The Dead God’s Heart #1: Spring’s Arcana – Lilith Saintcrow

“This, then, is the way to the Dead God’s Heart”

When her mother’s health began to deteriorate, Nat’s plan to move out and go to college came unstuck. Now, her mother is dying and has given Nat cryptic instructions to save her. Accompanied by a thief on a road trip to retrieve a stolen object, Nat is about to discover that there’s a lot her mother never told her about the world. Or herself.

This is a highly descriptive read, which may appeal to some readers. There are some books where I soak up every detail offered to me. Here, though, it resulted in a read that often felt dragged out. While I loved the concept, I never became invested in the characters or Nat’s quest.

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

American Gods vs. Baba Yaga in this Russian-inspired contemporary fantasy Spring’s Arcana, by New York Times bestseller Lilith Saintcrow.

Nat Drozdova is desperate to save a life. Doctors can do little for her cancer-ridden mother, who insists there is only one cure – and that Nat must visit a skyscraper in Manhattan to get it.

Amid a snow-locked city, inside a sleek glass-walled office, Nat makes her plea and is whisked into a terrifying new world. For the skyscraper holds a hungry winter goddess who has the power to cure her mother…if Nat finds a stolen object of great power.

Now Nat must travel with a razor-wielding assassin across an American continent brimming with terror, wonder, and hungry divinities with every reason to consume a young woman. For her ailing mother is indeed suffering no ordinary illness, and Nat Drozdova is no ordinary girl. Blood calls to blood, magic to magic, and a daughter may indeed save what she loves…

…if it doesn’t consume her first.

This is the way to the Dead God’s Heart.

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?

I’m the Girl – Courtney Summers

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“It’s always you, me, and that road, isn’t it?”

Sixteen year old Georgia knows she’s destined to be an Aspera girl. She’s known it ever since Michael Hayes found her three years ago on the road leading to Aspera, a 12,000 acre members only resort in the mountains he and his wife, Cleo, own. Georgia is determined to do everything in her power to make her dream a reality.

Georgia is on that same road when she discovers the body of thirteen year old Ashley James, the deputy sheriff’s daughter. Nora, Ashley’s sister, and Georgia begin their own investigation into Ashley’s rape and murder.

Based on the blurb, I expected there to be more of a focus on Georgia and Nora investigating Ashley’s murder. There’s some of this scattered through the book but really it’s the abuse of power and privilege, so much privilege, that abound here.

This book was … a lot. It’s motherless daughters and grief and kidnapping and murder and on page sexual assault and trafficking and grooming and incest and it’s all a case of wondering who’s going to do the next horrific thing. I feel like I need a shower to wash it all away.

Some part of me will always be finding her here. Some part of her will always be here, waiting to be found.

Content warnings include child pornography, grooming, incest, self harm, sexual assault and trafficking.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All sixteen-year-old Georgia Avis wants is everything, but the poverty and hardship that defines her life has kept her from the beautiful and special things she knows she deserves. When she stumbles upon the dead body of thirteen-year-old Ashley James, Georgia teams up with Ashley’s older sister Nora, to find the killer before he strikes again, and their investigation throws Georgia into a glittering world of unimaginable privilege and wealth – and all she’s ever dreamed. But behind every dream lurks a nightmare, and Georgia must reconcile her heart’s desires with what it really takes to survive. As Ashley’s killer closes in and their feelings for one another grow, Georgia and Nora will discover when money, power, and beauty rule, it’s not always a matter of who is guilty but who is guiltiest – and the only thing that might save them is each other.

I’m the Girl is a brutal and illuminating account of how one young woman feels in her body as she struggles to navigate a deadly and predatory power structure while asking readers one question: if this is the way the world is, do you accept it?

Sacred Lamb – Tim Seeley

Illustrations – Jelena Đorđević

We meet Kellyn West in a graveyard. She’s a social media influencer doing a livestream when Clay Coogan decides it’s time for her viewers see what her insides look like.


Maybe if Clay wasn’t so verbose, he would have finished the job before Detective Olivia Hubbard arrived.

“I … I’m the dreaded creature, gliding beneath the water, hidden behind tints of azure.”


“They’ll put a box in a box in that box, and none of it will matter.”

Oh, just die already, Clay!

End flashback.

