Devil Sharks – Chris Jameson

Alex and his wife, Sami, are on their way to paradise for a reunion with Alex’s friends from university. Harry, who Alex has a complicated history with, has invited them to spend a week on board his 100 foot luxury sailing yacht. All expenses paid!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The ocean is crystal clear, the weather is gorgeous and the alcohol is flowing. Except it’s not all smooth sailing aboard the Kid Galahad. They’re hundreds of miles from civilisation, sharks are circling and a not so merry band of pirates have made their acquaintance. What could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. It isn’t very long before their laughter turns to screams and the only thing flowing freely is blood.

Something bumped his thigh, nudged him hard, and then he felt razor teeth clamp down and rip his flesh, felt himself dragged and twisted, and he screamed as he went under for a second time.

Some of my favourite movies are B grade delights where humans find themselves knocked off the top of the food chain. It turns out that reading about especially bitey sharks is just as much bloody fun, although I definitely want to see this book made into a movie.

There is some time spent in the beginning setting up who’s who but it quickly all goes to hell. With a body count in the double digits, the tension is fairly consistent for over half of the book.

I initially took note of everyone’s occupation and personality so I could try to figure out who had the best odds of making it through the book with their flesh intact. It didn’t really seem to matter though as most of the characters are now in the process of being digested.

My only disappointment was the pirates. They had so much potential, but once they’d successfully ramped up the danger level for our group of friends they essentially disappeared. It was easy to forget they were even part of the story when the final battle for survival was taking place. The sharks well and truly made up for them though.

“What do you know about sharks?”

Alex cocked his head. “Mainly that I don’t want to be in the water with them.”

These sharks are relentless so there’s little chance your favourite character will survive. The person I most wanted to survive died and the person whose gruesome death I was looking forward to the most survived.

While this is my first Chris Jameson shark read, it will not be the last. Shark Island and Shark Beach are going to be bloodying up my imagination in the near future.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A pleasure cruise in Paradise leads a group of friends to a shark-infested Hell in Chris Jameson’s Devil Sharks …

When Alex Simmons is invited to a college reunion in the Hawaiian islands aboard the private yacht of his old pal Harry Curtis, he is not sure what to expect. The two men had a falling-out years ago over the suicide of one of their friends. Could this be Harry’s way of making amends? Or is something more sinister in store?

The crew sets sail and arrives at Orchid Atoll, the site of a deserted former Coast Guard station. But they are far from alone. Out here, three hundred miles from civilisation, Alex and his friends are about to encounter two very different brands of evil – one human, the other with fins – unlike anything they could have possibly imagined. They have entered a place where there’s no law, no mercy … and no way out.

Book Haul – 18 to 24 October 2020

I had some gorgeous walks on the beach this week. Just in time, too, because it started raining today and, if we’re to believe the weather forecast, it’s not likely to stop for about a week. This could be the perfect week for some binge reading!

On the way home from the beach one day, Mum and I dropped by the lake and saw a family of ducks. The five ducklings were almost half the size of their parents and they were so cute! My mother absolutely adores ducks so we watched them for at least 20 minutes. Not that I was complaining.

We stayed as still as possible and the parents must have decided we weren’t a threat; the entire family ended up feeding within 6 feet of where we were standing.

I’m not sure how this started but Mum and I only ever call ducks making noise, quacking or any other noise, ‘ducking’. These ducks were ducking so much and Mum wasn’t the only one in love with this little family.

Word of the Week: Catharsis. “Catharsis is a Greek word meaning “cleansing.”  In literature, it is used for the cleansing of emotions of the characters. It can also be any other radical change that leads to emotional rejuvenation of a person.” (from Literary Devices)

Bookish Highlight of the Week: The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn was an unexpected delight. I read a library copy and then immediately bought my own copy. It was such a sad but sweet story.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honour … and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honour. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is – a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life – and heart – are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything … including herself.


Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart …

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is an enchanting tale celebrating friendship, bravery and the importance of staying true to yourself.


The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed. 


NetGalley

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.


Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

“Irasshaimasé!”

