The Wild – Claudia Martin

Five countries hold 70 per cent of the world’s last remaining wilderness: Russia, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States, much of the last country’s wild land lying in Alaska.

This book’s whirlwind trip around the world was fodder for my travel wish list. Divided into sections by geography – Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania & Antarctica, North & South America – the photography highlights various landscapes across the seasons. The isolation and serenity made this the perfect coffee table book for me.

Although I almost always love photography books, because there are so many to choose from, I like to get a feel for what to expect before deciding if they’re for me or not. With that in mind, I’ve chosen my current favourite photo from each section.


Legend says that dragons throwing rocks at one another created the distinctive landscape of the Drakolimni of Tymfi, found in Vikos-Aoös National Park, Greece.


The combusting sulphur in the Ijen stratovolcano complex in East Java, Indonesia, causes Api Biru, Blue Fire.


African teak is a deciduous hardwood tree with explosive pods able to spread seeds over several metres.

This teak forest is in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.


The world’s largest population of dugongs make their home at Shark Bay, Western Australia.


This gorgeous winter scene comes to you from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

While this book features some breathtaking landscapes, it also includes photos of animals. My favourite is this American alligator, a species that can reach 4.8m (15.7 feet) in length, chilling out at Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, USA.


NB: The images I’ve included in my review are screenshots of the eARC. The colours may look different in the book.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Illustrated with beautiful colour photographs, The Wild leads the reader to the planet’s least cultivated places, from jungles to tundras. Take a step into the wild!

We live in an increasingly urbanised world, but there are still many magnificent stretches of wilderness unaltered by humankind. From the most remote mountains and valleys in Alaska to the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, from Europe’s primeval forest on the Polish-Belarusian border to Norway’s fjords, and from the Namib Desert to Kamchatka in far-eastern Russia to canyons in Kurdistan and rainforests in Cambodia, The Wild celebrates the beauty of uncultivated landscapes all around the globe.

Arranged by continent, the book roams across landscapes and climates, from Antarctica’s dry valleys to African burning deserts, from European marshlands to Arabian rugged peaks and on to Tanzania’s craters, Indonesia’s volcanoes, and New Zealand’s bubbling mud pools. Each entry is supported with fascinating captions explaining the geology, geography, flora, and fauna. In doing so, the book reveals some of the world’s most naturally bizarre places.

Dinosaurs – Dean Lomax

I’m pretty sure my fascination with dinosaurs began with The Land Before Time. For a time when I was a kid, I wanted to be a palaeontologist. I don’t think the love of dinosaurs ever dies out.

With ten short chapters, this is easily a read in one sitting book. While I already knew a lot of its fun facts, this was still an interesting read. I’ve chosen one fun fact per chapter to share.

Stegosaurus was already extinct 80 million years before Tyrannosaurus even walked on the Earth!

The remains of dinosaurs have been found on every continent, including Antarctica, which was at one point in time a rainforest.

Sir Richard Owen, founder of London’s Natural History Museum, “coined the word ‘Dinosauria’ in 1842, taken from the Greek words deinos, meaning ‘terrible’ or ‘fearfully great’, and saurus, meaning ‘lizard’.”

Next time you watch Jurassic Park, know that the Velociraptor is based on a Deinonychus. The Velociraptor was actually about the size of a turkey and had a long tail and feathers.

Studies based on the skull of Tyrannosaurus found that it had a bone-shattering bite of more than 60,000 newtons, around 6.5 tonnes of force, making it the most powerful bite known for any terrestrial animal, living or extinct. It is about four times more powerful than the bite of a saltwater crocodile, which has the strongest bite force of any living animal.

It appears that considerable time has been spent by palaeontologists trying to figure out how dinosaurs had sex. The quest for answers, “two dinosaurs preserved in the act of mating”, continues.

Palaeontologists attempt to figure out the family life of dinosaurs by looking at such things as preserved dinosaur tracks, bonebeds and nests.

Through studying the fossil record, it becomes clear that extinction is a natural process, and scientists estimate that 99.9 per cent of all species that have ever existed are now extinct.

