Faithless – Hunter Shea

Father Raul Figeuroa, an Episcopalian priest, had it all. Bella, his loving wife. Abel, his son. Lizzy, his daughter. A happy life. Until his family are brutally murdered.

“It’s better you don’t go in there.”

Raul’s faith dies with his family. He gives up the priesthood, planning to live out his days in seclusion on his aunt’s farm. His only company will be the alcohol and pills which, if he does it right, will reunite him with his family soon.

Except Raul’s not alone on the farm.

This was a different book than what I was expecting. Hunter Shea has made an urban legend come to life. He’s shown me what New York rats are capable of. He’s even given me a final girl to hang out with. I thought I knew where this book was going. I was so wrong.

Prayers would not be answered here.

Much of this book highlights the way grief haunts you and some of the ways we self destruct in our attempts to numb pain, but because it’s a Hunter Shea book there’s more to the story than that.

I loved Raul’s childhood friend, Felix, and was ready to adopt Bruiser, the Maine Coon that scratched its way into my heart. I really enjoyed getting to know Raul and Felix and following them down some pretty dark paths.

I didn’t completely buy into the explanation for what was really going on and the ending raised some theological question marks in my brain but I was still hooked for the entire ride.

I can’t wait to find out what will be causing the bloodshed in the author’s next book.

It was time to poke around the dark places.

Content warnings include addiction, alcoholism, racial slurs and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flame Tree Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

How do you survive hearing your family being brutally murdered over the phone? For Father Raul Figeuroa, all faith and hope are lost. Turning away from the priesthood behind, he retreats to his aunt’s empty farmhouse in upstate New York, hoping to drink himself to oblivion. But he’s not alone in the house. Something is trying to reach out to him. Or is he losing his grip on reality? When his childhood friend Felix comes to visit, things take a darker turn. The deeper they dig into the mystery, the closer they get to hell literally breaking loose. 

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. – Malcolm Duffy

It’s always been just Danny and his Mam, Kim. When Kim begins dating Callum, everything seems fine. Callum’s nice to Danny and Kim. But things quickly change. Soon, Callum begins hitting Danny’s Mam, as well as verbally and emotionally abusing her.

Never quite knew what would come out of his mouth. Or what he’d do next.

Danny discovers that what’s happening is called domestic violence and when he reads about it online he becomes scared that Callum will eventually kill his Mam. Danny doesn’t know what to do so he asks his friends what they’d do if someone was hitting their Mam. Almost all of them say they’d tell their Dad, who’d sort it out.

Danny has never met his Dad and doesn’t know anything about him, not even his name. He’s determined to find him, though. Danny will do anything to try to protect his Mam.

Danny speaks Geordie. It didn’t take me as long as I expected it would to get used to his voice, although there are some words he used that I still don’t know the meaning of. Danny is thirteen at the beginning of this book and fifteen at the end. A lot of the time it felt like he was younger.

This book tackles a difficult topic but, for the most part, it was done well. Danny initially doesn’t have words to describe what’s happening at home but once he does he learns about domestic violence. The helplessness of a child in that situation was explored well, with Danny desperate to help his Mam but at the same time he’s powerless to intervene.

I didn’t really buy the resolution of this story. There were a number of scenarios I would have found more likely than what actually happened but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Content warnings include bullying, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love. 

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him. 

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad. 

The Dad he’s never met. 

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places. 

The Ugly Stepsister #1: The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back – Sariah Wilson

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

You probably know me well enough by now to realise that while I’m more than happy to wander between genres, I’m a romantiphobe. The only books that I voluntarily sign up for knowing upfront that they will involve kissing are by Chris Cannon, who sucked me in with talk of bookstores and food and a liberal sprinkling of banter, and Melissa McShane, who upped the ante by giving me a magical bookstore!

So, how did this book wind up on my TBR pile? Your guess is as good as mine. It probably had something to do with the fact that this story is told from the perspective of the ugly stepsister, and you know how much I love a good underdog story.

“So come here, Cinderella. You need to see this.”

“I think you’re confused as to which one of us is which girl in that story.”

