert in her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts, was a big ‘I told you so’ to any naysayers out there.

If you’re a kindred introvert, you’ll probably get some validation and a reminder that you’re fine just the way you are from this book. If you’ve already read books that talk about introversion on any detail, it’s unlikely you’ll find any new information in this book.

This gift book has cute illustrations. However, I found the colours jarring. I read this book on an iPad; maybe the colours would look better on a different screen. It’s also possible, because I’m mindful that I read an advanced copy, the colour scheme could change prior to publication.

Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion is a delightful illustrated gift book that celebrates the wonderful qualities of introverts through the everyday adventures of a turtle.

Being an introvert comes with numerous advantages and the occasional woe, and no animal knows that better than the humble turtle hiding in its shell. This book celebrates introverts and their many wonderful, often-underrated qualities. 

Perfect for introverts and extroverts who are secretly introverts. And for those who likes turtles.

The Blue Day Book Illustrated Edition: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up – Bradley Trevor Greive

Illustrations – Claire Keane

I was so excited about this one for a couple of reasons. Obviously the cover was a big one because it’s gorgeous! I loved the elephant and wanted to give it a massive hug; I couldn’t wait to see the rest of the illustrations. Then there was the fact that ‘The Blue Day Book’ and I have history. After much thought I deleted three rambling paragraphs outlining my history with the original. You’re welcome!

Let’s just say I had high expectations for this new edition and it guts me to say that I’m disappointed. The text from the original book seems to be intact but there are also additions; when I read the original I didn’t think it was broken and I still prefer it. Because I loved the cover illustration of this edition so much I assumed I’d fall in love with every illustration but that wasn’t the case.

I really appreciated the introduction to this illustrated edition. I gained some insight into how ‘The Blue Day Book’ came to be in the first place and learned some of the journey of its creator in the years since its publication. I understood why there was one central elephant rather than a zoo of creatures telling the visual story.

No one is immune from painful life experiences. This book acknowledges those and then makes a point about perspective. The author notes in the introduction “but when I really took stock of my life I realized it actually wasn’t that bad”. While I’m a fan of looking at your circumstances from different perspectives and trying to make the best out of bad situations, there are things in life that really are that bad and all the perspective in the world won’t change that.

Twenty years ago I probably would have flung the original book at anyone who had pretty much any crappy life event but I’d be hesitant to do the same now as I know the impact platitudes can have when you’re not in a good place.

My favourite quote is from the introduction, which reads in part

so often it’s the little things that matter most. It’s the endless little setbacks that finally break us, the fleeting gestures of kindness and moments of levity that lift our spirits, and the small personal victories that spur us on to far greater endeavors.

While I’d happily share the photographs in the original book with kids, I wouldn’t put the illustrated edition in their hands. My sensitivity may be showing here but I really didn’t like the wording and illustrations that accompanied the pages that allude to suicide. I also wasn’t a fan of the drunk elephant with bloodshot eyes that’s trashed the bar and don’t get me started on the “pathetic, sniveling victim” page.

I spent more than half of this book glad I wasn’t reading it when I was having a bad day.

Then when the positivity began to trickle in it started with becoming rich and famous before announcing that “best of all, there’s romance.” Thankfully it moved on to positives I can get behind like getting outside and going for a walk but by then the book had lost me. I really hope I’m an exception and look forward to reading reviews written by people who adore this edition.

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

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Blue Day Book Illustrated Edition is a marvelous relaunch of the original collection that conveys inspirational and poignant text, now brilliantly paired with illustrations of a wonderfully expressive elephant. Not only are the words designed to lift the spirits of anyone who’s got the blues, the whimsical illustrations create a beautiful, visual story for readers to follow along. No one who has lips will be able to read it without smiling; it’s guaranteed.

Nineteen years after its first printing, Bradley Trevor Greive’s global bestseller The Blue Day Book has become a modern classic and is still bringing smiles to readers around the world. And because we all still have bad days now and then, the time is right for an illustrated edition of this uniquely funny, compassionate book that inspired an entire genre of uplifting gift books.

This special edition features stunning new illustrations created by Claire Keane, the artist and animator who created the art for Disney’s Frozen. Still included, of course, are the original, warm, supportive messages and humorous insights guaranteed to raise the spirits of anyone feeling down and blue.

