What Happened to You? – Bruce D. Perry & Oprah Winfrey

As you move through the experiences of your past, know that no matter what happened, your being here, vibrant and alive, makes you worthy.

You alone are enough.

Sometimes a book will come into your life at exactly the right time. Traumas, both from childhood and more recent times, have been making themselves known to me with an urgency I haven’t experienced before, at a time that seems more inconvenient than pretty much any other time in my life. Although I’d love to push it all to the side, with a ‘Not now! Can’t you see I’m busy reading?’, there’s also a knowing that there’s never going to be a good time and that maybe, just maybe, there’s a reason it’s all coming up for me now.

So, here I am, trying to figure out what healing will look like for me and having conversations with people who are seeing my resilience from the outside in vastly different ways than I’m perceiving it from the inside. Then this book, which covers the trifecta of what my brain has decided is my priority right now (trauma, resilience and healing), makes its way into my world.

The shift from asking ‘what’s wrong with you?’ to ‘what happened to you?’ is something I’ve yearned to hear for most of my life. Western society is so fixed on labels, which I know have their place and can be useful, but all too often pasting a diagnosis (or multiple diagnoses) on someone marginalises them more than it helps them. If we don’t get to the core of why a person behaves the way they do then we’re really missing the point, and the opportunity to best support them.

All of us want to know that what we do, what we say and who we are, matters.

Dr. Perry’s work in understanding how the brain’s development is impacted by early trauma helps explain why we behave the way we do, for example, why some people lash out in anger and others withdraw into themselves.

There’s science in this book but it was explained in a way that made sense to me, someone who hasn’t formally studied science since high school. Even if you don’t understand a concept the first time it’s mentioned it’s okay as it will be referred to in later conversations. If words like ‘brainstem’, ‘diencephalon’, ‘limbic’ and ‘cortex’ make you want to disengage, I’d encourage you to hold on because how the science relates to someone’s life will be explained. This, in turn, will make it easier to apply what’s being said to your own life. You’ll read about people Dr. Perry has worked with, people Oprah has interviewed and about Oprah’s own experiences.

Knowledge truly is powerful and simply having an understanding of why a smell or sound (‘evocative cues’) can cause people with PTSD to have flashbacks, making them feel as though they’re right back in that moment, feels like half the battle. If you’re not caught up in judging yourself for your brain responding the way that it does, then it frees up so much energy that you can use to regulate yourself.

I learned about how our view of the world becomes a “self-fulfilling prophecy”, why self harm makes so much sense to the people who do it (even though it baffles the people who don’t), the importance of rhythm in regulation, how vital connections with other people are to healing and why I need to learn more about neuroplasticity.

I gained a much better understanding of flock, freeze, flight and fight. Dissociation, which I thought I knew all about from personal experience, make much more sense to me now, as does why I find reading so helpful in my everyday life.

I love facts and there were some that really put what I was reading into context for me.

During the first nine months, fetal brain development is explosive, at times reaching a rate of 20,000 new neurons ‘born’ per second. In comparison, an adult may, on a good day, create 700.

This book isn’t about blaming anyone for your trauma and it’s not giving you an excuse for bad behaviour. It does explain why you react the way you do and can help silence the voice inside you that tells you there’s something wrong with you because of it – your reaction is reasonable given your history but there is also hope; you can heal.

I would recommend this book to so many people. Before I’d even begun reading I’d recommended it to my GP and would not hesitate in recommending it to anyone who works in a profession that brings them into contact with young children and their families or trauma survivors.

To this day, the role that trauma and developmental adversity play in mental and physical health remains under appreciated.

I would recommend it to trauma survivors, although with a few caveats: that they stay safe while reading (some of the content is bound to be triggering), read at their own pace and make good use of their support system as needed. Loved ones of trauma survivors will find explanations for why their friend or family member behaves the way that they do and ways they can help.

I’m not someone who usually listens to audiobooks but if there’s a book that would be more suited for that format than this one, a series of conversations between Dr. Perry and Oprah, I can’t think of it. Of course, having grown up with Oprah, I heard everything she said in her voice as I read anyway but I’m definitely planning to reread via audiobook.