Clay has been classified as a Sequel Killer because, you know, they never stay dead! Kellyn has been awarded a designation of E.V. (Endemic Victim) and a place in the Endemic Victim Protection Program. She’s on her way to Sacred Lamb, not that that sounds ominous or anything.

There she meets such famous E.V.‘s as Bambi Mondale and the Babysitter. They’re not all thrilled to be getting a new neighbour.

“You’re weak. You’ll break. You may be safer here. But we aren’t safe from you.”

To be fair, the bloodshed does begin fairly soon after Kellyn’s arrival.

In theory, having a bunch of E.V.‘s living in the same town is supposed to keep everyone safe. In reality, if you’re planning on going on a final girl rampage, Sacred Lamb is the ideal destination. I’m only surprised it took forty years for the carnage to arrive at Sacred Lamb.

“… There’s nothing to see here.”

I love slashers and was hoping for The Final Girl Support Group vibes. I really liked the concept and the story had a strong start.

I expected to get even more into the story once the blood started to spill but instead it lost me. Thanks to group therapy, we learn the backstories of some of the other final girls but I didn’t connect with anyone in particular.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and TKO Studios for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A meta-horror story about survival, obsession, men, women, and chainsaws.

Sacred Lamb is a secret town where the survivors of endemic slasher killers (think real-world Jason Vorhees, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger) reside in a ‘witness protection’ to stop innocent people from being murdered when the inevitable ‘sequel’ occurs and the slasher returns from the dead.

Social media influencer Kellyn West, who just recently dispatched “her” own slasher killer Clay Coogan on a live stream, is the newest resident. Feeling more locked away than protected behind the barbed wire fenced-in town, where the government has hidden away these E.V.s (“Endemic Victims”) since the slasher spree started in the 1970s, Kellyn has to team with an old woman, and the original Survivor Girl, known only as “The Babysitter” to rally the EVes and survive as an army of slashers start showing up, seemingly back from the dead, and back for blood.

How to Sell a Haunted House – Grady Hendrix

When her parents die suddenly, Louise returns to her childhood home in Charleston. She and her brother, Mark, haven’t spoken in three years. Together they’re going to be confronted by the past, along with a house overflowing with their mother’s ‘art’.

“I don’t think we’re weirder than any other family,” she said.

“Trust me,” Constance said. “You guys definitely are.”

With family secrets, the power of belief, creepy dolls and a puppet with abandonment issues, this case would be right up Sam and Dean Winchester’s alley.

I’ve seen every Child’s Play movie and enjoyed watching Ed and Lorraine Warren deal with the carnage Annabelle left in her wake. I was just a tad obsessed with The Final Girl Support Group. With all of that in mind, I was ready to fall in love with this book and was looking forward to being creeped out by it, but unfortunately it fell a bit flat for me.

Despite wanting to believe, I never did, and that took a lot of the fun out of Pupkin’s antics for me. Instead, I found him and his sing songy delight at causing chaos irritating. I liked Mark some of the time but never warmed to Louise. Aunt Honey, who managed to snag most of the good lines early on, didn’t have as much page time as I’d hoped.

I loved the funeral scene. I’m still craving some Pizza Chinese. If I didn’t find Pupkin so annoying I probably would have been able to suspend my disbelief and get caught up in the mayhem, but I couldn’t escape him.

Because my love of The Final Girl Support Group is so big, I’m going to call my experience with this book an aberration and look forward to falling in love with my next Grady Hendrix read.

Favourite no context quote:

“You’re like some kind of emotionally abusive octopus entangling everyone in your word tentacles.”

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

When Louise finds out her parents have died, she dreads going home. She doesn’t want to leave her daughter with her ex and fly to Charleston. She doesn’t want to deal with her family home, stuffed to the rafters with the remnants of her father’s academic career and her mother’s lifelong obsession with puppets and dolls. She doesn’t want to learn how to live without the two people who knew and loved her best in the world.

Mostly, she doesn’t want to deal with her brother, Mark, who never left their hometown, gets fired from one job after another, and resents her success. But she’ll need his help to get the house ready for sale because it’ll take more than some new paint on the walls and clearing out a lifetime of memories to get this place on the market.