Today, palaeontologists classify birds as theropod dinosaurs within the group known as Maniraptora (maniraptorans). More specifically, the birds belong to a subgroup called Paraves, the same wider group that includes dinosaurs like Deinonychus and Velociraptor, which are among the birds’ very closest relatives.

On average a new species of dinosaur is discovered every other week. Every other week! Up to this point, in almost 200 years of study, palaeontologists have identified around 1,500 different species of dinosaur.

What struck me most about this book was how much we still don’t know about dinosaurs and the potential for future discoveries that will change what we think we know about them.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Travel back to the prehistoric world and discover the most fascinating parts of the lives of Earth’s most awe-inspiring creatures – the dinosaurs.

Dr Dean Lomax brings these prehistoric creatures to life in ten bite-sized essays, written for people short on time but not curiosity. Making big ideas simple, Dean takes readers on a journey to uncover what makes a dinosaur a dinosaur, what dinosaurs ate, how they evolved, what caused them to go extinct, and more!

Perfect for anyone fascinated by the dinosaur exhibits at museums, palaeontology and fans of Jurassic Park.

Numbers – Colin Stuart

You know me: I love finding and sharing fun facts. Because this is a book about numbers, I decided to share one fact for each of the ten chapters. Here they are…

Our calendar used to have ten “moonths”. September, October, November and December were named because they were months seven through ten. When two months (January and February) were added because there are usually twelve full moons in a year, no one bothered to change their names. Also, July and August used to be known as Quintilis and Sextilis.

The year numbering system widely used today was invented by a monk called Dionysius Exiguus in the sixth century (his name may sound grand, but it translates as ‘Dennis the Short’).

The Mayans used a picture of an upside down turtle shell to represent zero.

Cicadas are distant cousins of shrimp and lobsters. Apparently, they taste like asparagus. (Not all of the fun facts in this book are specifically about numbers, even though the reason we learn about cicadas is number related.)

Every non-prime number can be deconstructed into prime numbers multiplied together (called ‘prime factors’).

Pi fun facts:
🥧 We know pi to 62.8 trillion digits
🥧 “8 is the most common digit in the first trillion digits”
🥧 There are six nines in a row at position 768
🥧 “It takes until the 17,387,594,880th digit to find the sequence 0123456789.”
🥧 You can search for combinations, like your date of birth, at

In the early nineteenth century, Reverend Jeremiah Trist built circular homes for each of his five daughters in the Cornish village of Veryan. He reasoned that there’d be no corners for the devil to hide in. If only he’d read this book first, he’d know that circles actually have an infinite number of corners. Oops!

Your maths teacher lied to you: the sum of the angles of a triangle don’t always equal 180 degrees. That only works for flat surfaces. Triangles drawn on spheres can add up to 540 degrees! If you draw a circle on a hyperbolic paraboloid (think Pringles), they’ll add up to less than 180 degrees.

Companies use graph theory to decide the route their delivery drivers take. “Such a dilemma is called a Travelling Salesman Problem (TSP) or vehicle routing problem.”

To say Francis Galton had some problematic ideas is well and truly understating it. He also came up with a way of cutting cakes to make them stay fresh longer. Although, to be fair, who expects there to be leftover cake on day three anyway?

In a group of 30 people, there is a 71% chance that two of them will share a birthday. In a group of 70 people, there is a 99.9% chance that two of them will share a birthday.

Exponential growth means that if you invested $1 in the US stock market in 1900, it would now be worth almost $70,000.

The Infinity Hotel, also called Hilbert’s Hotel, will mess with your mind. It gets to the point where an infinite number of coaches carrying an infinite number of people results in there being an infinite number of occupied rooms as well as an infinite number of unoccupied rooms.

Doesn’t add up to ten, does it? Okay, so maybe I failed at the one fact per chapter thing but only because there were too many fun facts I wanted to be able to refer to later.

This was a quick read. I mostly found it easy to follow, although infinity twisted my brain in knots and I’m not sure I could explain graph theory to you (I expect to forget everything I learned about it by this time tomorrow).

Before I found this book at my library, I’d never heard of the 10 Things You Should Know series. Now I want to know about all of the things.

Because I love pi so much now, I’m tempted to give this book pi out of five stars but that would be underselling the fun I had reading it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Uncover the language of our universe – numbers – in this wide-ranging whistle-stop tour of the history and majesty of mathematics.