Mattie’s stepsister, Ella, is practically perfect in every way. She’s gorgeous, kind and loved by everyone. She’s a cheerleader, she volunteers, she fundraises and she is happy to clean their home, even though they’re super rich and have staff employed to do that for them. Mattie’s father is so rich their home comes with its own part of the beach!

Mattie, despite being everything that Ella is not, can’t hate her. Ella is too adorable to hate. Although, the fact that she’s dating the boy Mattie has been in love with for half of her life isn’t exactly helping.

I went from raging mad to helplessly in love to totally confused to completely embarrassed in the space of a few seconds when I was with him.

This was a light read but I enjoyed it much more than I expected I would. Sure, the requisite romance novel eye rolls were there, my favourite of which happened when Mattie did the whole superhero thing. She changed her clothes and donned a mask and hey, presto! She was unrecognisable to the boy she’d been spending so much time with. He didn’t even recognise her voice.

Despite this, I liked the main characters. Mattie was a good underdog, even though she needed some self esteem. Ella was loveable, even though she was too perfect. Jake, who was almost too perfect himself, had vulnerabilities that endeared him to me. Though, I did want to punch him every time he thought of Mattie’s best friend as a “poor man’s Jon Snow”, “wannabe Edward Scissorhands” or “Guyliner”.

I wanted to get to know Trent, said best friend, better because he was sidelined for most of the book. I also wanted Mercedes Bentley to have more page time. Surely a girl who is not embarrassed to be named after two cars is worth getting to know. Come to think of it, maybe she is mortified by her name and that’s the reason she feels called to be a mean girl.

There’s drama and what ifs and that really irritating lack of communication that I’ve come to expect from my limited experience reading romance novels. If the lovey dovey teenagers actually communicated, their story could be all about the HEA by chapter two.

I’ve got to give Jake credit for summing up the plot of pretty much any romance story for me (change the pronouns where appropriate):

“He likes her. She likes him. They find out.”

Now, this is probably going to be the most unexpected thing you’ll hear me say in the near future: I’m planning on reading the sequel.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Kindle Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everyone knows how those fairy tales go. The princess gets beautiful, nabs her prince and leaves her evil stepsisters in the dust.

But what happens when you’re the ugly stepsister and your obnoxiously perfect – pretty, smart, and, worst of all, nice – stepsister is dating the charming, devastatingly handsome guy you’ve had a thing for since you were nine?

Quirky, artistic and snarky Mattie Lowe does not lead a charmed life. Her mother is constantly belittling her online. The school mean girl has made it her mission to torment Mattie. But worst of all? Her stepsister is the most popular girl in school and is dating Mattie’s secret crush, Jake Kingston.

Tired of being left out and done with waiting for her own fairy godmother to show up, Mattie decides to change her life. She’ll start by running for senior class president against Jake.

Ella can keep her Prince Annoying. Mattie’s going to rule the school.

And no one, not even a cute and suddenly flirty Jake, is going to stop her.

The Right Amount of Panic – F. Vera-Gray

I’ve never thought that much about the amount of time and energy I’ve spent trying to keep myself safe, and that lies at the heart of this book. As women, we grow up internalising the messages we are given about how to be a ‘good girl’, what it means to be a girl and what our place is in the world. Along the way, we make adjustments to how we look, behave and take up space.

We make sure our friends text us when they get home so we know they’re safe. We don’t walk alone on certain streets at night. We are hyperaware of who might be following us. We get our keys out early and hold them as though they are weapons. We do these and so many other things that this book calls ‘safety work’ to try to prevent sexual violence and we’ve done it for so long that we don’t even really think about it anymore.

Safety work refers to the range of modifications, adaptations, decisions that women take often habitually in order to maintain a sense of safety in public spaces.

We know we’re in a Catch-22: if we are successful in our safety work and nothing happens then we’re seen to be overreacting and paranoid but if we are victimised then we’re blamed for not doing enough to protect ourselves. It seems there’s no right amount of panic, hence the title of this book.

We are scared because we’ve been made responsible for preventing rape at the same time as being told it’s inevitable.