It takes courage to confront your actions, peel back the layers of trauma in our lives and expose the raw truth of what happened.

But, this is where healing begins.

Content warnings include mention of addiction, alcoholism, bullying, death by suicide, domestic violence, foster care, gun violence, mental health, murder, neglect, physical abuse, physical health, poverty, racism, self harm, sexual assault, slavery, suicidal ideation and traumatic loss.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Through wide-ranging, and often deeply personal conversation, Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Perry explore how what happens to us in early childhood – both good and bad – influences the people we become. They challenge us to shift from focusing on, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ or “Why are you behaving that way?,” to asking, ‘What happened to you?’ This simple change in perspective can open up a new and hopeful understanding for millions about why we do the things we do, why we are the way we are, providing a road map for repairing relationships, overcoming what seems insurmountable, and ultimately living better and more fulfilling lives.

Many of us experience adversity and trauma during childhood that has lasting impact on our physical and emotional health. And as we’re beginning to understand, we are more sensitive to developmental trauma as children than we are as adults. ‘What happened to us’ in childhood is a powerful predictor of our risk for physical and mental health problems down the road, and offers scientific insights in to the patterns of behaviours so many struggle to understand.

A survivor of multiple childhood challenges herself, Oprah Winfrey shares portions of her own harrowing experiences because she understands the vulnerability that comes from facing trauma at a young age. Throughout her career, Oprah has teamed up with Dr. Bruce Perry, one of the world’s leading experts on childhood trauma. He has treated thousands of children, youth, and adults and has been called on for decades to support individuals and communities following high-profile traumatic events. Now, Oprah joins forces with Dr. Perry to marry the power of storytelling with the science and clinical experience to better understand and overcome the effects of trauma.

In conversation throughout the book, the two focus on understanding people, behaviour, and ourselves in the context of personal experiences. They remove blame and self-shaming, and open up a space for healing and understanding. It’s a subtle but profound shift in our approach to trauma, and it’s one that allows us to understand our pasts in order to clear a path to our future – opening the door to resilience and healing in a proven, powerful way.

Grounded in the latest brain science and brought to life through compelling narratives, this book shines a light on a much-needed path to recovery – showing us our incredible capacity to transform after adversity.

Letter to a Young Female Physician – Suzanne Koven

Your training and sense of purpose will serve you well. Your humanity will serve your patients even better.

Although each essay in this book can be read separately, together they paint a picture of Suzanne Koven’s life, from her childhood recollections of her father’s orthopedic practice and always choosing to be the doctor during childhood games of Careers to her own residency and eventually her work as a doctor. Throughout, the reader witnesses Suzanne struggling to maintain a work-life balance, parenting her children, caring for her ageing parents and figuring out how to be the best doctor she can be for her patients.

I find my patients much more interesting than their diseases.

Although I was introduced to a number of the author’s patients, albeit de-identified and with some details changed, there were times I was holding out for a resolution that failed to come. I wanted to know what became of these people whose stories I was just becoming invested in.

For some reason I also became invested in the story of the white pine trees, where the infection of one may result in the infection of its neighbours. My biggest frustration with this book was not learning whether the two pine trees survived or not. Why do I care so much about this? Perhaps it was because of what those trees symbolised to the author. Regardless, I felt cheated by not knowing their fate.

My favourite parts of this book involved the author’s relationship with her mother and how it changed throughout her life.

The reflections on what it is that makes a good doctor would be particularly valuable for newly trained doctors, who are finding their feet in a world where having empathy for their patients can prove just as important as knowledge of their medical conditions.

Students worry about knowing enough. Patients worry about them caring enough.

Content warnings include ableism, attempted suicide, eating disorders, racism, sexism and sexual harassment.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for granting my wish to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In 2017, Dr. Suzanne Koven published an essay describing the challenges faced by female physicians, including her own personal struggle with “imposter syndrome” – a long-held secret belief that she was not smart enough or good enough to be a “real” doctor. Accessed by thousands of readers around the world, Koven’s “Letter to a Young Female Physician” has evolved into a deeply felt reflection on her career in medicine.

