Bonus: September Reading Wrap-Up – Graphic Novels & NetGalley ARCs

Welcome, book lovers!

If you’d prefer to listen to these reviews, you can check out the full episode on The Bookmarks ‘n Blankets Podcast on your favorite podcast platform or listen below. 

I’d love to know your thoughts on any of these books if you’ve read them. I invite you to hop over to my Instagram or X (aka Twitter), where you can comment.

So if you listened to/read my previous September reading wrap-up episode/post, then you heard me say that I read an incredible amount of books last month – 36 stories! Now, most of those were from NetGalley, and most of those (from NetGalley) were kids’ picture books. 

But in this episode/post, I wanted to share with you what I read from NetGalley and the graphic novels that I also read because I always try to fit a few of those into my reading mix every month. (You can read about all 14 picture books from NetGalley in this post.)

Graphic Novels

The Tea Dragon Society Series by Kay O’Neill

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Ratings: Book 1: 3, Book 2: 2, Book 3: 3

The Tea Dragon Society

GR Description (Book 1): After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

Buy on Amazon here.

The Tea Dragon Festival

GR Description (Book 2): Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

Buy on Amazon here.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry

GR Description (Book 3): Over a year since being entrusted with Ginseng’s care, Greta still can’t chase away the cloud of mourning that hangs over the timid Tea Dragon. As she struggles to create something spectacular enough to impress a master blacksmith in search of an apprentice, she questions the true meaning of crafting and the true meaning of caring for someone in grief. Meanwhile, Minette receives a surprise package from the monastery where she was once training to be a prophetess. Thrown into confusion about her path in life, the shy and reserved Minette finds that the more she opens her heart to others, the more clearly she can see what was always inside.

Buy on Amazon here.

My Brief Reviews (for all three books): At first glance, this seems like a really sweet and charming fantasy graphic novel series. The little tea dragons are absolutely adorable. I want to adopt one! The illustrations are also gorgeous with bright, vibrant colors. I really enjoyed the style of the graphics. It’s an easy and quick read. 

However, what turned me off to this book and the entire series, in general, was the obvious woke messages and agenda being pushed. They are definitely checking boxes in this novel – diversity – check, inclusion – check, disabled character – check, and gender identity – check. Personally, I don’t want political propaganda of any kind in my entertainment, so this was a huge turnoff for me. Also, there is a gay couple and while I don’t feel that this adult content should be in kids’ books, I really had a problem with an interspecies gay couple. A man and a deer or llama-like creature are together and that just rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t feel that is appropriate for kids’ books (or any books for that matter). 

As for the stories, in book one, the plot didn’t even really exist. We’re introduced to the characters and learn about these tea dragons, but there really isn’t a story, and it is pretty bland and boring. But, I decided to give this series another shot with book two, which we do get a plot in this one, but I didn’t like it at all. It’s basically a prequel to book one and shows the gay interspecies couple younger, and new characters are introduced, who we follow along a story of theirs. We don’t see Greta or Minnette in book two, but they do come back in book three, where we are back in the present, one year after book one. This book also had a fairly decent plot and was a bit more interesting, but it didn’t wow me. At this point, I thought I would just finish the series to see how it ended or if it got any better, which it did a little. I think out of the three, the third book was the one I liked the most, but overall, this series was not for me. It had too many problems within the stories themselves, and it felt like Leftist propaganda that I didn’t need in my life. 

I will say that after reading four of this author’s works (this series and The Moth Keeper), I am not a fan of her political views and her stories are just really lackluster for me. So I will not read anything else from this author. Though I really enjoyed her illustrations, I think it’s best that we part ways.

City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm – Book 1 by Jaimal Yogis (Author) and Vivian Truong (Illustrator)

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: When Grace has to move to Hong Kong for her stepdad’s job, her biggest concern is making friends at her fancy new boarding school. But when a mysterious old woman gifts her a dragon egg during a field trip, Grace discovers that the wonderful stories her dad used to tell her before he died might not be so far-fetched after all. Especially when the egg hatches overnight.