The author examines the choices and changes we make to “maintain a sense of safety in public space”, categorised as actions relating to moving, clothing and being. As well as drawing on previous research, they conducted their own study.

Fifty women in the United Kingdom of different ages and backgrounds participated, speaking to the author about their experiences of men in public. They then recorded what they experienced from unknown men over a two week to two month period before meeting with the author again to reflect on the “work of being a woman in public”. Much of the book consists of quotes from these interviews.

I found this book interesting, albeit quite repetitive. Some potential solutions are offered.

Although the author addresses stereotypes related to gender, race, class, age and disability, I noted that the majority of the women included in her study were white (43), heterosexual (37) women.

Content warnings include domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Policy Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have you ever thought about how much energy goes into avoiding sexual violence? The work that goes into feeling safe goes largely unnoticed by the women doing it and by the wider world, and yet women and girls are the first to be blamed the inevitable times when it fails. We need to change the story on rape prevention and ‘well-meaning’ safety advice, because this makes it harder for women and girls to speak out, and hides the amount of work they are already doing trying to decipher ‘the right amount of panic’. With real-life accounts of women’s experiences, and based on the author’s original research on the impact of sexual harassment in public, this book challenges victim-blaming and highlights the need to show women as capable, powerful and skilful in their everyday resistance to harassment and sexual violence.

The Haunted Heart of America – Logan Corelli

Between you and I, I thought Peter Venkman was telling a furphy when he said he had a PhD in parapsychology, but that’s the exact qualification the author has. I knew from watching American TV growing up that American colleges and universities have much more interesting subjects than we do in Australia, but parapsychology? I definitely would have studied at least one subject in that field if it had been on offer.

So, besides his PhD in parapsychology, the author has a doctorate in metaphysics and is also an ordained reverend (yes, his bio confirms he’s performed exorcisms, although there are none in this book).

This books provides some basic historical background for some well known American haunted locations, including Waverly Hills Sanitarium and the Myrtle Plantation. Then the author gives their impressions of each time they’ve investigated them.

If you were to ask me if I’m a Mulder or Scully, I’d tell you I’m both. I want to believe but I also want the science to back it up. Considering that to label something paranormal means that current scientific knowledge doesn’t have an answer for it, I’m fully aware that I want to have my cake and eat it too, but I’m okay with that.

Without fail, I wanted to scream, ‘Have you not studied Horror 101?’ every time the group of investigators decided to split up. I also may have groaned each time someone got an impression, a “feeling of unease” or “a strange sensation”.

I got a playful, innocent feeling at times and a scared, threatened feeling at others.

Vibes weren’t exactly the kind of evidence I was looking for.

Speaking of evidence, there were some times the author said they recorded voices and said what they heard. At other times, though, it was claimed they recorded … something, but never specified what. Then there were the times someone heard a voice but no one else did, or someone heard a voice but it wasn’t picked up by the recorder. I would have loved to have been given a link so I could listen to these recordings myself.

There were some photographs included in the book that were said to be showing a ghostly face or other spooky occurrences. The quality of the photos in the copy of the book I read weren’t good enough for me to decide one way or the other. The photo I most wanted to see but was not included was the one that showed a disembodied eye.

I never felt like I knew anything significant about any of the other investigators. Most were only introduced by name, although some of the early introductions included a brief description. We had an “experienced and innovative” investigator and a “mysterious” one, but “talented” Michelle was also “the most beautiful investigator I had met at the time”. I didn’t know whether to be offended on Michelle’s behalf for having a label attached to her that had nothing to do with her skills. I also wondered, yet at the same time didn’t care, who now holds the title of most beautiful as it’s implied Michelle has been demoted.

I did appreciate that the author was willing to say that at times nothing happened or, if something did happen, there was no way to prove that it was supernatural. The writing style, though, was very dry. There was a lot of ‘this happened, then this happened, then this happened and then we went to bed’. The emotion that you’d expect to accompany occurrences like feeling someone was tugging on your shirt or voices coming from nowhere weren’t evident in the writing.

It was frustrating when the author said they saw or heard something significant but they didn’t have any equipment with them to record it, or when they witnessed something while in a group but decided for whatever reason not to mention it to anyone at the time.