Koven tells candid and illuminating stories about her pregnancy during a grueling residency in the AIDS era; the illnesses of her child and ageing parents during which her roles as a doctor, mother, and daughter converged, and sometimes collided; the sexism, pay inequity, and harassment that women in medicine encounter; and the twilight of her career during the COVID-19 pandemic. As she traces the arc of her life, Koven finds inspiration in literature and faces the near-universal challenges of burnout, body image, and balancing work with marriage and parenthood.

Shining with warmth, clarity, and wisdom, Letter to a Young Female Physician reveals a woman forging her authentic identity in a modern landscape that is as overwhelming and confusing as it is exhilarating in its possibilities. Koven offers an indelible account, by turns humorous and profound, from a doctor, mother, wife, daughter, teacher, and writer who sheds light on our desire to find meaning, and on a way to be our own imperfect selves in the world.

Supernatural Investigations #1: Amari and the Night Brothers – B.B. Alston

“Go to any corner of the world and you’ll find tales of beings and creatures that only seem possible in our imaginations. What if I told you that living among us are all the beings we’ve come to pass off as myth?”

Amari Peters is a twelve year old Black kid from the projects. She lives with her Mama, who is working herself into the ground trying to make ends meet. Amari’s older brother and biggest supporter, Quinton, has been missing for almost six months.

“He made me believe I could actually do anything I set my mind to. He made me believe in me.”

Amari refuses to believe that Quinton is dead or that his disappearance is a result of him getting mixed up in something shady, despite what everyone else seems to think. She knows her brother is alive and that he would never compromise his values, and she’s determined to be the one to find him.

Amari, an outcast, is about to learn there’s much more to this world than she ever dreamed possible. People have judged Amari for things about herself she can’t change, even if she wanted to, her entire life. Now she’s received an invitation to the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, “a location that handles several million very well-kept secrets.”

“You ready?”

“I think so,” I say.

Agent Magnus grins. “Oh, I doubt that very much.”

Amari’s new roommate, Elsie Rodriguez, is a weredragon who can see other people’s emotions. Elsie has so much potential, as a loyal friend, as an inventor and as a serious contender for the honour of being my favourite character (besides Amari, of course).

Amari travels in elevators that have more personality than some humans. My favourites were super speedy Lucy and Mischief, the part time service elevator with a dirty-rascal chip. You’ll need them to visit the Bureau’s various departments.

I’m listing the departments mentioned in this book, along with the names of the directors we know about so far, mostly so I don’t forget them by the time I get my hands on the sequel.

  • Department of Creature Control
  • Department of the Dead – Director Kript
  • Department of Dreams and Nightmares
  • Department of Good Fortunes and Bad Omens – Director Horus
  • Department of Half Truths and Full Cover-Ups – Director Rub-Ish
  • Department of Hidden Places
  • Department of Magical Science – Director Fokus
  • Department of Supernatural Health
  • Department of Supernatural Investigations – Director Van Helsing
  • Department of Supernatural Licenses and Records – Director Cobblepot
  • Department of Undersea Relations
  • Department of the Unexplained

The names of the directors are perfect! I’m hoping someone will come up with a quiz (if they haven’t already) I can take to tell me which department I‘d work in.

Amari learns some really cool things (boogeypersons eat fear, which apparently tastes like chicken) but she quickly discovers that prejudice also exists in the supernatural world. I hope all of the kids who read this book take to heart the message of believing in yourself.

In case it’s not already obvious, I am absolutely obsessed with this book! I’d recommended it to someone before I’d reached 25%. I’ve ordered a copy from the library for my mother and haven’t even told her a single thing about it yet; that’s how confident I am that she’ll love it as well. I purchased a signed copy when I still had over fifty pages to go. [This is the first physical book I’ve bought in 2021 and if you knew anything about my current situation you’d realise what a huge deal it was for me to have broken my longest I’m-not-buying-any-books streak in what is quite possibly my entire reading life.]