My Brief Review: This graphic novel did not turn out to be what I thought it would be, which was disappointing. I thought it focused a lot on dragons and possibly the relationship between the dragon and the main character, Grace, but it didn’t. While I enjoyed the Chinese myths and folklore, it made the plot very convoluted, confusing, hard to follow, and at times, boring. There was a lot shoved into this story. It felt overwhelming at times and just too much. 

It was also pretty preachy with the woke diversity messages. I prefer political agendas not to be pushed in my entertainment. Someone was definitely checking their boxes off (eye roll)! 

Also, most of the story is supposed to be set in Hong Kong, but it doesn’t feel like it. I never would’ve known we were in China if the book didn’t tell us. And, the characters were all pretty flat and one-dimensional. I didn’t really care about any of them. 

However, I will praise the beautiful artwork because the illustrations are gorgeous. They are bright and vibrant. When we did see dragons, those illustrations stood out the most to me. It is also packed with action and has pretty good pacing. It has a nice mix of fantasy, science fiction, and friendship. 

Kids and teens may enjoy this book, but it wasn’t for me. Most likely, I will not be picking up the second book in this series.

The Aquanaut by Dan Santat

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 5 (4.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Dive into this whimsically adventurous graphic novel from Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat! Ever since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been moping around Aqualand, the marine theme park her dad and uncle created. But Sophia’s world is turned upside down when an “aquanaut” breaks into the park’s research lab. To her amazement, Sophia discovers that the aquanaut is not what it seems — inside lives a band of four goofy sea creatures! And when they all realize that Aqualand has evolved into something much darker than Sophia’s dad had envisioned, Sophia is determined to help the aquanaut crew free the park’s captive marine life before it’s too late.

My Brief Review: I love any story that involves underwater, the ocean, sea creatures, and aquatic life, so I knew that I had to pick this graphic novel up. I absolutely adored the illustrations. They are so well done. The sea animals and creatures are so adorable. The underwater scenes made me feel like I was there. The graphics are just captivating. 

This was such a sweet, wholesome story about family, grief, and loss. Sophia is dealing with the aftermath of losing her father during a scientific exploration and now living with her uncle, her father’s brother who was there when the ship went down. She is really missing her dad and coping with this grief, mostly on her own because her uncle is busy trying to save Aqualand.  There are definitely some emotional and sentimental moments in this graphic novel, which gave it some heart. This book also promotes sea life conservation in a fun way without being preachy. 

Adults will have to suspend their beliefs while reading this one, but I think children and teens would love it since it’s a fantasy story. I loved the sea animals and creatures that tried to control the diving suit that just appeared one day. You can tell they are connected to Sophia’s dad in some way. They are really funny and made me laugh out loud multiple times while reading. They also bring a nice found family element, which I always enjoy. 

There is a lot going on with the plot and at times, it felt a little confusing, but overall, it was a good time. Definitely recommend.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
My GR Rating: 5
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.

My Brief Review: I borrowed this one from the library. This was such an adorable look at death, loss, grief, and acceptance. The illustrations are beautiful. The colors are bright and vibrant. It’s a quick, easy read. 

I loved the sister dynamic. The older sister, Cat, is dealing with a lot of emotions surrounding her sick little sister. She has to completely change her life because of her sister. She feels resentment, anger, and frustration toward her sister and their new situation. But there’s also an underlying sadness that haunts her because they know there is no cure for her sister’s disease, so they are trying to make Maya as comfortable as possible and be there for her. Cat wants to support, protect, and love her sister, but she’s also a child herself and dealing with her own problems as a pre-teen. 

Maya is a really cute girl. She’s sassy and outgoing. She’s funny and brought some humor to the story. I really felt a lot of compassion for her situation. It’s sad to see children suffer, especially from an incurable disease. There were definitely some heavy, emotional parts of the story. But Maya always brought a smile to my face and made me laugh. She had really good spirits about her illness. 