Our world simply wouldn’t function if we didn’t have numbers. But where do they come from? Why do we cut cake the wrong way? How can there be different sizes of infinity?

All these questions and more are answered in this engaging romp through the history of numbers by acclaimed science writer, Colin Stuart. From the mathematicians who have (and haven’t) shouted ‘Eureka!’ to the theories that affect and inform our everyday lives, Numbers shows us that maths was never boring – we were just being taught it in the wrong way.

Consisting of ten bite-sized essays, there’s no better guide to this fundamental science.

October Animals – Nicholas Day

Searching for monsters can be dangerous.

Lizzie Bat lives in October, Illinois, the most haunted city in the country. Grieving the loss of her father, she has a “cemetery heart”.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Owl is Lizzie’s best friend.

Lizzie Bat’s heart ached for her father. Owl’s heart ached for Lizzie Bat.

Then there’s tactless but loyal Spider and Kat, who recently moved to Illinois.

Lizzie has a plan for her and her friends to escape October. They’re going to rob Trick R Treats, October’s Halloween store, on Halloween night.

This is a story where the natural and supernatural collide, one where you aren’t always sure what’s real and what’s metaphorical. It’s the agony of grief, the longing for something better and the parts of ourselves we don’t share.

Going into this read, you may suspect that things won’t turn out exactly as planned for this group of friends. You have no idea what’s coming.

I don’t know if other readers will do this or not but I pictured each character as the animal they shared their names with rather than people. Whether this was the intention of the author or not, it was a really fun way to navigate this book.

At under one hundred pages, this is easily a read in one sitting book, although you may want to schedule a reread to get more out of the story. When I reread it, I’m hoping to get a deeper understanding of the ending.

I love discovering something new, even if it’s only new to me. This book came with two discoveries, a new author and a new publisher. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for more of both.

It wasn’t the forgetting that was painful. It was remembering.

Thank you so much to Rooster Republic Press for the opportunity to read this novella.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

October Animals follows four teenage friends – Lizzie Bat, Owl, Spider, and Kat – who live in the riverside city of October, Illinois. Lizzie Bat, still grieving the loss of her father and at odds with her mother, plans to rob the town’s Halloween store the night of October 31st, and intends to use the money to escape to a new life. And, her friends are all too eager to help.

Owl, best friend and confidant. If Lizzie Bat’s heart aches for her father, then Owl’s heart aches for Lizzie Bat.

Spider, brave and loyal, had his secrets, and he kept them.

Kat, adored, she was the newest member of the group and the object of Lizzie Bat’s affections.

But their scheme threatens to tear the friends apart as they find themselves in the path of supernatural forces and monstrous local legends: haunted houses; doppelgängers; grave robbing; ghosts and vampires; monsters in the river and, even worse, monsters in the home.

October is a town that loves Halloween but no one realises that their whole world is about to become Halloween … forever.

A House With Good Bones – T. Kingfisher

“The roses say to say your prayers”

When Sam returns to her childhood home in North Carolina, she’s ready to make her way through some boxed wine and English crime shows with her mother. She’s not expecting the changes her mother has made to their once colourful home.

The walls are now white and an icky racist painting that hasn’t seen the light of day since Gran Mae died eighteen years ago has returned to its previous place over the fireplace. It’s almost as if the house has gone back in time.

Sam is about to learn that your childhood home is not always a welcoming place for adult you. The past is there. And sometimes there are vultures!

“Vultures are extremely sensitive to the dead. Particularly when the dead are doing things they shouldn’t be.”

This was a quick read and I enjoyed trying to figure out what Sam’s mother was so afraid of. While the gist of what was going on seemed obvious fairly early on, Sam, with her scientific background, kept looking for logical explanations so it took her a while to catch up.

My most recent T. Kingfisher read prior to this one was Nettle & Bone, which I absolutely adored. I fell in love with Bonedog and he, if nothing else, gave me unrealistic expectations for this book. After all, Bonedog can’t show up in every T. Kingfisher book just because I miss him, can he? I must say that the vultures definitely gave Bonedog a run for his money, though.

If you enjoy books where returning to your childhood home comes with a tad more horror than you were hoping for, you may also enjoy Sarah Gailey’s Just Like Home.