This book has me almost equal parts exhilarated and terrified. I haven’t been this excited about a new series for so long that I can’t even tell you what the last series was that had me so hyped up. So why is that terrifying? Because I borrowed this book from the library, it’s due tomorrow and I came so close to sending it back unread because I didn’t think I’d have the time to finish it. I almost missed out on the wonder that is Amari and the world that was brought to life through her eyes. The world building in this book is phenomenal!

I know what you’re probably thinking. It’s a library book; surely I could have reserved it again and should stop being so dramatic. Well, my friend, this is me we’re talking about. My TBR list is so ginormous that if I don’t get to a book when I first pick it up it’s likely to fall into my good intentions abyss. New favourites like this one terrify me because they make me wonder what other gems I might be missing out on.

“In the end, we are all bound by our choices.”

I want to live in the Bureau’s library and become best friends with Mrs. Belle, the librarian who knows “what you’d like to read, just by looking at you.” One of my favourite bookish delights, fictional book titles mentioned within a book, were scattered throughout Amari’s story; the ones I most want to read are Physics in Magic: The Often Lack Thereof and Rasputin’s Directory of Dangerous Doodads and Doohickeys. The gossip magazine article that I’m already imagining writing a B-grade book about was Rogue carnivorous thunderclouds threaten air travel in South Pacific.

I need someone to magic up the sequel for me. I don’t think I can wait until 2022 to read it!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Amari Peters knows three things.

Her brother Quinton has gone missing.

No one will talk about it.

His mysterious job holds a clue …

So when she’s invited for a trial at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, Amari is certain this is her chance to save him. But first she has to get her head around the new world of the Bureau, where mermaids, aliens and magicians are real – and her roommate is a weredragon.

Amari must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about this world their whole lives. And with an evil magician threatening the entire supernatural world, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t pass the three tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton …

WeirDo #16: Tasty Weird! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jules Faber

Spoilers Ahead! (in purple)

There’s a new student in Weir’s class, Sue, who may give him some competition as the funniest kid. There’s also another competition that the entire class are preparing for: a cooking competition.

Competing in teams of two, the winners will represent their class at the District Finals. The ultimate winner gets to go to Queen Bubblegum’s Lolly Factory.

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I couldn’t help but think of Willy Wonka when I met Queen Bubblegum. Both sugar barons have similar ideas for making candy even sweeter by designing rooms in their factories that would delight children and adults alike.

Mr Wonka has his chocolate river; Queen Bubblegum has her chocolate slide. Mr Wonka has his not quite ready chewing gum meals; Queen Bubblegum’s bubblegum also seems to taste great but doesn’t appear to turn anyone violet.

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Even the ultimate prize was eerily similar. Oh, who am I kidding?! It was exactly the same!

I was pretty convinced that Queen Bubblegum reminded me of Lady Gaga until I came across another illustration that made me wonder if she was also channelling someone else.

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Change that bouncy ball with handles* into a wrecking ball and that rope into chain and you’ve almost got yourself a Miley Cyrus music video.

You know how you’re supposed to be less likely to buy a whole bunch of junk food when you go grocery shopping if you’re not hungry when you enter the store? I’m going to borrow that advice and adapt it only slightly: You may not want to read this book on an empty stomach or imagining so many sugary goodies may well have you searching your cupboards for some goodies of your own to quell your cravings.

Like all WeirDo books, there were plenty of Dad jokes and puns to be found and Jules Faber continues to bring them to life. This series might be written with kids who are 7 to 10 years old in mind but I’m going to continue to order them as soon as my library purchases them. I might roll my eyes at some of the jokes but I always do it with a smile. I wish this series had been around when I was a kid.

*If Wikipedia is to be believed, a bouncy ball with handles is called so many things, including [take a deep breath …] space hopper, moon hopper, skippyball, kangaroo ball, bouncer, hippity hop, hoppity hop, sit and bounce, and hop ball. Don’t say I don’t teach you really useful useless things.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Cook-Off is on! 

Weir and his friends have their eyes on the prize – a trip to Queen Bubblegum’s LOLLY FACTORY! Will the battle be a piece of cake?! 

It won’t be easy … but it will be funny!

The Loop – Jeremy Robert Johnson

There was the world behind them, and the world ahead of them, and all of it wanted them dead.