I also enjoyed the Mexican culture sprinkled throughout the book and the main focus on the holiday, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). That is a fun, humorous sequence when they celebrate this holiday with the dead when they come back. 

The overall tone is a bit somber because of the sick sister, but it does get a tiny bit eerie and creepy with the ghosts and spirits. This was a beautiful story with many life lessons and gorgeous illustrations. Highly recommend! There are some more of this author’s graphic novels that I’m interested in checking out.

NetGalley Graphic Novels

Watership Down by Richard Adams (Author), James Sturm (Adapter), and Joe Sutphin (Illustrator)

Genre: Graphic Novel | Young Adult/Middle Grade
My GR Rating: 1 (DNF)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage, and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.

My Brief Review: I will preface that I’ve never read the original novel or watched the animated movie. But I have heard how much the movie traumatized many children who watched it (lol). So this was a new story for me that I knew nothing about going into. I thought reading the graphic novel version would be more interesting, especially since I’m a visual person. 

Unfortunately, I did not like this story. I DNF’d it around 60%. I didn’t finish it because I became bored and lost interest in it. The story became complicated and tedious. All of the rabbits began to blend together and I couldn’t remember each one. There were also a lot of characters to keep track of and it just got confusing. Also, the words they used for different things and other animals were hard to pronounce and remember what these strange words meant. There is also a lot of violence, which I didn’t expect. These are definitely not cute, cuddly rabbits that most people probably think about. They are vicious and savage, which was a surprise!

As for the illustrations, I liked them and thought they were pretty, but the colors were dull and muted. I prefer brighter, bolder colors. Nothing popped for me. It’s also a very, very long graphic novel, too long in my opinion. The story kept going on and on, and it just lost my interest. I didn’t find myself caring about any of the characters. Also, there are a lot of text bubbles and reading for a graphic novel. I prefer a lot less words and more beautiful graphics. I don’t think this translated well into a graphic novel. I think it was too big of a story, so it should just stick to the chapter book format. 

If someone likes this story and is familiar with it, they may enjoy this graphic novel. But as someone new to this story, it just wasn’t for me.

Roo and the Big Garden Redo by Steve Foxe (author) and Daniela Barros (illustrator)

Genre: Graphic Novel | Cozy Fantasy | Middle Grade/Kids
Publication Date: January 1, 2024
My GR Rating: 4
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: The humans are redoing their garden! That means Tiny Folk friends Aco and Roo need to pack up their teensy garden-side houses until the work is complete. Aco is excited throughout the temporary move. But Roo is…not. He’s a nervous wreck! Can the pair make it through the forest (i.e., the shrubbery) to stay with a neighbor? And when they return, will home still feel like home? In Tales of the Tiny Folk, follow along as itty-bitty creatures use creativity to thrive in a world that’s not quite their size.

My Brief Review: This is such a cute, sweet, and wholesome story. I absolutely love the style of the illustrations. It reminds me of cartoons I grew up with back in the 1980s (Katy the Caterpillar). This is an easy read for kids, and the story is simple to understand. I think children will really enjoy this graphic novel. 

The characters are likable, and the creatures are so adorable. I appreciated how it highlighted one of the characters having a lot of anxiety, worry, and stress. Then, another character helped him to overcome those heightened emotions and calm down. The little adventure that they go on is fun as well. 

I saw this is part of a series, and now I’m interested in reading the others. This book would be perfect for springtime since it revolves around a garden. This feels like a cozy fantasy and gives those cozy vibes. Highly recommend!

The Little Red Wolf by Amélie Fléchais

Genre: Graphic Novel | Middle Grade/Kids
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Once upon a time there was a little red wolf who lived in a treehouse in a thick and mysterious forest. The young wolf sets out on a journey to bring his grandmother a rabbit when he is charmed by a nice little girl who offers to help him. But nice is not the same as good.