Change Happens – Kathryn & Ross Petras

Kathryn and Ross Petras have collated in this book an alphabet of wisdom about change. Taken from a variety of writers, philosophers, musicians, scientists, entrepreneurs and others, there are quotes to inspire you, comfort you and make you smile.

While you may want to read from cover to cover initially, I liked that the quotes are grouped in themes so you can easily find the ones that are most applicable for your current situation. For example, here’s L.


This would make a good gift book for someone going through a big change in their life or for reflection yourself because as the quotes tell you, change is inevitable. My favourite quotes include:

When we are no longer able to change a situation … we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl

We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty. – Maya Angelou

Today is only one day in all the days that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other days that ever come can depend on what you do today. – Ernest Hemingway

Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced. – James Baldwin

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them. – Andy Warhol

While the layout was clean and consistent and the font made the quotes easy to read I didn’t find the creative flair I expect from gift books. I love quotes and have since I was a kid when I’d write the ones that spoke to me in notebooks. However if I’m going to buy a book of quotes I don’t want to be bored by the layout. Some pages included an illustration but when they didn’t the pages blended together.


Thank you to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Company for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This collection of quotations – from the masters of the quote book, Kathryn and Ross Petras – focuses on the empowering aspects of change and is perfect for graduates or anyone else facing a life passage -landmark birthday, new job, new home, or the beginning (or end) of a relationship.

Forest Bathing Retreat: Find Wholeness in the Company of Trees – Hannah Fries

I’d never heard of forest bathing prior to being drawn to the photography on the front cover of this book. In the introduction Robin Wall Kimmerer simplifies the ethereal sounding concept, calling it what it really is, “daydreaming in the woods”. Personally I prefer the daydreaming description but the translation from the Japanese term shinrin-yoku is ‘forest bathing’ so my vote doesn’t count.

I assumed (wrongly) that shinrin-yoku would have its origins centuries ago and would be rich in eastern tradition. The term was first used in the 1980’s so it turns out that I’ve been practicing forest bathing since its inception. Growing up there was a fire trail behind our back fence that was kept clear by the locals and then there was the bush. For those of you outside of Australia, please pretend I’m saying either forest or woods whenever I refer to the bush.

I spent a good portion of my childhood going on bush walks with family and friends. I knew all the trails and even though a portion of it is now a concrete path (ew!) I still know it inside and out. My friends and I would go for walks or bike rides and we’d be gone all day; investigating, having a chat by the edge of the stream we found one day, going off-trail to see what new birds or trees we could find, using getting caught in a surprise storm as an excuse to waltz in the middle of a muddy path under a canopy of trees that were dripping a substantial amount of water on us.

I will be the first to admit I’d prefer to actually do forest bathing than read about it. I did wonder about the need for a book like this to encourage people to spend time hanging out in nature, then got sad as I remembered that peoples’ lives are so busy and screen based these days. Maybe it’s no longer a given that being in nature is something you do without a manual.

There are four sections in this book:

Breathe – a meditative noticing of your body and your surroundings, relaxing your muscles and paying attention to your breathing. Composer Oliver Caplan’s quote (abridged here) about krummholz really spoke to me:

“They remind me of the human spirit and our great capacity for resilience, a new possibility in every breath.”

Connect – connecting to your surroundings through your senses; basically grounding yourself.

Heal – forest bathing as medicine. You won’t find a big list of scientific studies spouting the health benefits associated with “daydreaming in the woods” but if you Google shinrin-yoku it won’t take you long to find them if you really need to know.

Give Thanks – you can figure this one out yourself. 😊

I’m not quite sure who to say this book is for. There will be the people who are totally into mindfulness that will most likely adore this book, with its mindfulness exercises, poetry and wisdom. I will forever be grateful to the person who, when I looked puzzled at the apparent complexity of the whole mindfulness thing, dumbed it down for me and said, “You do realise mindfulness is essentially just about being in the present, don’t you?”

There will be people like myself who have apparently been forest bathers their whole lives who’ll probably look at this book and think that it’s pretty and has some nice quotes and reminders. However, at the end of the day we’d rather be out doing the forest bathing than reading about it.