I’m very late for my shift at the Smile Mart but I’m so glad to have finally walked through its doors. There have been eight managers and countless workers serving customers since it first opened eighteen years ago, but Keiko has been there from day one.

I really liked Keiko who, at thirty-six, has never fit into society’s mould. People have wanted to fix her since she was a child. But at the Smile Mart she feels like she fits perfectly.

While I suspect we’re all like this to a certain degree, Keiko’s speech and the way she dresses are an amalgam of the people she spends time with, morphing over time as new people enter her life and others fade away. Keiko doesn’t know how to be normal so it’s a good thing the Smile Mart manual clearly outlines how she is supposed to ‘human’ at work.

When I first started here, there was a detailed manual that taught me how to be a store worker, and I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.

Over the course of this quick read the rhythm of the convenience store became almost meditative. It got to a point where it almost felt wrong to be reading about any of the hours Keiko wasn’t spending inside the “shining white aquarium” because she was so comfortable there.

I love Keiko’s unfiltered honesty:

When I first saw my nephew through the glass window at the hospital, he looked like an alien creature. But now he’d grown into something more humanlike, complete with hair.

As someone who’s managed to accidentally subvert some of society’s adulting norms, I relate to the relief embodied in the following sentence:

Good, I pulled off being a “person”.

Quite frankly, that’s probably my favourite sentence of the entire book.

And I’m sure I’m not the first reader to think back on an early scene and fantasise about hitting Shiraha with a shovel.

Anyone who’s worked in retail will know Keiko’s coworkers and customers all too well. I worked in retail for seven years and so many of my coworkers and customers came to mind when I met Keiko’s.

Reading Convenience Store Woman actually had me wondering how my four years as Photolab Lady, in the days when negatives still existed and what you’d actually captured on film was one of life’s mysteries until you got it developed, would translate into a story. The stories I could tell about the photos I saw – some funny, some sweet, some heartbreaking, some creepy as hell …

I was really looking forward to this read and it was even better than I’d hoped. I definitely need more books by this author.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Portobello Books, an imprint of Granta Publications, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life.

In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction – many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual – and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action …

A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

It’s OK Not to Be OK – Tina Rae

Illustrations – Jessica Smith

This is a good introduction to mental health for young readers. It provides basic information about some of the more common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. There are also sections on bullying and discrimination.

While encouraging readers to seek help from a trusted adult if they are struggling, there are also plenty of ideas to boost their own mental health. These include self care, diet, exercise, managing stress, challenging negative thoughts and mindfulness.

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Tips for parents and caregivers and lists of resources (apps, websites and helplines) are included at the end of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn – Kate Gordon

Illustrations – Rachel Tribout

Every year Wonder and her constant companion, Hollowbeak the crow, watch as the students arrive at Direleafe Hall. Every year Wonder hopes that one of the girls will be her friend. Every year Wonder is heartbroken when none of them speak to her or even acknowledge her presence.

One day, one year, she would find her perfect person. The one whose soul was the perfect mirror of hers. The one who knew her, who she was, entirely, and saw that she was good. The one who saw that she was golden inside.

Not grey.

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This year is different. Mabel, a new student, is also different.

I am infinite,’ she whispered.

Mabel smiled. Without opening her eyes, she nodded. ‘All of us are,’ she said. ‘But only some of us know it.’

Wonder and Mabel become friends, despite Hollowbeak’s concerns. Together they begin to complete the list of wishes that Mabel has written, wishes that include touching a star, throwing a pie and making someone feel pure happiness.

But Wonder and Mabel are each holding onto a secret.

I loved this book! It was so beautiful but so sad! Although I knew from very early on where the story was going, I found myself tearing up towards the end.

There were so many passages that made me want to linger. Descriptions like this one only added to the story’s beauty and haunting feel:

The tree, like Hollowbeak, was a bent and twisted thing, its bark as silver as twilight and its branches as black as midnight. It was peculiar and it was old and it seemed somehow imbued with age and wisdom, and Hollowbeak felt in it a kindred spirit.