If it was me, I’d be asking everyone around me if they saw or heard it too. I’d want the confirmation that I wasn’t hallucinating. I’d also want someone to freak out with. Believe me, if I ever witness something supernatural, no one will be able to accuse me of being casual about the experience.

Because everything was written in such a matter of fact way, it was difficult to become invested in each suspected haunting. At no time was I caught up in the atmosphere, so I was comfortable reading late at night in the dark. I never felt the need to look over my shoulder or turn the lights on.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Llewellyn Publications for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

An ironing board jumps off the wall and flies straight toward an investigator’s head at the famous Villisca Axe Murder House. Shadow figures rise out of the ground and run between the gravestones of a haunted cemetery. The mischievous spirit of a deceased child pulls the blankets off an investigator, humming a song from the other side the whole time.

Featuring investigations of famous paranormal hotspots like Waverly Hills, Myrtles Plantation, and The St. James Hotel – as well as many lesser-known though equally fascinating locations – this riveting book details years of creepy stories, hair-raising experiences, and intriguing physical evidence from one of the heartland’s most experienced investigators.

Dark Screams Volume Nine – Brian James Freeman & Richard Chizmar (editors)

I love horror but for some reason I don’t usually have a lot of luck where horror anthologies are concerned. Thankfully this was one of the better ones I’ve read.

My favourite story was by Kelley Armstrong. As has been the case with this series, one story takes up about half of the book; this time it’s Lee Thomas’ Torn.

Invitation to the Game by Kelley Armstrong – 😱😱😱😱

When you’re offered a promotion at this company you receive an invitation to the Game. Only no one knows what the Game entails until it’s their turn to play.

“It’s an honour, right? We have to remember that.”

Summer of ‘77 by Stewart O’Nan – 😱😱😱😱

There’s more than fun in the sun at the lake this summer. This peek into the world of a predator could make you second guess helping anyone again.

I didn’t really need the mask; it was more for them.

The Dead Years by Taylor Grant – 😱😱😱

Emma’s been gone for years. Now he’s found Emma’s doppelgänger. But Margot’s definitely not Emma.

“Today’s monstrosity is tomorrow’s masterpiece.”

The Blackout by Jonathan Moore – 😱😱😱

A body goes missing from the morgue during a storm.

“Before the lights went out, everything in there was fine.”

Variations on a Theme from Seinfeld by Peter Straub – 😱😱😱

Clyde’s reflection has gone missing. Again.

The image before him in the mirror’s rectangular surface depicted an unusually ordered bathroom empty of humanity, especially as represented by himself.

Torn by Lee Thomas – 😱😱😱😱

The search for a missing child is only the beginning of this story.

How do you go on when something like that happens to your child?

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kelley Armstrong, Stewart O’Nan, Taylor Grant, Jonathan Moore, Peter Straub, and Lee Thomas weave six hair-raising yarns proving that appearances can be deceiving – and deadly – in this horror anthology assembled by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar.

INVITATION TO THE GAME by Kelley Armstrong
Vivienne dreams of moving up in the company, and now she’s got her chance. All the company asks in return is that she prove her absolute devotion by playing a simple, silly little game.

SUMMER OF ’77 by Stewart O’Nan
Suntanned and bleached blond, the boys and girls of summer never expect anything to interrupt their carefree days. They never see me coming until it’s too late.

THE DEAD YEARS by Taylor Grant
Emma was the great love of his life, even after she vanished. So when she reappears at a cocktail party fifteen years later, he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her from slipping away again.

THE BLACKOUT by Jonathan Moore
When a body goes missing from the morgue, Detective Nakahara is called in to investigate. Despite the storm, it should be a simple case. After all, a dead body can’t just walk out on its own … right?

VARIATIONS ON A THEME FROM SEINFELD by Peter Straub
At six years old, Clyde noticed that his reflection decided not to show up in the mirror. Whenever it happens, he just needs to go through the mirror and fetch him. The trick is making it back.

TORN by Lee Thomas
Luther’s Bend is the kind of place where bad things just aren’t supposed to happen, but even the sleepiest towns have secrets … and the full moon can bring retribution for all manners of sins.