My Brief Review: The illustrations are the best part! They are stunning!! I took my time reading this short book because I was slowly admiring this gorgeous, gorgeous artwork. The colors popped and were vibrant and visually appealing. I enjoyed the use of light and dark contrasts with the graphics. 

I loved this retelling of the classic fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. It was a creative concept where we got the wolves’ perspectives, but the ending was super abrupt. I could’ve used a few more pages and a more satisfying conclusion because I had questions. But overall, I liked the story and the themes/messages it gave us. There are some good lessons to learn, especially for children. Definitely recommend!

Tiny Myths Comics: Norse Edition #1: Welcome to Norse Mythology! by DongGoolTroll

Genre: Graphic Novel | Middle Grade
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Norse mythology is the mythology of the famous Vikings and the foundation of the modern fantasy genre.

It is well-known for its unique and mythic cosmology, which consists of nine realms: Asgard, the home of gods; Midgard, the land of men; Jotunheim, the domain of fierce giants; and Hel, the realm of dead, to name a few.

Do you know the full list and how they were created? There is an enticing tale behind it! Oh, and don’t forget the world tree Yggdrasil that binds all these nine worlds together. You’ll be introduced to all of them here in this issue!

My Brief Review: I chose to read this graphic novel because I’m not very familiar with Norse mythology and wanted to learn more about it. The illustrations are very cute. The colors are bright and vibrant. I liked the style of the graphics; it reminded me of cartoons from the 1980s. They also helped to tell the stories of these myths. There is also quite a bit of humor added in, which made me laugh. 

This felt really academic as if the author took a Norse mythology book from school and turned it into a graphic novel. You can tell there was definitely a lot of research done. Being new to this mythology, it was a little confusing and a lot of information to digest. But it was still a fun, enjoyable read. I may consider continuing in this series in the future.

Supper Club by Jackie Morrow

Genre: Graphic Novel | Young Adult
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Nora, Lili, and Iris are seniors at Seaside High. Their differing schedules and mounting extracurriculars inspire the girls to form a secret club where they can hang out without sacrificing their future aspirations.

Enter Supper Club, the delicious solution to their problems. When life starts to crumble like a cookie under the girls’ feet, they rely on comfort food to hold it together. Can Supper Club endure life’s most challenging recipes without burning to a crisp?

My Brief Review: This is a sweet and funny book about growing pains, friendship, and good food. I loved the dynamics of the friend trio. Being a teenager is hard, and keeping up with your friendships is even harder, especially as high school seniors when many students are preparing to graduate and head off to college and that next chapter in life. I thought it was creative how Nora came up with the Supper Club idea to keep their relationships intact during the school year. 

It is an emotional read as we see each girl dealing with her own problems throughout the school year. They are each facing difficulties and obstacles in their lives, but they help each other navigate these rocky times. Even when they bicker and fight with each other, they always seem to come together because they honor and respect their sacred friendships. It was lovely to watch unfold during the story. 

I wished there were more food or cooking scenes, but what we did get was amazing. The illustrations were very appealing and engaging. I also liked this style of graphics because, at times, it almost looked like rough sketches of a storyboard, but then in the next panel, we’d see the beautiful completed graphics. Some people may not like this type of artwork, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also appreciated the recipes included at the end of the book. That was a nice touch. 

This quick and easy read will make you hungry and give you all the warm feels. Definitely recommend it!

NetGalley Novels

Medusa (The Myth of Monsters) by Katherine Marsh

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Publication Date: February 20, 2024
My GR Rating: 3
Pre-Order on Amazon here.

GR Description: Ava Baldwin has always tried to keep her anger in check, just like her mom taught her. But when know-it-all classmate Owen King tries to speak over her yet again, Ava explodes . . . and Owen freezes, becoming totally unresponsive. Although Owen recovers, Ava’s parents whisk her off to her mother’s alma mater, the Accademia del Forte, a mysterious international boarding school in Venice. There, Ava and her brother, Jax, discover that the Olympian gods founded the Accademia to teach the descendants of mythological monsters how to control their emotions and their powers and become functioning, well-adjusted members of society. But not everything at the Accademia is as it seems. After her friend Fia is almost expelled for challenging a teacher, Ava realizes the school is hiding a dangerous secret. To uncover the truth, Ava and her new friends embark on an adventure that could change the way they view history, mythology—and themselves—forever…or end their lives.