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I probably wouldn’t have appreciated this book as a child as much as I do now. I’m not sure if I would have read it at all because I was a pretty sensitive kid. I can still remember all too well what being broken by Charlotte’s Web felt like and I expect this book would have elicited similar feelings, despite the sadness being wrapped in unconditional love.

I adored Rachel Tribout’s illustrations. They capture mood of the story so well and the cover image is simply gorgeous. I was fascinated by the shiny, almost metallic accents on the paperback cover.

If you’ve ever borrowed some courage by reading about girls who roar until you are able to roar for yourself … If you’ve ever been scared of being hurt (yet again) but bravely put yourself out there anyway … If you’ve ever yearned to be truly seen and appreciated for who you are … Wonder’s story will resonate with you.

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I fell in love with these young girls and their friendship. I probably never would have met them at all had it not been for my library. As soon as I finished reading I bought my own copy for the next time I want to experience their friendship. I’ll make sure to bring tissues to my reread.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart …

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is an enchanting tale celebrating friendship, bravery and the importance of staying true to yourself.

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 – Brian James Freeman (editor)

I’ve been dragging my feet on this anthology series for years now. I was so excited to sink my teeth into some Halloween scares but they consistently disappointed me so I gave up. Now it’s Halloween month again and with one volume to go, I decided to dive back in and hope for the best.

Devil’s Night by Richard Chizmar – 🎃🎃🎃🎃

The newspapers reported the story of what happened that night but that’s not the whole story.

Halloween may be a night for make-believe ghosts and goblins, but you’d better be sure to turn on all the lights and lock your doors on Devil’s Night. Because that’s when the real monsters lurk …

The Last Dare by Lisa Tuttle – 🎃🎃🎃

The tower house is still there, all these years later. Going inside was the last dare between childhood best friends.

“Tell us the story about the tower house”

The Halloween Bleed by Norman Prentiss – 🎃🎃🎃

An interview with a difference.

“What if Halloween … bleeds into other days? It doesn’t matter when the story is written, or when you read it. What matters is that it has an effect on you. It casts its spell.”

Swing by Kevin Quigley – 🎃🎃🎃

Death follows love. Every time.

Most thought she was dancing because she was free, but I knew the real Jessica. She danced because she was trapped.

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub – 🎃🎃🎃

Hat, a story from his childhood and all that jazz.

“Most people will tell you growing up means you stop believing in Halloween things – I’m telling you the reverse. You start to grow up when you understand that the stuff that scares you is part of the air you breathe.”

While the stories included in this anthology were okay, I didn’t get the Halloween horror vibe I was looking for. I didn’t find any of the stories scary at all. I’m glad I finally made it through to the end of this series and there were some decent stories along the way, but overall I remain disappointed.

Content warnings include death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hydra, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong – and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t – nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar – and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think … before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets – secrets best left buried in the past. 

Mercy Watson #6: Something Wonky This Way Comes – Kate DiCamillo

Illustrations – Chris Van Dusen

Mr and Mrs Watson are going to the drive-in to see When Pigs Fly, which may be a love story or inspirational, or perhaps even a figure of speech. Whatever it is, the Bijou Drive-In concession stand most definitely sells popcorn.

“Yes,” said Mr. Watson, “it says here that the Bijou proudly serves real butter on every Bottomless Bucket of popcorn.”

Butter, you say? All you can eat? That sounds like a job for Mercy Watson!

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She’s in! So are some of the other residents of Deckawoo Drive. They all pile into the Watson’s pink car and make their way to the drive-in. Once there, the buttery popcorn smell is irresistible. Mercy needs to investigate.

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Not everyone is happy about a porcine wonder investigating their buttery popcorn though. Pretty soon Mercy is the entertainment, not the movie.

It seems like pretty much every character you’ve met in this series shows up in this book. This is the first Mercy Watson book I’ve read (other than the prequel) but I knew some of the characters from the couple of Tales from Deckawoo Drive series I’ve already enjoyed.

Kids will enjoy Mercy’s antics, although young readers may have trouble with the pronunciation of some of the characters’ names. Bonus adult nostalgia points for the drive-in setting.