Snowflake – Louise Nealon

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine

This book is an exploration of mental health and it’s a coming of age story. It’s about our relationships, with other people and with ourselves. It’s about how our feelings of not being good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, [insert your own adjective here] enough can manifest in self-destructive behaviours. It’s about cows and snowflakes and stars and dreams.

Debbie grew up in Kildare. She and her Mam, Maeve, live on a dairy farm owned by her uncle Billy. Billy lives in a caravan on the property. Maeve has been writing a book about dreams practically forever and Billy is an alcoholic.

Debbie doesn’t have any friends and her most complicated relationship is with the boy who stands at the back of mass, a boy she’s never spoken to. Now Debbie, a self-proclaimed culchie, is going to university. There she meets Xanthe.

My only friend. Friend? Acquaintance? Person who knows my name?

I’m struggling to think of ways to explain what I liked about each character without getting into spoiler territory. Instead of telling you about specific characters, I’ll tell you what I loved about the characters as a whole.

Every major character is damaged in some way, whether by a personal trauma or the way they see themselves. Every character is trying the best they can with what resources, external and internal, they have to work with. Things might knock them down but they don’t stay down. Everyone is a work in progress.

‘There’s no way to catch a snowflake. And I haven’t met anyone who is able to catch a dream.’

There was an authenticity in the way mental health conditions and emotional pain were addressed throughout the book. Sometimes a sentence that appeared simple enough on the surface felt more profound when I slowed down and reread it.

The bathroom is where I go to recharge, let myself cry and pull myself together just enough to define my edges so I seem solid on the outside.

There were aspects of the story I wanted to delve into further: Maeve’s dreams, Debbie’s dreams, Billy’s mental health…

A character that I could have read an entire book about was Audrey. I wanted to go with her on the journey that led to her making her curiosity cabinet. I felt like she had a backstory that was worth exploring.

Oh, and that quote at the beginning of my review? It’s an Irish saying that means “People live in each other’s shadows.” Basically put, we need one another. I love it!

Content warnings include alcoholism, attempted suicide, disordered eating and mental health.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eighteen-year-old Debbie White lives on a dairy farm with her mother, Maeve, and her uncle, Billy. Billy sleeps out in a caravan in the garden with a bottle of whiskey and the stars overhead for company. Maeve spends her days recording her dreams, which she believes to be prophecies.

This world is Debbie’s normal, but she is about to step into life as a student at Trinity College in Dublin. As she navigates between sophisticated new friends and the family bubble, things begin to unravel. Maeve’s eccentricity tilts into something darker, while Billy’s drinking gets worse. Debbie struggles to cope with the weirdest, most difficult parts of herself, her family and her small life. But the fierce love of the White family is never in doubt, and Debbie discovers that even the oddest of families are places of safety.

A startling, honest, laugh and cry novel about growing up and leaving home, only to find that you’ve taken it with you, Snowflake is a novel for a generation, and for everyone who’s taken those first, terrifying steps towards adulthood.

Kasey & Ivy – Alison Hughes

Kasey has just learned she needs to spend an entire month in hospital. She’ll be away from her family and friends and surrounded instead by old people.

And you know how old people creep me out, Nina. I can’t help it. The slowness. The teeth. The tendency to be super crabby.

Kasey passes the time by writing a series of letters about the experience to Nina, her best friend. She also has Ivy, who helps her through the lonely and scary nights.

While she’s waiting to be released back into the world outside, Kasey makes some friends and realises how lucky she is. There wasn’t much of a transition between Kasey complaining about her situation and coming to the realisation that she has much to be thankful for.

Sometimes it felt like Kasey was younger than twelve and I wondered if this was because the author was reflecting on their own hospitalisation when they were nine years old.

I also wondered why Kasey was hospitalised and hooked up to an IV before she was even officially diagnosed. There wasn’t really any indication of how she was feeling physically during her hospitalisation either.

In the beginning of the book I wondered why this twelve year old was handwriting letters (this was answered) and why she didn’t spend her time complaining about the lack of internet access.