Initially I thought this could be a nice book for when you’re bogged down in the office and need a mental wander through the woods to centre yourself. Some sections would be helpful for this but the others where you’re basically given instructions on how to appreciate nature have the potential to fall kind of flat when you’re surrounded by concrete.

For those who need a how-to I can see this working if you read a section before you go for your wander and then apply the principles you’ve read about. However some of it reads like step by step instructions and I got this mental picture of someone taking this book with them, standing on the edge of a forest and paging through the book … noticing the edge of the forest … turning the page then pausing … turning the page and scanning their body and mind … trying to find the beginning of the next sentence on the page so they can find their next instruction. Kind of like how landscape photography can be wonderful but if you’re spending the whole time taking photos you don’t get the chance to appreciate the view.

I hope some people will pick up this book who have never forest bathed before because of factors like location or busyness. If this book gets them interested enough to discover how wonderful forest bathing is, then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks of it as it will have done its job.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Storey Publishing for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

People have been retreating to the woods for quiet, meditation, and inspiration for centuries, and recent research finds that time spent in the forest doesn’t just feel good but is, in fact, good for you. Inspired by the Japanese concept of shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, poet Hannah Fries invites readers to bask in the company of trees, whether in a city park or a rural nature preserve.

Fries combines her own reflections and guided mindfulness exercises with a curated selection of inspirational writing from poets, naturalists, artists, scientists, and thinkers throughout the centuries and across cultures, including Japanese haiku masters, 19th century European Romantics, American Transcendentalists, and contemporary environmentalists. Accompanied by beautiful forest photography, Forest Bathing Retreat is a distinctive gift that invites frequent revisiting for fresh insights and inspiration.

Everyday Gratitude: Inspiration for Living Life as a Gift – A Network for Grateful Living

Everyday Gratitude is a collection of quotes from authors, spiritual leaders including monks and rabbis, and other well known people from history along with some I’d never heard of. Intended to make you think about your own life, each quote is accompanied by a question that encourages you in one or more of the following:

“1. STOP: Pause and awaken.

2. LOOK: Become aware of the gifts and opportunities around you.

3. GO: Take action based on gratefulness and great-fulness.”

This book used watercolours extensively. Looking at the backgrounds I remembered playing with watercolours in preschool; how the colours would blend together on the page and there’d be splotches of more intense colour amongst the watered down areas. That’s the feeling the backgrounds gave me, although unlike my works of ‘art’ these looked like they had purpose. Some were lines of colour, some were circles and others were more abstract.

“Though you may not change it, you can handle an ugly situation beautifully.”

Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Personally I wasn’t a fan of the questions put to the reader under each quote. While some did make me think, the majority seemed to either be simply rewording the statement of the quote into a question or didn’t appear overly related to the quote at all. I expect some readers will appreciate the questions as a tool for introspection as they mine the quote for meaning. I prefer to ponder quotes without guidance, deciding what they mean to me at this time in my life or applying them to a specific circumstance.

Some of the quotes in this book are ones I’d expect to see on a poster in a pokey little store that sells tie dye clothes, Buddha figurines, smells of incense, and most likely also sells this book. While there were some quotes that I expect will stay with me for a long time there were others that made me question whether they belonged in this book.

“Life does not accommodate you, it shatters you … every seed destroys its container or else there would be no fruition.”

Florida Scott-Maxwell

I can see Everyday Gratitude as a lovely gift or coffee table book. I wouldn’t have the discipline to use it as recommended, by reading a quote and its question each morning and then thinking about it throughout the day, but there will be those who have that discipline and I expect they’ll get a lot out of it.

I doubt anyone could overdose on gratitude and am sure the world would be a more positive place to be if more people spent more of their time focusing on what they’re thankful for.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go out and do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Howard Thurman

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Storey Publishing, LLC for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Experience and science say that daily practices and motiving reminders help us to be the people we want to be and to live the lives we want to live. This inspiring collection of 365 sayings and reflections comes from the Network of Grateful Living, founded by David Steindl-Rast. Quotes from A.A. Milne, Anne Frank, Thomas Merton, Maya Angelou, and more are paired with related questions and practices to help you notice the gifts you receive – both large and small – every day.