Favourite no context quote:

“I feel like crap and I seem to be wearing a ham.”

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this ordinary North Carolina suburb, family secrets are always in bloom.

Samantha Montgomery pulls into the driveway of her family home to find a massive black vulture perched on the mailbox, staring at the house.

Inside, everything has changed. Gone is the eclectic warmth Sam expects; instead the walls are a sterile white. Now, it’s very important to say grace before dinner, and her mother won’t hear a word against Sam’s long-dead and little-missed grandmother, who was the first to put down roots in this small southern town.

The longer Sam stays, the stranger things get. And every day, more vultures circle overhead…

The Magician’s Daughter – H.G. Parry

“We need to bring magic back into the world.”

If ever there was a book that could make you believe in magic, this is it.

Me? Well, I already believed. But now I believe even more.

Biddy has grown up on the island of Hy-Brasil with Rowan, who is sometimes a raven, and Hutch, who is sometimes not a rabbit. Unlike Rowan and Hutch, Biddy doesn’t have magic.

At almost seventeen, Biddy has never left the island.

She was a liminal person, trapped between a world she’d grown out of and another that wouldn’t let her in.

Throughout her life, Rowan has flown to the mainland. He always returns before dawn … until the day that he doesn’t.

This world invited me in and made me feel at home. I accompanied Biddy as she transformed from a sheltered, bookish girl to a young woman who‘s beginning to discover what she’s capable of.

“In every fairy tale ever told, it’s a bad idea to tangle with a magician’s daughter.”

As I walked alongside her, I not only saw through her eyes but felt what she was experiencing.

My favourite vicarious experience was Biddy’s relationship with Rowan and Hutch. I’m always a sucker for stories that introduce me to found families. This one, though, made me care so deeply about the individuals and their bond that even thinking about the connection between Rowan and Hutch being severed was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

This was a stressful read, in the best way possible. When the characters were in danger I not only feared for their safety but the effect it would have on the others if anything bad happened to them.

Although this is a story of magic and adventure, it is also bookish in so many wonderful ways. Most of what Biddy knows of the outside world, she learned from books and she prepares for new experiences by reading. Their castle (yes, they live in a castle!) has a library with thousands of books. There’s also a library inside a tree!

I’m not sure how this magic works but this read gave me the comfort I feel rereading a childhood favourite while delivering the anticipation of a new book that you can’t put down.

This is going to be one of my favourite reads of the year. I need to read everything this author ever writes.

“It’s all complicated and messy and wild and glorious.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Orbit, an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Off the coast of Ireland sits a legendary island hidden by magic. A place of ruins and ancient trees, sea-salt air and fairy lore, Hy-Brasil is the only home Biddy has ever known. Washed up on its shore as a baby, Biddy lives a quiet life with her guardian, the mercurial magician Rowan. A life she finds increasingly stifling.

One night, Rowan fails to return from his mysterious travels. To find him, Biddy must venture into the outside world for the first time. But Rowan has powerful enemies – forces who have hoarded the world’s magic and have set their sights on the magician’s many secrets.

Biddy may be the key to stopping them. Yet the closer she gets to answers, the more she questions everything she’s ever believed about Rowan, her past, and the nature of magic itself.

Good Girls – Hadley Freeman

Anorexia was in some ways like a security blanket for me because it allowed me to hide from the world, it provided structure and rules, and there was always one simple right answer: don’t eat.

I love memoirs. Sometimes they make you feel seen through shared lived experience. Other times they invite you into a world that’s unlike what you’ve known. You are given the opportunity to see your struggles in a new light and may discover new ways to cope, survive and maybe even thrive. There are just so many possibilities when you open yourself up to accompanying someone as they do life in their own unique way, even if you only meet one another within the pages.

I have read about eating disorders since I was an early teen. Although never officially diagnosed, I absolutely had one at the time. I was lucky enough to stumble upon the right book at the right time, something that allowed me to change some of my eating habits before the slope got too slippery. That’s not to say that disordered eating didn’t follow me into my adult life. But this book reminded me that Hadley’s story could have very easily been my own.

Hadley stopped eating when she was fourteen and spent several years living in psychiatric wards.