I absolutely adore the illustrations. They’re colourful and fun, and all of the characters are very expressive. Interestingly, the humans are the same colour as Mercy.

I wish my library had the first five books in the series so I could binge them all! This pig is so cute!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The porcine wonder is off to the drive-in – and driven to follow that buttery smell – in a comic crescendo that reunites a familiar cast of characters.

Some may find it wonky to take a pig to the movies. But not Mr. and Mrs. Watson, who think the title of the film, When Pigs Fly, is inspirational. And not their beloved Mercy, who is inspired by the fact that the drive-in proudly serves real butter on its Bottomless Bucket of popcorn. So when they pull up in their convertible, Mercy lifts her snout and becomes a pig on a mission – for what is more heavenly than being hot on the trail of a true butter smell?

Masterful slapstick director Kate DiCamillo sends Mercy on a delirious chase, followed by a trail of hapless rescuers whom fans will recognise from prior episodes. And Chris Van Dusen’s comic retro illustrations perfectly capture a nostalgic pastime – along with the newest antics of a charmingly single-minded pig.

Mercy House – Alena Dillon

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“Two eighty-four Chauncey Street. It’s the one with the angel doorknocker. Arrive any time. Day or night. You can be safe.”

Sisters Evelyn, Josephine and Maria have run Mercy House for twenty five years, providing a safe place for women who are escaping violence. Although they are undoubtably effective in their mission, they don’t always play by the strict rules of the Catholic Church.

“It’s what we’ve feared,” Josephine said. “It’s him.”

Bishop Hawkins is coming to visit Mercy House. His visit is part of the ‘nun-quisition’, which puts the actions of nuns under the microscope because of their “secular mentality” and “feminist spirit”. (Never mind that the same church actively moves priests between parishes and pays hush money to sweep much greater offences under the rug.) Besides the fear that the methods they employ in their ministry won’t stand up to close scrutiny, Evelyn has her own personal reasons for never wanting to see this ‘man of God’ again.

When you think of nuns, Evelyn is probably not who you have in mind. She loves what she does but still grumbles at getting woken up in the middle of the night when it’s her turn to answer the door. Her beliefs aren’t as strictly tied to her faith as you’d expect and if there’s a loophole that will produce better results, you can be sure she’ll find it.

Actually, none of the Sisters who run Mercy House line up with stereotypical nuns. Would you ever expect nuns to have a conversation like this?

“Crap baskets,” Maria said.

“Yeah. Major crap baskets,” Evelyn agreed.

Love it!

As much as I loved the three Sisters, I hated Hawkins and spent much of the book overcome by a seething fury, imagining all of the ways that I wanted to see him suffer. You don’t want to just angry your way through a book though. Fortunately there were some amazing women who balanced out my rage with wonder at their courage and resilience. These women are dealing with shame and secrets, and trying their best to survive their past.

While I liked each of the residents of Mercy House, it was Desiree who stood out, and for good reason. Desiree has this in your face brashness. She acts tough but she’s vulnerable as well, although she definitely doesn’t want you to acknowledge that part of her. She speaks her mind and oftentimes says what everyone else is thinking. You’d want to be her friend but she’d make a fierce enemy so don’t get on the wrong side of her. She was responsible for most of my smiles while I was reading.

“This is sweet and all, but we were promised we’d get pizza if we came to church. So …”

The women of Mercy House have been through some really difficult life experiences, none of which are glossed over. Please be safe while reading, especially if you are likely to be triggered by any of the content.

Although it made the narrative neater, it seemed unlikely to me that during the course of the book, no new residents came seeking refuge at Mercy House after we met Lucia.

I don’t know if publishers don’t know about readers like myself but whenever there’s a website included in a book I’m going to look it up. There’s a website in this book, SaveMercyHouse.com, that doesn’t exist. Given the book’s themes, I would have loved to have seen a page that represented what was mentioned in the book, along with details of relevant helplines and organisations that readers could donate to.

I think I understand why the author left the story where they do. Although there are many characters who make their mark on the lives and/or hearts of the nuns who run Mercy House, this story really is Evelyn’s. Her story ends with possibilities for the future but overall the book didn’t give me the answers I hoped for.