The Best Damn Answers to Life’s Hardest Questions: A Flowchart Book – Tess Koman

Am I a nerd? ✔️
Do I like flowcharts? ✔️
Do I like gift books? ✔️
Do I like laughing? ✔️

I found The Best Damn Answers to Life’s Hardest Questions: A Flowchart Book and thought I’d hit the quadfecta. It turns out that just because something ticks all the right boxes it doesn’t always mean you’ll find the gift book of your dreams.

I wouldn’t need a flowchart for a lot of the questions anyway:

  • Room for dessert? – Duh! Always!
  • Do I need a vacation? – See above.
  • Do I need more coffee? – Again, see above.

I’m too nerdy to fully appreciate the carefree look of these flowcharts. They don’t have different symbols for each action type and without arrows a messy flowchart can be kinda difficult to navigate in sections. Also, some of the questions don’t result in a flowchart, just a rant or a pros and cons list, which didn’t make sense to me as it’s a Flowchart Book.

Maybe we can chalk it up to the fact that this book is asking questions of millennials when I’m too old to even pretend to be one, if I actually wanted to. However, regardless of my age, I doubt this ever would’ve been the book for me.

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

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A hilarious and utterly relatable collection of flowcharts, rants, and lists about adulting.

A humourous guide to adulthood in a collection of 54 charmingly illustrated flowcharts and pros-and-cons lists that each address an all-too-real question, from the mundane to the life-changing. Will I survive this hangover? (Probably not.) Should I cancel my plans? (YES! Cancel immediately.) Am I having a quarter-life crisis? (Probably.) Do I even like this person? (Nope, nope, nope.) This inspired book of humour disguised as invaluable advice is a gift to make anyone feel better, proving that every question, thought, and decision, no matter how ridiculous or irresponsible, is completely valid. 

From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom – Eric Walters (compiler)

From the Heart of Africa: A Book of Wisdom comprises of aphorisms (sayings), where they originated and their meaning, every saying accompanied by an illustration. Each illustration is the work of an individual artist, all of which have brief bios at the end of the book.

The compiler of these sayings, Eric Walters, co-founded an organisation focused on the Mbooni District in Kenya called Creation of Hope. This organisation supports orphans and a portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to assist with the childrens’ education.

My Compassion daughter lives in Kenya so I have a soft spot for the people of this country. What I particularly like about what I’ve learned about Creation of Hope is that while its co-founder is a Canadian man, it’s a Kenyan program run by Kenyan people.

I enjoyed the sayings in this book but wanted there to be so many more. There were only 15 sayings included, most I’d heard some variation of before but also a couple that were new to me. The meanings were fairly basic and easily understood.

For me this book was all about the illustrations, the majority of which were vibrant and absolutely stunning. My personal favourite illustration was by Eugenie Fernandes and depicts the saying,

“When in the middle of a river, do not insult the crocodile.”

I adored the detail of the animals and the gorgeous colours. I’m no art critic but I want a copy of this illustration and I definitely need to seek out more of this artist’s work.

My two favourite sayings in the book were

“Rain does not fall on one roof alone.”


“I pointed out to you the stars, but all you saw was the tip of my finger.”

Suitable for children and adults alike, this would make a beautiful addition to school and public libraries, and as a gift or coffee table book.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tundra Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House Canada, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A collection of African wisdom gorgeously illustrated by artists from Ghana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Canada, the United States and more.

Aphorisms are universal. They give guidance, context and instruction for life’s issues, and they help us understand each other and the world around us. We use them every day, yet never think about where they came from or why they exist. 

In this beautifully illustrated collection, Eric Walters brings us classic sayings from the places where this shared wisdom began. Ashanti, Sukuma, Akan and Kikuyu: all of these cultures use the portable and easily shared knowledge contained in aphorisms, and from these cultures and more this communal knowledge spread. 

This book is a celebration of art, of community and of our common history.

Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus – Lucy Cooke

Sloths!!! One of my very favourite animals! I can’t see a photograph of a sloth and not smile. I especially love three-toed sloths, those gorgeous creatures with perpetual smiles and great affection for eyeliner.