Lucy, Bucket and Brewer are about to have a really bad couple of days. IMTECH, a medical supply manufacturer that employs most of their classmates’ parents, have been working on something new. Even the workers who have contributed pieces to this puzzle haven’t been told what the final picture will look like. All these teens know is that there’s been a recent string of tragedies in their usually quiet desert hometown of Turner Falls: a murder-suicide, a day to end the school year unlike any other and now a missing teen.

“We are all going to be okay.”

I’m having trouble figuring out what to say about this book and that’s not a problem I usually have. The thing is, for much of the first quarter I was dragging myself through the pages, tempted to DNF every time anything that I’ll politely call ‘locker room talk’ happened. I found the way that specific girls were spoken about, as if it was funny and as if it was appropriate to say at all, was disgusting. Call me a prude if you want but detailing derogatory sexual behaviour is not something that I want to see flimsily disguised as banter.

Then there’s the body horror, which is pretty intense in this book. If the thought of anything touching your eyes makes you squeamish, prepare yourself for exposure therapy on steroids. Most of the time the crunching bones and gallons of blood that no longer live inside veins belonged to humans. I’m personally all good with this type of horror, when the victims are human. However, not all of the casualties in this book were human and I am never going to be okay with reading about the abuse of animals, even in fiction.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who can help us.”

The overall feel of the book gave me ‘Abandon all hope, ye who enter here’ vibes so it may be helpful if you don’t decide on a favourite character. Chances are pretty high that you’re going to see what their insides look like at some point. I didn’t connect with anyone so I wasn’t invested in anyone’s survival.

Class and racism were both mentioned throughout the book. The action remained fairly constant, although I didn’t experience the dread of the classroom scene anywhere else in the book. The descriptions of the bloodshed were easy to imagine and I liked the inclusion of the podcast transcripts.

Content warnings include abuse of an animal, alcoholism, body horror, bullying, drug use, graphic deaths of animals and humans, and racism.

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Stranger Things meets The X-Files in this heart-racing conspiracy thriller as a lonely young woman teams up with a group of fellow outcasts to survive the night in a town overcome by a science experiment gone wrong.

Something sinister lurks beneath the sleepy tourist town of Turner Falls nestled in the hills of central Oregon. A growing spate of mysterious disappearances and frenzied outbursts threaten the town’s idyllic reputation until an inexplicable epidemic of violence spills out over the unsuspecting city.

When the teenage children of several executives from the local biotech firm become ill and hyper-aggressive, the strange signal they can hear starts to spread from person to person, sending anyone who hears it into a murderous rage. Lucy and her outcast friends must fight to survive the night and get the hell out of town, before the loop gets them too.

The Book of Hope – Jonny Benjamin & Britt Pflüger (editors)

This book introduces you to the lived experience of 101 contributors, people whose experiences run the gamut of what it means to be human but who have all struggled with hopelessness and found reasons to hope. Rather than attempt mini reviews for each contributor, instead I will share my favourite quote from each of the book’s eleven sections.

Always Hope

To me, hope is a gentle bridge between what is and what could be. A bridge that if crossed will lead you from desire, to belief, to knowing. Knowing that tomorrow will be different and can be better. Hope is the understanding that things will change and that life will eventually move for you, too.

Jada Sezer

Acceptance

This is some of the best advice I have had: to take each day as it comes. Just focus on the next hour and reach for support if you need it, from people or helplines. Don’t suffer in silence as you are never truly alone, even if it feels that way.

Eleanor Segall

Peace

It’s ok to not be ok. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or a bad person. Admitting you’re unwell is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Oliver Kent

Tool Kits

It generally feels better when you say it out loud. It enables you to reality check your thoughts and feelings, to shine a light on them and test them out, rather than keeping them hidden in the echo chamber of your mind. Above all, it gives you the chance to connect with others and to realise you are not alone.

Benna Waites

Compassion

For it is people who create hope; it is people who give us the strength to carry on.

Dick Moore

Courage

Imparting hope is profound and may just be enough to save a life.