😇 Did Mercy House stay open?

😇 Was Evelyn ever called Sister again?

😇 What happened between Evelyn and Eloise?

😇 Were there any consequences for the bishop?

😇 Were there any consequences for John?

😇 What happened to the five Mercy House residents we got to know?

What wonders can be built from broken stuff.

Content warnings include abortion, addiction, domestic violence, gun violence, homophobia, racism, self harm and sexual assault.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn stands a century-old row house presided over by renegade, silver-haired Sister Evelyn. Gruff and indomitable on the surface, warm and wry underneath, Evelyn and her fellow sisters makes Mercy House a safe haven for the abused and abandoned. 

Women like Lucia, who arrives in the dead of night; Mei-Li, the Chinese and Russian house veteran; Desiree, a loud and proud prostitute; Esther, a Haitian immigrant and aspiring collegiate; and Katrina, knitter of lumpy scarves … all of them know what it’s like to be broken by men.

Little daunts Evelyn, until she receives word that Bishop Robert Hawkins is coming to investigate Mercy House and the nuns, whose secret efforts to help the women in ways forbidden by the Church may be uncovered. But Evelyn has secrets too, dark enough to threaten everything she has built.

Evelyn will do anything to protect Mercy House and the vibrant, diverse women it serves – confront gang members, challenge her beliefs, even face her past. As she fights to defend all that she loves, she discovers the extraordinary power of mercy and the grace it grants, not just to those who receive it, but to those strong enough to bestow it.

Book Haul – 9 to 17 October 2020

I’m changing the day I send my Book Haul posts out into the world. My blog went live on a Thursday so I started doing them each Thursday but it never really made sense to me. What week finishes on a Thursday?! So, although I’m late this week (TV called me last night), I’m aiming for Saturdays from now on.

This week I finished reading R.L. Stine’s The Babysitter series, which kinda devolved as it progressed. I’d only ever read the first two books before so it was interesting to find out what else Jenny went through but, realistically, the series should have been a standalone.

It did wake up some nostalgia in me so I’m planning on continuing to visit/revisit some Point horror books. I freaked myself out with a few of these as a kid and always wanted to read more. I managed to find some used copies a couple of years ago that I’ve planned on reading but never got around to. I think it’s time.

Word of the Week: Jólabókaflód. I’ve come across this bookish dream come true a few times before but each time I see that word again I want to tell everyone I know about it. Hint, hint, to anyone who’s reading this and wondering what I might like for Christmas, or any other day of the year. If you know me at all you already know this though.

Image from a Goldsboro email

Bookish Highlight of the Week: I haven’t finished it yet but Mercy House has sucked me in. I can’t say I love it because I’ve got this whole righteous anger thing happening with much of the storyline but I’m definitely invested in seeing things turn out well for the nuns and residents of Mercy House. If they don’t, there’ll be a whole other type of anger to deal with but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

There was nothing in the world as magical and terrifying as a girl.

Princess Guinevere has come to Camelot to wed a stranger: the charismatic King Arthur. With magic clawing at the kingdom’s borders, the great wizard Merlin conjured a solution – send in Guinevere to be Arthur’s wife … and his protector from those who want to see the young king’s idyllic city fail. The catch? Guinevere’s real name – and her true identity – is a secret. She is a changeling, a girl who has given up everything to protect Camelot. 

To keep Arthur safe, Guinevere must navigate a court in which the old – including Arthur’s own family – demand things continue as they have been, and the new – those drawn by the dream of Camelot – fight for a better way to live. And always, in the green hearts of forests and the black depths of lakes, magic lies in wait to reclaim the land. Arthur’s knights believe they are strong enough to face any threat, but Guinevere knows it will take more than swords to keep Camelot free.

Deadly jousts, duplicitous knights, and forbidden romances are nothing compared to the greatest threat of all: the girl with the long black hair, riding on horseback through the dark woods toward Arthur. Because when your whole existence is a lie, how can you trust even yourself?