I had expected much of this story to consist of Kasey visiting the other patients and learning their stories. She did interact with some of the other patients but not as much as I had originally hoped.

I absolutely loved Missy Wong, though, and was delighted to learn that she was based on a real person. I also liked Louise, although I really wish I had learned the details of why she didn’t want to go home.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Orca Book Publishers for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Through twenty-six letters to her friend Nina, twelve-year-old Kasey chronicles the often humourous observations and impressions of her unexpected, month-long stay in a geriatric ward for the treatment of a rare but treatable bone disease (“osteo-something-something-itis”).

Kasey tries to make her life less dull by wearing her own nightgowns, surrounding herself with her favourite stuffies and developing an unusual exercise routine. Hospital food, insomnia and the germy communal bath are enduring sources of dread, but some new (and unexpected) friends make her life bearable.

The Final Girl Support Group – Grady Hendrix

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“Someone always wants to kill us. It’s never over.”

Dr Carol Elliott has been conducting regular group sessions with final girls for sixteen years. Our final girls are:

  • Marilyn Torres, who won’t let leather touch her skin
  • Adrienne Butler, who was a counsellor at Camp Red Lake
  • Dani Shipman, whose babysitting job didn’t quite go to plan
  • Heather DeLuca, who faced off against the Dream King
  • Julia Campbell, whose experiences were turned into the Stab movies
  • Lynnette Tarkington, who tells the story.

These women have watched friends and family members being butchered by “monsters” but they survived the unsurvivable. Many have even survived sequels. Their stories have been made into successful movie franchises, some have attended conventions and then there are the superfans to contend with.

No one except another final girl can truly understand what it’s like to live with the impacts of this type of trauma. Their scars are both physical and psychological. And it’s really hard to try to move on because there’s never any certainty that the past will stay in the past. These monsters have a habit of not staying dead, after all.

We get subjected to sequels. That’s what makes our guys different, that’s what makes them monsters – they keep coming back.

The final girl support group has been the one constant in the lives of many of these survivors but it’s no longer safe. Someone has been planning their deaths and it’s time for them to fight for their lives. Again.

“This is the sequel or a crossover, or I don’t know what.”

This book was so much fun! I was delighted to discover that the atrocities these women have survived were based on some of my favourite horror movie franchises. Between them, these women have survived Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason and Mrs Voorhees, Ghostface, and Billy and Ricky Chapman. I have never seen the Silent Night, Deadly Night movies but I’ve binged all of the others many times. Some details have changed but the basic plots remain the same.

I loved picking up on the similarities and differences between the backstories of these women and the movies I know so well. The chapter titles are spot on: The Final Girl Support Group’s New Nightmare, Season of the Final Girls, The Final Chapter, The Final Chapter II.

Even the names of the characters are perfect. For example, the woman whose story represents the Scream movies is called Julie Campbell. Neve Campbell, Scream’s final girl, played a character called Julia in Party of Five. Details like that really stood out to me.

After the trauma they have all experienced, it’s not surprising that the final girls live with a variety of long term impacts. I particularly appreciated that there was no ‘one size fits all’ approach in this book. While they all experienced living nightmares, these women cope with their trauma in individual ways. Their different personalities, their support systems (or lack thereof) and their individual strengths and weaknesses all play a part in what their lives look like now.

“Are those guys really that scary?” he asks.

“Scarier than you can ever imagine,” I answer.

In between the blood spatter I started thinking about serial killers. The names of those who commit heinous crimes are usually burned into our brains but how well do we remember the names of the people they murdered? I know the names and predilections of so many infamous serial killers. I often know in detail what they did to their victims but I’d be hard pressed to tell you the names of their victims. I think it’s time for me to rectify this.

Because I’m me, I tested out the address that a character in the book receives emails from. As usual, I was disappointed to get an automatic response saying my email was undeliverable. One of these days an author or marketing person is going to set up the email address that’s included in a book and I’ll finally get a real response. I’m hoping for an exclusive short story, a personal message from the character that I’ve emailed or even a treasure hunt or details of a competition where I can win a signed copy of the book. One day…

I own every single one of Grady Hendrix’s books. I knew I’d love them but somehow they made it into my Kindle’s black hole of good intentions so this is my first Grady Hendrix read. Believe me when I say it will not be my last!