Erin Turner

The Right Words

Trying to avoid it, because you’re scared of how it will make you feel, will only make things worse. So instead you let the feeling be. ‘This is me,’ you can say to yourself, ‘experiencing grief.’ Does it hurt? Yes. Will it kill you? No. Will it pass? Yes. Is it serious and important? Yes. Is it also just a feeling? Yes.

Aaron Balick

Inspiration

So here’s my first piece of advice: be gentle and forgiving with yourself, as if you were talking to someone you loved. It’s OK to be weak and fallible, or at least just human, to have limits. It’s OK to stop and take a moment for yourself.

Frank Turner

Resilience

And yet hope is determined, hope is always there, even if you can’t see it or hear it. It’s in the tiniest of moments, shining its dim light, hoping you notice it. And hope is potent stuff, you only need the smallest glimmer, the tiniest drop, to make a difference.

Jo Love

Kindness

‘You don’t have to wait to be in a crisis to get help,’ Leah said, thirteen soothing words that finally granted me permission to speak.

Amy Abrahams

Connection

Everyone’s feelings make sense once you get to know their story.

Martin Seager

There are plenty of darkness and light analogies, things that contributors would like to tell their younger selves and many writers who mentioned the importance of good nutrition and getting enough sleep and exercise. I know we all know the importance of these in maintaining both our physical and mental health but there’s something about hearing things you already know from people with lived experience that make you want to pay attention. If they helped these people, then maybe, just maybe, they might work for you too.

Some contributions had sections that read a bit like a Hallmark card, although I’m not certain that that’s a criticism; Hallmark haven’t made bajillions by telling people things they don’t want to hear. It wasn’t always clear to me why specific contributions were included in a section.

One of my favourite contributions was from David Wiseman, whose descriptions of what life looks like from inside PTSD are some of the most authentic that I’ve ever come across. I highlighted more of David’s words than any other writer. I can’t choose a favourite passage so I’ve chosen the shortest one that I highlighted.

Living with PTSD means having to have a busy mind because a relaxed mind will automatically fill with things you don’t want to think about. It means being tired all the time because that amount of thinking takes energy.

Content warnings include mention of addiction, bullying, death by suicide, domestic violence, eating disorders, homophobia, mental health, racism, self harm, sexual assault, suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bluebird, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There is always hope, even when we cannot seem to seek it within ourselves.

From the best advice you’ll ever get to the joy of crisps, the 101 brilliant contributors to The Book of Hope will help you to find hope whenever you need it most. Award-winning mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin, MBE, and co-editor Britt Pflüger bring together people from all walks of life – actors, musicians, athletes, psychologists and activists – to share what gives them hope.

These 101 key voices in the field of mental health, from the likes of Lemn Sissay, Dame Kelly Holmes, Frank Turner and Zoe Sugg, to Joe Tracini, Elizabeth Day, Hussain Manawer and Joe Wicks, share not only their experiences with anxiety, psychosis, panic attacks and more, but also what helps them when they are feeling low. This joyful collection is a supportive hand to anyone looking to find light on a dark day and shows that, no matter what you may be going through, you are not alone.

The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions – Kerry Greenwood

The Honourable Phryne (which rhymes with briny) Fisher is a private detective who’s ahead of her time. A strong, intelligent woman who carries a handgun and drives a luxury car, Miss Fisher consistently outwits whoever she comes up against.

This collection includes recently edited stories set in 1928 that were originally published in A Question of Death and four new stories set in 1929.

Hotel Splendide

‘Now, I am about to do something thoroughly unlawful, and if you do not want to watch I should stay here with Madame until I have done it.’

Miss Fisher, staying in a Paris hotel, helps a fellow Aussie find her missing husband.

The Voice is Jacob’s Voice

‘Now hush, I’m eavesdropping.’

No one told Miss Fisher it possibly wasn’t the best idea to invite both Jacob and Esau Tipping to her Winter Solstice party.

Marrying the Bookie’s Daughter

‘I am what I am and I behave as I wish and I will not be dictated to by anyone.’

Miss Fisher and Lindsay attend a wedding. Miss Fisher considers a marriage proposal.

The Vanishing of Jock McHale’s Hat

‘Football produces strange passions.’