I had developed, the doctor said, anorexia nervosa. He was right about that, but pretty much nothing else he told me about anorexia turned out to be correct: why I had it, what it felt like, or what life would be like when I was in so-called recovery.

Hadley’s experience was so different to my own and pretty much everything I’ve ever read about eating disorders. But that’s a good thing. Eating disorders, much life like itself, aren’t one size fits all. (Pun purely accidental but now my brain can’t come up with an alternative.) When we’re only looking for a specific presentation of something, we’re likely to miss more than we see.

That’s what I remember perhaps most of all: the loneliness. I genuinely didn’t understand what was happening to me, and nor, it often seemed, did anyone else.

Content warnings include mention of addiction, attempted suicide, death by suicide, eating disorders, mental health and self harm.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From Hadley Freeman, the bestselling author of House of Glass, comes her searing and powerful memoir about mental ill health and her experience with anorexia. 

This is how the Anorexia Speak worked in my head:

‘Boys like girls with curves on them’ – If you ever eat anything you will be mauled by thuggish boys with giant paws for hands

‘Don’t you get hungry?’ – You are so strong and special, and I envy your strength and specialness

‘Have you tried swimming? I find that really improves my appetite’ – You need to do more exercise

In this astonishing and brave account of life with anorexia Hadley Freeman starts with the trigger that sparked her illness and moves through four hospitalisations, offering extraordinary insight into her various struggles.

The Camp – Nancy Bush

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“I know you’re trying to leave. I’m here to help you on your journey.”

This book and I were not meant to be. It’s not the book’s fault. The mismatch is entirely on me. I’m usually quite particular about my bookish choices: I read early reviews, I research the author’s previous books and read excerpts when I can. I didn’t do any of that here because the blurb dazzled me.

I saw “Friday the 13th meets Friends Like These at a summer sleepaway camp isolated in the woods of Oregon, as New York Times bestselling author Nancy Bush puts a diabolical modern twist on the classic 1980s slasher film trope!” I’m pretty sure I only absorbed ‘Friday the 13th’ and ‘1980s slasher film’, then expected something along the lines of My Heart Is a Chainsaw. I was ready for slasher horror when, if I’d done my usual due diligence, I would have realised I was signing up for suspense with a hefty dose of drama.

All of this to say, please read some reviews by people who read the book they thought they were going to read before deciding whether this is the book for you. Their reviews should carry much more weight than mine.

When Emma Whelan was about to begin her senior year, she attended Camp Fog Lake, known by the campers as Camp Love Shack. What takes place at camp that year cements the rumours about what happens when the fog rolls in. It also shuts the camp down.

“The fog rolls in, covers everything in a cold, gray blanket, then recedes, leaving a trail of death in its wake.”

Twenty years later, a new generation of campers are set to experience Camp Love Shack, now under new ownership. An alumni and parents’ weekend is coinciding with the Fourth of July which, if Jaws taught us nothing else, is when the chaos will reach its bloody crescendo.

Now, I questioned the return of the main players in the death scenes twenty years ago but without them there’s no story. I don’t know if anything attests to the level of damage camp did to them more than their individual decisions to allow the next generation of their families be the Guinea pigs for the grand reopening. That’s seriously messed up. But also good for the drama.

Because I spent much of the read anticipating some slicing and dicing, the drama between the characters initially threw me. You’ve got angst about exes, blackmail and rumours. There are love triangles (and a dinner triangle).

While I generally love plot twists, I tend to struggle with unreliable narrators. Deceit plays a part in the events of this book. How else could the real story of what happened that night be hidden for twenty years?

A lot of readers probably won’t even blink at the part that, had I known about it ahead of time, would have prevented me from picking up this book in the first place. I have a real problem reading books where a character lies about having been sexually assaulted. The overwhelming majority of people who disclose having been sexually assaulted in the world outside the pages are telling the truth, yet some individuals and institutions still respond to them from a position of disbelief. Stories where characters lie about this type of trauma only make it easier for people to continue to deny the experience of those who have been sexual assaulted. Regardless of how good the story is, I’m never going to be okay with that.

Please take my three stars with a grain of salt. I wasn’t the audience for this book. Chances are, you will be.