Some houses don’t want to be sold, and their home has other plans for both of them…

The Two Doctors Górski – Isaac Fellman

When Annae moves to England to complete her PhD, she meets Dr Górski, both of them. Having experienced academic abuse by her former supervisor, Annae is wary, using her ability to read people to feel safe.

Annae was the subject of fascination when she was an undergraduate, using magic to remove fear in rats.

“But with magic like this, it would theoretically be possible to edit our response to trauma, to cure mental illness of all kinds – just a little change in the way we feel and that makes all the difference.”

While the premise fascinated me, the intersection of magic with mental illness and trauma, and the exploration of consent didn’t captivate me like I’d hoped. I somehow managed to hover on the surface of the story, feeling disconnected from the characters.

I wanted Annae’s science themed knitting patterns to endear her to me. I wanted to know more about the two Górski’s and the process of making a homunculus. I’m still not entirely sure why I couldn’t connect with any of them.

It’s become a habit for me to send test emails to any email addresses mentioned in fiction I read. There were two in this story; neither currently exist.

Content warnings include academic abuse, mental health, self harm and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor for the opportunity to read this novella.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Annae, a brilliant graduate student in psychiatric magic and survivor of academic abuse, can’t stop reading people’s minds. This is how she protects herself, by using her abilities to give her colleagues what they each want out of their relationship with her.

When Annae moves to the UK to rebuild her life and finds herself studying under the infamous, misanthropic magician Marec Górski, she sees inside his head a dangerous path to her redemption. Annae now faces two choices – follow in Dr. Górski’s lead, or break free of a lifetime of conditioning to follow her own path.

Nick the Sidekick – Dave Whamond

Nick has super hearing and believes he’s ready to become a superhero. Currently, though, Nick is a sidekick. He’d much prefer you refer to him as a superhero assistant.

Nick was recruited by Super Fantastic Guy, who is big on superhero clichés. Nick hates superhero clichés.

Nick also isn’t a fan of doing all of the work and getting none of the credit.


I expect young readers will enjoy the action sequences and Nick’s superhero training fails. This story is full of superhero clichés, often pointed out by Nick. The ending would have worked better for me if Super Fantastic Guy had realised the error of his ways and voluntarily given some credit to Nick.

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Nick signed up to be a superhero, it seemed like a terrific idea. He was flattered to be chosen by Super Fantastic Guy – picked for his intelligence, his investigative skills and his super-amazing hearing abilities. But as Super Fantastic Guy’s assistant, Nick (who, by the way, hates being called a sidekick) didn’t realise that he would have to do all of the work – and get none of the credit. All Nick wants is an opportunity to prove himself. So, when he overhears a group of criminals planning an enormous bank heist, he knows his big chance to save the day has finally arrived. Or has it?

Wolf Girl #7: Crash Course – Anh Do

Illustrations – Lachlan Creagh

Gwen and her pack are travelling by train to Tunny, where her parents were last seen. On their way, Gwen finally gets to see her sister, albeit briefly.

Their arrival at Tunny attracts plenty of attention and it isn’t long before Gwen and the dogs wander into a crossover with the characters from the Rise of the Mythix series.

This series started out with so much promise but it’s frustrating me now. Gwen travels all over the place but she’s not really getting anywhere. Her lost family are dangled in front of her, the hoped for reunion is thwarted, over and over again.

Crossovers can be fun when they make sense. Your favourite characters are placed in situations you wouldn’t usually find them in and their interactions with characters from other series can show you aspects of their personality you didn’t know existed. A crossover done well can enrich both series. Crossovers in Anh Do’s books have been feeling like advertisements for quite a while now.

Stubborn hope has kept me here this long. I want to be there for the payoff. The stakes remain high, there are plenty of action scenes and the target audience are probably still loving this series. I’m just looking for the heart that was there in the beginning, in the time before crossovers.

Multiple animals were harmed in the pages of this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As the train Wolf Girl is driving hurtles towards the locked gates of an enemy city, the last thing Gwen expects to see out the window is her long lost sister!

Soon the pack are on an epic chase, encountering deadly enemies and plenty of prehistoric surprises.

But just when things seem most dire, help arrives in an unexpected form!

The Pallbearers Club – Paul Tremblay

I’ve loved the Paul Tremblay books I’ve previously read and the blurb for this one had me intrigued, so it’s safe to say this was a highly anticipated read for me. It’s clear from the reviews I’ve read prior to its publication that this is going to be a divisive read and I’m sad to say that on this occasion I’m not on the side of the divide that I was hoping I would be. 