Content warnings include addiction, alcoholism, mental health and suicidal ideation.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ever wonder what happens to those Final Girls? After the cops eliminate them as suspects, after the press releases their brace-faced, pizza-cheeked, bad-hair-day class photos that inevitably get included on the cover of the true crime book? After the candlelight vigils and the moments of silence, after someone plants the memorial shrub?

For Lynette Tarkington, it’s been a support group. Her, five other final girls, a therapist. Close to twenty years. Today’s the last day for group, but Lynne doesn’t know it yet. It’s also going to be the last day for one of the group. And maybe the final day for all of the final girls, because someone’s been planning a nasty surprise for them for a long time.

Book Haul – June 2021

Hey book nerds!

Last month I was waiting for the burrowing owl chicks at San Diego Zoo to hatch. They finally did and all seven chicks survived! They’re absolutely adorable and they’ve grown so much already. I love the little guy yawning in this screenshot.

I’ve been at the beach most days watching the whales migrate north. It’s been a fantastic season; sometimes I’ve seen twenty whales in about an hour. There’s been plenty of blows (puffs of water that look like smoke), as well as tail and fin slaps. I’ve even managed to see some really impressive breaches. It’s been magical.

On my walks along the beach I’ve also spotted some dolphins. Usually I only get to walk with them for a few steps before they speed off but one time this month my mother and I got to walk with a pod of about a dozen dolphins for 2km (1.24 miles) along the beach. They were quite close to the shore and were catching waves and jumping out the water. Now I look for them every time I’m there.

This month I acquired a new obsession: panoramic photos. There have been so many gorgeous winter days, with amazing clouds, that I can’t help myself.

Bookish Highlight of the Month: I have two highlights this month. My favourite fiction read was Grady Hendrix’s The Final Girl Support Group. I’ll be telling you all about my love of this book and all things horror tomorrow. My favourite non-fiction read, which I read back in March but was released this month, was Kate Moore’s The Woman They Could Not Silence. I’m still thinking about Elizabeth Packard three months after finishing this book.

Until next month, happy reading!

June Reads


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

In the iconic film by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, teenaged Marty McFly travels back in time from the 1980s to the 1950s, changing the path of his parents’ destiny … as well as his own. Now fans of the movie can journey back even further – to the 16th century, when the Bard of Avon unveils his latest masterpiece: William Shakespeare’s Get Thee Back to the Future!

Every scene and line of dialogue from the hit movie is re-created with authentic Shakespearean rhyme, meter, and stage directions. This reimagining also includes jokes and Easter eggs for movie fans, from Huey Lewis call-outs to the inner thoughts of Einstein (the dog). By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be convinced that Shakespeare had a time-traveling DeLorean of his own, speeding to our era so he could pen this time-tossed tale.


NetGalley

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realised – someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.


A Little Bit Different is a light and fun story depicting the journey from ignorance to acceptance and celebration.

Meet the ploofers. The ploofers have been practicing something special which they all want to do at the exact same time – but wait! What’s that? One of them does something different! When one little ploofer goes against the usual flow of things, the rest of them turn their backs on him. But all it takes is for one person to recognise the beauty in being different to spark a change in attitude of everyone.

With simple, yet striking, illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest, A Little Bit Different is a joyful reading experience for both you and your child, providing the opportunity to spark more meaningful discussions about people’s differences and how we accept and value them.


In this follow-up to the beloved picture book A Little Bit Different, the Ploofers are back for a heartwarming exploration of fear and finding courage.

The Ploofers have just learned a valuable lesson in celebrating differences and trying new things. They’ve been practicing something very special again and this time it requires extra teamwork… But Little One is too scared to go on this new adventure. Will some kind and encouraging words from Toasty help him find a little bit of courage?

With simple, striking illustrations and a cutaway cover design that adds tactile interest, A Little Bit of Courage picks up right where A Little Bit Different left off. With a subtle yet powerful message on overcoming anxiety and finding the courage to live life to its fullest, this book will resonate with children and adults alike.