“Looks like the fog is coming.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zebra Books, an imprint of Kensington Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday the 13th meets Friends Like These at a summer sleepaway camp isolated in the woods of Oregon, as New York Times bestselling author Nancy Bush puts a diabolical modern twist on the classic 1980s slasher film trope!

There are always stories told around the fire at summer camp – tall tales about gruesome murders and unhinged killers, concocted to scare new arrivals and lend an extra jolt of excitement to those hormone-charged nights. At Camp Luft-Shawk, nicknamed Camp Love Shack, there are stories about a creeping fog that brings death with it. But here, they’re not just campfire tales. Here, the stories are real.

Twenty years ago, a girl’s body was found on a ledge above the lake, arms crossed over her heart. Some said it was part of a suicide pact, connected to the nearby Haven Commune. Brooke, Rona, and Wendy were among the teenagers at camp that summer, looking for fun and sun, sex and adventure. They’ve never breathed a word about what really happened – or about the night their friendship shattered.

Now the camp, renamed Camp Fog Lake, has reopened for a new generation, and many of those who were there on that long-ago night are returning for an alumni weekend. But something is stirring at the lake again. As the fog rolls in, evil comes with it. Those stories were a warning, and they didn’t listen. And the only question is, who will live long enough to regret it?

Alien: Enemy of My Enemy – Mary SanGiovanni

“Are there monsters on this moon?”

A novel based on one of my favourite movie franchises written by one of my favourite authors. What’s not to love?!

There has been a lot of face hugging in my life recently. I gave myself some homework before allowing myself to enjoy this read, binge every Alien movie I own…

“You … BITCH!”

”Get away from her, you bitch!”

”You’ve been in my life so long, I can’t remember anything else.”

”So, like, what did you do?” “I died.”

”Big things have small beginnings.”

”When one note is off, it eventually destroys the whole symphony, David.”

”What did you say this room was called?” “Sacrificial chamber.”

”See? No monster.”

All eight of them. It was a really entertaining couple of weeks. So, onto the book.

It was so much fun! You’ll meet scientists, researchers and volunteers. The moon they currently call home is on a crash course with a dead planet, but that’s the least of their problems. Some bright spark decided to enhance the traits that make these “remarkable creatures” so deadly, because that’s obviously a great idea.

Once you make it through the bloodbath otherwise known as Chapter One, you’ll begin to wonder if there’s any point trying to remember anyone’s name because it’s fairly certain they’re all doomed.

Blood paints walls, floors and bystanders. The death to page ratio is satisfyingly high. I started a tally of all of the deaths but quickly gave up.

“Now, that’s really not a good sign – for anybody.”

You can look forward to catching up with some of your favourite friends from the Alien movies, including Ovomorphs,






and Xenomorphs.


“Did you know, Sergeant, that the Xenomorphs have mouths inside their mouths?”

There are characters you’ll barely meet before their insides become their outsides. Others you’ll get to spend some time with before they inevitably cease breathing.

Kira, whose favourite stuffed animal is a dog called Mr. Bones, was adorable. Even though I’d just finished my Alien movie binge, I initially had high hopes for Kira’s survival. Then I remembered Newt. This franchise doesn’t shy away from killing its young. Regardless, she’s the character I most wanted to survive.

Then there was Dr Martin Fowler. To know him is to eagerly anticipate his demise.

If you like your Xenomorph’s saliva to be glistening and dripping, and you want your humans to be torn apart from the outside in and the inside out, this is your book. If you’ve never been on board the Nostromo, you might want to spend some time with Ripley first.

Favourite no context quote:

Her eyes grew wide with horror as she watched her arm dangling from the claws of the creature above her.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb


The moon on which it was built hurtles toward an inevitable collision with the dead planet Hephaestus. The clock is ticking, yet when a distress signal arrives from a Weyland-Yutani biowarfare outpost, a desperate plan is launched to evacuate the trapped scientists. Meanwhile, across the galaxy a mysterious black substance rains down on Earth settlements, creating hideous monsters from indigenous creatures … and from human beings. Terran governments point the accusing finger at one another. Thus on LV-846 – a United Americas colony – high-level talks convene to address the galaxy-wide hostilities, but there’s a plot brewing among the participants. One which could plunge the colonies into all-out war. The only hope for peace may lie with the deadliest ally imaginable…

BONUS FEATURE: An exclusive new role playing game scenario based on the massively popular, award-winning Alien RPG from Free League Publishing!