Art Barbara (not his real name) and Mercy Brown (this may or may not be her real name but it’s up to you to decide) meet at a funeral. Art, who needed an extracurricular activity for his college applications, created the Pallbearers Club. Mercy, a stranger of indeterminate age, joins and the two become friends people who spend time with one another … I don’t know how to describe their relationship. 

It’s all kind of odd. Art thinks Mercy is a vampire and proceeds to write a memoir where he attributes various occurrences in his life to said vampirism. Mercy reads the manuscript of Art’s memoir, calls it fiction and then annotates it. 

Art uses foreshadowing like it’s going out of fashion, makes nouns into verbs (I’m good with that) and writes sentences that last an entire paragraph. 

A chapter in which, frankly, I don’t know the best way to somewhat briefly yet dramatically convey and/or describe the passing of twenty years, of the invisible years, and after considerable consideration I land upon using deftly placed flashbacks (to be presented as unrealistic interview dialogue) despite knowing said flashbacks are frowned upon (with, admittedly, good reason most of the time) by the academia writing syndicate as well as by those who can afford to pay for the privilege of being taught prescriptive writing advice, but fuck it, a memoir Novel! is all flashback anyway, so we’ll all just have to deal, and there’s a messed-up and scary piece of furniture that should’ve been a clue. 

I’d encourage you to read some 5 star reviews because there are readers who loved this book as much as I wish I did. Even though this one didn’t work for me, I’m keen to read the rest of this author’s books. 

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

1988, and puberty has hit Art Barbara hard – he’s a painfully socially awkward teenager, underweight, acne-ridden, and bent crooked by scoliosis. Worse, he has no extra credits to get him into college. So Art starts the Pallbearers’ Club, dedicated to mourning the homeless and lonely – the people with no one else to bury them. It might be a small club, unpopular and morbid, but it introduces Art to Mercy Brown, who is into bands, local history, folklore and digging up the dead.

Decades later, Art is writing his memoir to try and make sense of it all, because nothing about Mercy is simple. It’s all a matter of trust, right? Their friendship twists and coils around the pair of them, captured in Polaroid snapshots and sweaty gigs and the freaky, inexplicable flashes of nightmare that lurk in a folded jacket at night.

Because Art is writing his memoir to make sense of it all, but Mercy is reading it too. Mercy thinks Art’s novel – because this isn’t a memoir – needs some work, and she’s more than happy to set the record straight. What if Art didn’t get everything right? Come on, Art, you can’t tell just one side of the story… 

Seamlessly blurring the lines between fiction and memory, the supernatural and the mundane, The Pallbearers Club is an immersive, suspenseful portrait of an unforgettable and unsettling friendship.

Ninja Kid #8: Ninja Dogs! – Anh Do

Illustrations – Anton Emdin

Grandma has another new invention, a dog transformation bracelet. Good timing, too, because everyone’s pets are now missing.

‘Do you think Dr Kane’s involved?’

Considering any time anything out of the ordinary happens in Duck Creek it’s because Dr Kane has some new dastardly plan, I would have said it’s a given that he’s now in the pet-napping business. I would have been wrong.

It turns out that the pets aren’t the only ones MIA in this book. While Dr Kane is using his annual leave, the baddie void in Duck Creek is filled by the Collector from the Rise of the Mythix series. Also making a cameo is the front cover of the first book in the Pow Pow Pig series.

When I find subtle nods to author’s other books in the one I’m reading, I generally find it adorable and usually feel super smart for having found them. The crossovers in Anh Do books aren’t nods anymore; they’re beginning to feel more and more like advertisements.

They don’t even make sense most of the time. The Rise of the Mythix series have an older target audience than Ninja Kid so most readers won’t even know who the Collector is.

I accidentally read the ninth Ninja Kid book before this one so had been wondering how Noodles made their way into the family. I’m glad I know now but the constant crossovers are making me question how much longer I’m going to continue reading Anh Do’s books.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Something strange is going on… all the animals in town have DISAPPEARED! But with Grandma’s latest invention, Nelson and Kenny can sniff out trouble by TURNING INTO DOGS! How will they find the pets when they can’t stop PLAYING FETCH?!