I’m a huge fan of Lucy Cooke’s previous book, A Little Book of Sloth, so when I found out she had another book coming out I was jumping up and down calling, “Pick me! Pick me!”

Filled with the most adorable photos of baby sloths, adult sloths, two-toed sloths, three-toed sloths, sloths hanging out in trees, sloths in buckets and hammocks, interesting information about sloths and peace inducing quotes, I loved Life in the Sloth Lane.

Sloths teach us many things, including:

  • Don’t sweat the small stuff, or any stuff for that matter if you’re a three-toed sloth and don’t sweat at all.
  • The importance of rest. They rest about 70% of the day. Now that’s the life!

My favourite quote of the book is by Chade-Meng Tan:

“Because inner peace and inner joy are independent of worldly circumstances, they are available to you anyplace and anytime.”

This would make a lovely gift or coffee table book. Anyone who needs a smile should enjoy plenty while reading this book. I was ready to reach through the pages, pull out some sloths and give them all huge hugs, most likely while sitting in that super comfy looking hammock.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Why are sloths always smiling?

Perhaps it’s because they’ve mastered the art of taking it slow in a world whose frenzied pace is driving the rest of us crazy. Here, in a mindfulness book like no other, heart-tuggingly cute photographs of these always-chill creatures are paired with words of wisdom, all to inspire us to slow down, stop to enjoy the little things, and come up relaxed, centered, and smiling.

Be a Unicorn & Live Life on the Bright Side – Sarah Ford

Illustrations – Anita Mangan

Well, here it is! The book that inspired 🦄 Unicorn Month! 🦄

I love this little book of unicorn wisdom! I just wish it was longer because I didn’t want it to end. Unicorn has got it all figured out. He lives in the moment, looks for the good in others, accepts himself for who he is and takes time to enjoy himself.

Sarah Ford gives the reader simple, bite sized pieces of self care that for some reason feel easier to apply to your life because a unicorn is the one dispensing the wisdom. Regardless of your mindset at the start I doubt anyone could make it through this book without a smile on their face and at least one cheeky chuckle.

Anita Mangan’s illustrations are just perfect. What would have been a cute book without the pictures turns into something you want to return to again and again with them. I fell in love with this quirky, adorable unicorn. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a unicorn giving you a toothy smile or pole dancing. I had several smirks and chuckles during the book but my bursting out laughing moment came when Unicorn jumped in the puddles.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this book. I’m going to be returning to this book whenever I need to recharge, smile and receive a gentle reminder that self care is a necessity, not a luxury.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Being a person is getting too complicated. Time to be a unicorn.

This little book of positivity features everyone’s favourite mythical creature. Each adorably illustrated spread includes a funny or inspiring piece of advice, reminding you to follow your dreams, and always think unicorn. The perfect gift for a friend in need of a boost, this cute and covetable book is bound to spread smiles wherever it goes!

Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know – Mike Lowery

Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird, and Totally Not Boring Things to Know is a collection of illustrations by Mike Lowery and handwritten tidbits about the obscure, unusual and simply random. The book is divided into sections covering history, animals, food and drinks, science and everyday things.

After developing an obsession interest with children’s non-fiction books last year and borrowing all the new ones throughout the year regardless of topic some from the library, I already knew a lot of these random facts and had absorbed others through osmosis over the years. Apparently my brain clings to useless random snippets of information and in doing so pushes out the stuff I actually need to remember in the process.

This was a quick read. I enjoyed the quirkiness of the illustrations and think this would be a suitable gift book. I can also see these illustrations being used as a basis for an office desk calendar.

I found the writing which tends to slope upwards to the right fairly often distracting until I got used to it, the clutter of words on some pages hard to follow and the smudges on others a bit off-putting, but maybe I’m being overly picky.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Workman Publishing Group for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A collection of illustrated trivia unlike any other. From glow-in-the-dark cats to Jupiter’s diamond showers to the link between dancing goats and the discovery of coffee, here are up to 100 obscure and fascinating facts brought to life in Mike Lowery’s quirky, hilarious style. Each illustrated fact is paired with a handwritten web of related tidbits, recreating an entertaining dive down a trivia rabbit hole.