Ghosts of the Orphanage – Christine Kenneally

For more than a hundred years, the people of Vermont had, knowingly or unknowingly, sent their children in reverent offering to the huge house on the hill outside of town. The obedient servants of the Catholic God took the children in, and in return, behind the locked doors of St. Joseph’s Orphanage, out of their own pain and misery, and with all their immense entitlement, they devoured them.

Some books stay with me because they were so well written. Others linger because they invited me into a world that I previously knew very little of, or their content haunts me. Then there are those that introduce me to people I’ll never forget.

This book was all of the above. I expect it to be one of my favourite non-fiction reads of the year.

Investigating some of the worst abuses of power I’ve ever read about, abuse that took place over the course of decades and throughout continents by seemingly countless perpetrators, this is not an easy read. Important, absolutely. Easy, not even close.

However, despite detailing abuses that run the gamut – verbal, emotional, physical, sexual, medical, neglect, torture, even murder – the descriptions are not as graphic as I had expected them to be. That’s not to say that there’s any doubt about the level of brutality these children survived (or didn’t, in some cases). The content is potentially triggering but it’s delivered as sensitively as possible.

The research that preceded this book was extensive, consisting of hundreds of interviews as well as … take a deep breath …

thousands of pages of transcripts from the St. Joseph’s litigation in the 1990s and files from Vermont Catholic Charities, which included contemporaneous logs from social workers at the orphanage, medical records, historic photographs, and letters written by priests and other workers in child welfare at the time, as well as handwritten diaries, police records, autopsy reports, transcripts from secret church tribunals, priest rehabilitation reports, orphanage settlement letters, historic newspaper articles, death and birth certificates, and government files and reports from many jurisdictions.

While the bulk of the book focuses on the atrocities that took place at St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Vermont, you’ll also learn about other orphanages in America, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Scotland.

“I thought I was the reason all that stuff happened,” he told me. “All that time, I thought it was only happening to me, but it was happening all over the place.”

Geoff Meyer

Sally Dale is integral to this book but hers is not the only story that will stay with you. I’m in awe of the courage, resilience and determination of the children I was introduced to, those who lived to become adults as well as those who didn’t.

As adults, many have fought for justice against one of the oldest institutions in the world. The pain of hearing their stories was well and truly offset by the privilege of getting to know these remarkable survivors.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, but my recommendation comes with a word of warning: please take good care of yourself while you’re reading it. And make sure you have tissues on hand.

Now I know that some people have always moved freely between the reality that is plain to see and its hinterlands: the institutions, the orphanages, the places where things happen behind closed doors and stay hidden.

Content warnings include death by suicide, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, forced labour, medical experimentation, mental health, murder, physical abuse, sexual assault and torture. Readers with emetophobia are really going to struggle.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A shocking expose of the dark, secret history of Catholic orphanages – the violence, abuse, and even murder that took place within their walls – and a call to hold the powerful to account.

Ghosts of the Orphanage is the result of ten years of investigation by award-winning journalist Christine Kenneally. What she has uncovered is shocking, yet it was all hiding in plain sight.

Terrible things, abuse, both physical and psychological, and even deaths have happened in orphanages all over the world for many years. The survivors have been telling what happened to them for a long time, but no one has been listening. Authorities have too often been unwilling to accept their stories. And a victim’s options for recourse have been limited by the years it has taken many survivors to process their trauma, tell their stories, and pursue legal action.

Centering on St. Joseph’s, a Catholic orphanage in Vermont, Kenneally investigates and shares the stories of survivors. She has fought to expose the truth and hold the powerful – many of them Catholic priests and nuns – to account. And it is working. As these stories have come to light, the laws in Vermont have been forced to change, including the statute of limitations on prosecuting them.

Told with human compassion, novelistic detail and a powerful sense of purpose, Ghosts of the Orphanage is not only a gripping story but a reckoning. It is proof that real evil lurks at the edges of our society, and that, if we have the courage, we can bring it into the light and defeat it.