An Archbishop needs Miss Fisher’s help to find a hat.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

‘Will, old thing, I am enjoying myself and all that, but what do you want to tell me? Can we get it over with, so that we can devote all of our attention to the food?’

Miss Fisher aims to return some pearls to their rightful owner.

The Body in the Library

‘There’s going to be a scandal, you know.’

Miss Fisher helps Detective Inspector Jack Robinson solve a murder.

The Miracle of St Mungo

‘I have got into a … difficulty.’

Miss Fisher outsmarts a blackmailer.

Overheard on a Balcony

‘Are you going to turn me in, Phryne?’

A Christmas dinner in June is one diner’s final meal.

The Hours of Juana the Mad

‘The Book is in the safe. You see, we look after it well.’

The Book is not in the safe.

Death Shall Be Dead

‘So now we’ve got a mystery, and a murderer to find,’ he observed. ‘Any ideas?’

Miss Fisher helps Detective Inspector Robinson solve a mystery involving fire, death and a loyal dog.

Carnival

‘I love carnivals.’

Miss Fisher would have had a more uneventful time at the carnival if she’d been accompanied by a different escort.

The Camberwall Wonder

He said slowly, ‘I killed Mr Clarke. I killed him.’

Stevie has confessed to murder but his mother is certain that he couldn’t have done it.

Come, Sable Night

‘If I started to get worried about every corpse I saw, I’d be a wreck.’

Miss Fisher’s evening consists of music, gossip and a corpse.

The Boxer

It was a cold winter’s day in St Kilda, and Mrs Ragnell was wrapped up so tightly in furs and a sense of personal grievance that she resembled a polar bear with a hangover.

Mrs Ragnell hires Miss Fisher to find her missing granddaughter.

A Matter of Style

The Salon de Paris this Thursday morning was anything but quiet.

The staff of Miss Fisher’s hairdresser are accused of stealing from their customers.

The Chocolate Factory

‘Well, girls, what do you think?’

Miss Fisher’s portrait is going to be used on the box of a new assortment of chocolates.

The Bells of St Paul’s

‘Miss Phryne, what’s wrong with the bells? They ring them every day.’

There’s a message in the tolling of the bells.

This was one of the best kinds of book mail: the unexpected kind. It was also my introduction to the world that Phryne Fisher inhabits. I’d previously heard of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries TV series but haven’t watched any.

While it’s noted that the author completes extensive research prior to writing each book in the series, I couldn’t have pinpointed the time period that many of these short stories were set in had I not already been told in the author’s introduction.

I expect readers who follow this series will love the opportunity to follow Miss Fisher as she solves these short mysteries, potentially getting to know recurring characters in more depth.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The elegant Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this scintillating collection, featuring four brand-new stories.

The Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the Lulu bob, Cupid’s Bow lips, diamante garters and pearl-handled pistol – is the 1920s’ most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.

Miss Phryne Fisher is up to her stunning green eyes in intriguing crime in each of these entertaining, fun and compulsively readable stories. With the ever-loyal Dot, the ingenious Mr Butler and all of Phryne’s friends and household, the action is as fast as Phryne’s wit and logic.

Batman and Scooby-Doo Mysteries: The Case of the Cursed Crop – Michael Anthony Steele

Illustrations – Dario Brizuela

“And I would’ve gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”

When I think of Scooby-Doo crossovers, I must admit I’m more likely to think of the gang teaming up with Sam and Dean Winchester than with Batman. I love Batman, though, and was interested in seeing how the Dark Knight interacted with the Mystery Inc. gang. The team up worked better than I’d expected.

Scooby and the gang have been called to investigate strange occurrences at a farm just south of Gotham City. With a creepy farmhouse, creepy barn, creepy woods and creepy fog to contend with, the spooky factor is pretty high.

“Zoinks!” Shaggy shouted. “Like, this is the worst farm ever!”

Luckily, Batman is also there to help solve the mystery.

I could easily imagine this mystery as a cartoon, especially when classic Mystery Inc. moves like characters’ legs spinning midair before they land and run away, were described. Because I’ve watched so many Scooby-Doo cartoons I also heard the characters speaking in their own voices as I read.