My Brief Review: I chose to read this book because I wanted a light, adventurous fantasy middle grade story. I thought it would be like a mix of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. However, what I got was extremely unexpected and disappointing.

I’ll start with what I did like about the book: I enjoyed all of the Greek mythology in this story. There is quite a bit, and I enjoyed reading (and learning) more about them. I learned about the Greek gods and monsters in high school and also took a class in college, but I have forgotten a lot over the years. So this was a nice refresher, and I learned more about other Greek characters and stories that I hadn’t heard before. I also liked the twist where the children were descendants of Greek monsters instead of Greek gods, like in Percy Jackson.

The adventure the children go on is fun and creative. It felt a little rushed, and I would’ve liked it to be a little longer with more buildup, but overall, it never got boring, and there was a lot of action. It was a very quick and easy read. I read it in two days. There were quite a few twists and turns, and the whole story felt like a puzzle that we were putting together, which was also fun and entertaining.

The main protagonist, Ava, is an admirably brave, strong-willed, clever, and intelligent girl. A few of Ava’s other friends were okay but didn’t stand out too much for me. However, I did not like her best friend, Fia, at all. I felt like she was disrespectful, snarky, and rude. Her rebellious, reckless reactions caused her own problems, and things could’ve been handled differently. We also didn’t get a lot of backstory on the characters, so I didn’t really get to know them that well and just didn’t care as much. I felt like we needed more time with them and more character development. The ending was also abrupt and didn’t feel fully fleshed out. Again, it felt too rushed and short.

However, this book was obviously written by a feminist who had something to say! If I had known ahead of time the feminist turn it would take, I never would’ve read this novel.

This was one of the preachiest books I’ve ever read in my entire life. I don’t want any movement or group pushing their agenda on me, especially in my entertainment when I just want to escape into a fun, creative story. We get enough soapbox speeches about our culture in many other ways. I don’t need (or want) it in my books. Plus, putting these messages in children’s books is appalling to me because not everyone agrees or wants these messages forced onto their children.

This didn’t feel like female empowerment. It felt like progressive, feminist propaganda disguised as a middle grade fantasy. The overtly feminist tone and angle of the story were nauseating, tiresome, and annoying. I tried to keep an open mind as I read it, but I found myself rolling my eyes way too many times. I was incredibly disappointed at the turn it took when it had such potential to be a fun, lighthearted read with some good universal messages without being preachy. But unfortunately, that is not what we got with this one, which is a shame. The concept was imaginative, but the execution was poor.

How to Fake-Date a Vampire by Linsey Hall 

Genre: Romance Fantasy | Cozy Fantasy
My GR Rating: 4 (3.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: I’ve got one chance to prove to my coven that I’m worth my wand. But to do it, I’m going to have to make a deal with a vampire duke. I get to use his gorgeous estate in Cornwall to host the Beltane Ball–and in exchange, I’ll pretend to be his girlfriend. But it’s all a show for his grandmother.

The rules of our fake relationship are simple: No flirting. No emotion. No sex. Simple, right?

Except I can’t seem to ignore the allure of the infuriating and devastatingly sexy vampire. Falling for a duke isn’t an option, though. I would lose the anonymity that protects me and my coven, and that would ruin my life.

My Brief Review: This delightful, light, fluffy read blends fantasy, romance, and magic into this sweet story.

The seaside setting of Charming Cove is… well, charming. It gives you a small town feel and is very warm and inviting. We don’t get to meet too many people in this town, but those who we do meet are likable characters. I would’ve enjoyed for the town and its residence to play more of a role in the story. I also would’ve liked more description of the setting and events. We got a little bit, but I wanted more. I wanted to be fully immersed in this fantasy world but felt like I was only able to dip my toes in it.