Underprivileged and keenly self-aware, SoCal fourteen-year-old Layla Bailey isn’t used to being noticed. Except by mean girls who tweet about her ragged appearance. All she wants to do is indulge in her love of science, protect her vulnerable younger brother, and steer clear of her unstable mother.

Then a school competition calls for a biome. Layla chooses her own home, a hostile ecosystem of indoor fungi and secret shame. With a borrowed video camera, she captures it all. The mushrooms growing in her brother’s dresser. The black mold blooming up the apartment walls. The unmentionable things living in the dead fridge. All the inevitable exotic toxins that are Layla’s life. Then the video goes viral.

When Child Protective Services comes to call, Layla loses her family and her home. Defiant, she must face her bullies and friends alike, on her own. Unafraid at last of being seen, Layla accepts the mortifying reality of visibility. Now she has to figure out how to stay whole and stand behind the truth she has shown the world.


NetGalley

Eleven year-old Willow doesn’t want to go to her dad’s weird old summer camp any more than she wants her family to move to the weird old town where that camp is located. But her family – and fate itself – seem to have plans of their own. Soon Willow finds herself neck-deep in a confounding mystery involving stolen snacks, suspected vampires, and missing campers, all shrouded in the sinister fog that hides a generation of secrets at Camp … Whatever it’s called. 


When a child goes missing in Edinburgh’s darkest streets, young Ropa investigates. She’ll need to call on Zimbabwean magic as well as her Scottish pragmatism to hunt down clues. But as shadows lengthen, will the hunter become the hunted?

When ghosts talk, she will listen …

Ropa dropped out of school to become a ghostalker. Now she speaks to Edinburgh’s dead, carrying messages to the living. A girl’s gotta earn a living, and it seems harmless enough. Until, that is, the dead whisper that someone’s bewitching children – leaving them husks, empty of joy and life. It’s on Ropa’s patch, so she feels honor-bound to investigate. But what she learns will change her world.

She’ll dice with death (not part of her life plan …), discovering an occult library and a taste for hidden magic. She’ll also experience dark times. For Edinburgh hides a wealth of secrets, and Ropa’s gonna hunt them all down. 


The Babysitter IV – R.L. Stine

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

So, I’m back to see if Jenny finally got an answering machine. At this point it feels like I’m a glutton for punishment. This series really should have finished three books ago.

Jenny has just been released from hospital, where she’s been during the entire year since the events of the third book. Dr Schindler has been replaced with Dr Simonson. Fair enough, really. Dr Schindler, nice guy that he seemed to be, hadn’t exactly helped Jenny transform into a success story.

“I’m not afraid of anything now.”

Well, Jenny, let’s just see about that.

Yeah, okay. There were five whole paragraphs between that declaration and the next time Jenny is scared so she’s making progress. Sort of.

Naturally Jenny can’t say ‘no’ to a babysitting gig.

“Go away now, Jenny. Go away, or you’ll die, too.”

It’s weird; I don’t remember a single instance in this book where Jenny answered a creepy phone call. Considering those phone calls were pretty much the entire reason this series existed, it didn’t feel right.

So, how was Jenny receiving the threatening messages in this book? Ghosts. So silly, right? There hadn’t been any supernatural elements in the first three books so to suddenly go there in the fourth didn’t sit right with me. It was obvious from the start of the haunting that that’s what it was but it didn’t make sense. A ghost has the strength to lift Jenny but was somehow incapable of opening a door for ten years. Huh?

So, we’ve finally made it to the end of the series. Has Jenny learned any valuable life lessons from her adventures in babysitting and years of therapy?

“I might want to baby-sit again someday. It’s a lot more exciting than you think.”

Oh, Jenny.

My verdict? I enjoyed listening to Jenny scream in the first book. It was a fun blast from the past, although I can’t believe I ever thought it was scary. I probably could have done without watching the series devolve though.

And she still doesn’t have an answering machine!

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Don’t live in the past, they say. And Jenny’s trying to forget all of the horrible babysitting experiences that landed her in the hospital last year. Now Jenny lives in a new neighbourhood, and the neighbour has asked her to babysit. If only she could say no. Because someone is watching Jenny – someone who hates babysitters.