The way the Mystery Inc. gang behaved and spoke were consistent with the cartoons. I solved the mystery fairly early but kid me wouldn’t have known enough about either franchise to be able to figure out who the baddie was before the big reveal. I would have liked to have seen all of the baddies unmasked.

I loved Dario Brizuela’s illustrations. The colours, expressions and mannerisms were consistent with the cartoons. The best compliment I can think of is that they’re exactly what I’d expect to see if I pressed pause during a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

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I appreciated the design choice of using the Batman logo for page breaks. Kids who aren’t as familiar with the heroes will find the short character bios helpful. There’s also a glossary and discussion questions at the end of the book.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stone Arch Books, an imprint of Capstone, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Batman and Mystery Inc. arrive at the same farm outside of Gotham City, they soon find themselves in for the fright of their lives! Every time an eerie fog rolls in, fearsome farm monsters come out to play. Can the Caped Crusader help Scooby and the gang crack this case of cursed cropland before the creepy creatures carry them away?

The Eyeball Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta

Illustrations – Shennen Bersani

Jerry Pallotta takes readers on an A to Z tour of eyes, providing fun facts about a variety of animals, both those you will already know well and others you may not have heard of before. The facts that I found particularly interesting were:

  • A giant squid has the honour of seeing with the world’s largest eyes; they’re the size of a basketball.
  • Horses have oval-shaped pupils.
  • Tarsier’s eyes are larger than its brain.
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In addition, an explanation of how eyes work is accompanied by an illustration with labels for the different parts of your eyes, including the retina, cornea and lens. Each page also explains what different eye idioms mean, from “a sight for sore eyes” to “without batting an eye”.

Another pair of eyes means help from someone else.

I never would have thought a book about eyes would be so beautiful. Shennen Bersani’s illustrations truly are eye-catching. They’re so realistic that if I didn’t know otherwise I would have told you that some of the images in this book were photos.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Best-selling author Jerry Pallotta takes a peek at eyes from across the animal kingdom in this hilarious and fact-packed alphabet book.

The eyes have it! Laugh as you learn by staring right into the eyes of familiar animals (is for alligator eye) and not-so-familiar ones (is for zebu eye!). Readers of all ages will be entertained with every page turn. Language learning bonus: each page defines an idiom that includes the word “eye”!

Sloth and Squirrel in a Pickle – Cathy Ballou Mealey

Illustrations – Kelly Collier

Sloth and Squirrel are in a bit of a pickle. 677.5 jars of pickles, to be exact.

They decide to work as pickle packers to earn the money to buy the bike they want but things don’t quite go to plan. Teamwork can be a bit tricky when one member of your team is super speedy and the other is s-l-o-w.

This is a cute picture book with two very different friends. This story shows our new friends working together towards a common goal, using initiative and thinking outside the box to solve a problem.

The illustrations highlight how fast Squirrel is, how slow Sloth is and how expressive both friends are.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A speedy squirrel and a sleepy sloth try to get the job done in this funny, heartwarming tale of two loveable, but unlikely, friends.Though Sloth and Squirrel are good friends, they have different ways of doing things – and different speeds of doing them. So, when Squirrel gets them jobs as pickle packers to earn money for a new bike, things don’t go according to plan. It seems that the contrasting skill sets of a fast-as-lightening squirrel and a slow-as-molasses sloth can make for a mess of an outcome, and before long, the friends are shown the pickle factory’s door, along with the 677 1/2 jars of pickles they packed incorrectly! Now the pair are bicycle-less, with only pickles to show for themselves. Or so they think – until the resourceful pair come up with an ingenious plan!

This delightful story from Cathy Ballou Mealey is a celebration of friendships of all kinds and a testament to ingenuity and hard work. Packed with funny details that aren’t in the text, Kelly Collier’s engaging illustrations are full of personality and silly, emotionally expressive humour. Together they create a hilarious picture book that’s perfect for a fun and lively read-aloud. At the same time, the positive themes in the book highlight a growth mindset and character education lessons on teamwork, perseverance and initiative.