Emma and Alaric are easy characters to like, relate to, and ultimately root for. It’s a dual POV, so we’re able to understand each of their points of view. However, we get more of Emma’s POV, and at times, when I was reading in Alaric’s POV, I had forgotten that and thought it was Emma’s until I read a sentence that didn’t fit quite right, and then I remembered it’s Alaric’s POV. I don’t know if I learned that much more about Alaric from being in his POV. I think the book could’ve just used Emma’s POV, which would’ve worked for the entire story.

The romance between Emma and Alaric is very cute and sweet. There is some language and one spicy scene, but it’s not too graphic. I thought they made a really cute couple, but it does lean on the insta-love side quite a bit. They fall pretty soon and quickly for each other, ignoring the rules they set when they first planned the fake dating scheme. At times, it was obvious they both were falling for each other but wouldn’t communicate their feelings, which was a bit annoying. I also wished we saw more of them together, trying to fake date, but much of the story is about Emma preparing for the town’s ball. It’s very predictable, but that didn’t ruin anything for me. Overall, I enjoyed their romance.

I also loved the found family element in this story. Emma just wants a family of her own, and she finds it within her coven as well as Alaric’s family. I love the relationships she builds with Alaric’s family members. I also really enjoyed Emma’s skunk familiar, Penelope. She’s sassy, caring, witty, and humorous. She brought some funny scenes throughout the story. She was a nice touch, and now I want a skunk familiar! (lol)

One big problem that I had was that Alaric is supposed to be a vampire, but he hardly acts like one. All of the traits we know about vampires do not apply in this story. He can be out in sunlight; he can eat and drink normal food and beverages; he doesn’t attack people for their blood, he gets it in a bag; he doesn’t sleep in a coffin…and so on. So, what makes this guy a vampire? I would’ve liked more evidence that he actually was a vampire!

Overall, the story was engaging and compelling. I think the pacing was great and didn’t really slow down too much. I wish it were a little longer so we got more time at the ball at the end, but it’s a pretty quick read. I’ll admit, it’s a little cheesy and a bit too fluffy at times, but this was exactly what I needed and wanted when I read it. It’s overly sweet, verging on too nice without a lot of conflict, but it was still a fun read. It’s light, whimsical, and magical, though I wish we had a bit more magic in it. It’s perfect for a fall read or spooky/Halloween feel-good read with some supernatural elements.

I definitely got cozy fantasy vibes from this book. Now, I want to read the first book in the series. I believe this is the type of series where each book can stand on its own without reading the others. Definitely recommend if you like warm, fuzzy rom-coms with a bit of enchanting magic and love!

NetGalley Short Stories

Lily by E. G. Creel

Genre: YA Fantasy | Novella & Short Stories
My GR Rating: 3 (2.5)
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Discover what it means to be born with a shadow. Lily’s shadow is only hours old and already a killer. But is it really Lily’s fault, and should she suffer the consequences for actions she has no control over?

My Brief Review:  This story had an interesting concept; unfortunately, it needed to be developed further. It felt really disjointed and needed further explanation. I was left with many questions and quite confused. It felt like I was missing a much bigger story. I did read the author’s note that this was the origin story of a character in another one of her books, but I thought it could be read as a standalone short story. However, that was not the case. Also, the narrator breaking the fourth wall and talking to the reader was not necessary and felt cheesy. It took me out of the story. 

But I did like the characters, fantasy elements, and overall tone and atmosphere. It was a bit creepy and eerie. It felt like a classic fairytale, which I enjoyed, but I wish we got more backstories of the characters and more details of this fantasy world. I also liked the different fantasy creatures and the lore of this realm. The few illustrations we got in some episodes were cute. I wish it were more consistent, and we saw them with every episode. 

The pacing was a little rushed, but this is a novella, so that’s to be expected. I’m intrigued to continue this journey by reading the other books in this series.

Adventures with Raymond and Bonnie: The Deserted Cottage by John Williams

Genre: Kids’ Contemporary Short Story
My GR Rating: 3
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: Living in rural Billsborough County, a young robin called Raymond and his best friend Bonnie, a blue tit, get into all sorts of adventures. Raymond is plucky, brave, and (surprisingly for a robin), well-read. What Bonnie lacks in knowledge she makes up for with common sense. Always right, she tends to be nosy and sometimes lacks concentration. In ‘The Deserted Cottage’, we see the young pals waking with the firm intention of spending another day having fun. It’s mid-winter and they often visit nearby Fir Cottage where they can expect food and fresh water provided by nice old Mr Digweed. One snowy December day, Raymond and Bonnie meet up early and fly the short distance over to the cottage only to find it deserted and with no sign of food or water. Initially, they are just concerned about Mr Digweed’s health but, later that day, they discover that the forlorn-looking cottage has attracted the interest of two suspicious-looking strangers. Who are these intruders and what, exactly, do they want? How can two little birds help Mr Digweed and protect Fir Cottage? Where will they find help? Unfortunately, there is also a threat to the birds’ habitat! It looks as though they might have to move away from the countryside that they love so much. Far from being fun, this turned out to be a very challenging day that the little feathered friends will never forget.

My Brief Review: This was a cute story about birds in the country during winter. I enjoyed the friendship between Raymond and Bonnie. The plot was interesting, but not a lot happened. It’s a quick, easy read. However, I didn’t like reading about characters smoking in a kids’ book. I didn’t think that was necessary to include in the story. The illustrations are cute, but I think the cover art needs a little bit of work. It was just okay for me.

Baby Unicorns by Anne Marie Ryan, Olga Baumert (Illustrator), Kristina Kister (Illustrator)

Genre: Children’s Picture Book | Short Stories
My GR Rating: 4
Buy on Amazon here.

GR Description: The Magical Unicorn Society is opening its doors once again to reveal eight brand-new stories about the world’s most magical and elusive creatures. This time, the stories reveal the little-known facts about young unicorns, which are notoriously secretive and difficult to study.

This beautifully illustrated compendium brings together tales of rare encounters with young unicorns, called younglings, from each of the eight unicorn families. Each story tells the tale of a special relationship formed between a youngling and a baby animal, as witnessed by a young person who is then bonded with the unicorn for life. Find out how a Mountain Jewel unicorn creates a lifelong bond with a wild panda cub and a young man, and follow the Water Moons as they help a young girl and a baby dolphin save their island from a sea monster.

Discover the differences between younglings and adult unicorns, from magical powers that are just developing to the colors of their coats and tails. Follow the flow chart to find out which unicorn family you belong to and discover where in the world you can find a unicorn’s favorite food.

My Brief Review: I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations are gorgeous, but I wish there were more throughout the book. This is like an encyclopedia for unicorns. It gives lots of information about each type of unicorn, from what it looks like to how it feels to what magic it has. It’s very immersive, showcasing some of the five senses. 

I loved the concept but would prefer it to be less wordy and have more images. This book has multiple short stories that go with each type of unicorn. I loved this idea, but I think this one big book could’ve been broken down into a series of smaller books. Then, we could’ve gotten more illustrations in a picture book format with each short story. I think it would’ve been more visually engaging that way. I could see a young child getting bored with such a wordy book. Plus, in my opinion, the short stories were pretty long for a children’s book. 

But overall, I thought this was a creative, beautiful book with fun little stories about unicorns. It’s very cozy, magical, and whimsical. At the end, there is a “quiz” to find out which unicorn would bond with you best. They also have a website where anyone can sign up to be a member of this unicorn society, sign up for emails, and download a membership badge. I really enjoyed this interactive element. I think kids would get a kick out of becoming a member of this society. This entire book is a lot of fun. Definitely recommend!

*Please note that I am a participant in the Amazon Associates Program and a member of other affiliate programs. I may receive commissions from qualifying purchases made through links in this article.

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