How To Be a Human #2: How To Hide An Alien – Karen McCombie

“I’m exceptionally ecstatic to be in your company again!” 

When Star Boy crash landed into Wes and Kiki’s life in How To Be a Human, he quickly proved he was worthy of his three hearts. While he’s still very new to Earth, having arrived “eight hundred and fifty-three thousand and two hundred seconds ago”, Star Boy is doing his best to learn all of the rules about being human.

Meanwhile, Wes and Kiki are learning that hiding a “trainee human” isn’t easy. It doesn’t help that Star Boy has started glitching. Luckily they have Eddie, the owner of the Electrical Emporium and my favourite character, to help them.

When they’re not dealing with the fallout from the events of the first book, Wes and Kiki are trying their best to cope with difficult family situations.

Star Boy, Wes and Kiki may have vastly different backgrounds but they’re all struggling to find their place in the world. Together they’ll learn about empathy and how powerful acts of kindness can be. 

This book is a timely reminder that there are still good people in the world who are willing to go out of their way to help others. Both books made me want to see the world as Star Boy does, full of wonders waiting for me to discover them.

While you could read this book as a standalone, I’d recommend you read How To Be a Human first. 

I adore this found family and hope I get the opportunity to spend more time with them. I really want to see Star Boy attending school with Wes and Kiki.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Life isn’t easy, especially if you’re from another planet…

With his space-pod destroyed, the Star Boy is adapting to life on Earth with help from his friends Kiki and Wes, but Kiki’s long list of don’ts is a constant reminder of how hard it is to pass for a convincing human.

But more troubling for the Star Boy is the strange pings and pangs he’s experiencing, and the hard-to-hide electrical surges that are worrying his human rescuers. And when the Star Boy accidentally channels his true form on to the whiteboard of every class at Riverside Academy, things reach a whole new level of panic. With frenzied reports of an alien sighting trending on social media, how can Kiki and Wes keep their friend safe?

The Midnighters – Hana Tooke

Illustrations – Ayesha L. Rubio

Born at midnight on the twelfth day of the twelfth month, Ema is the twelfth born child in her family. Unsurprisingly, twelves tend to follow Ema through her life.

‘There is something very troubling about the number twelve’

At twelve years old, Ema has yet to find her place in her scientific family. Màma is a meteorologist who can predict the weather with incredible accuracy. Her older siblings are skilled in various fields, including archaeology, anthropology and zoology. Ema absorbs all of the knowledge her siblings teach her but she doesn’t have her own socially acceptable scientific passion.

The great enigma of her life had presented itself: how was she ever supposed to understand a world that didn’t understand her?

What she does have is the ability to constantly surprise people with her presence, an acute awareness of shadows and a semi-regular sense of impending doom. And fears. Ema has her fair share of fears.

When her parents join one of her sisters on a research expedition, Ema is sent to stay with Josef, an uncle she’s never met, in the home where her “unmentionable grandmother had lived.” It is there that she meets Silvie. Silvie helps Ema confront her fears and introduces her to the wonders of nineteenth century Prague at midnight.

‘We will banish these fears of yours, but we will also banish the idea that normal is something worth striving for. I will make you proudly peculiar.’

Along the way, there’s a murder mystery to solve, secrets to uncover and an adorable bat to fall in love with.

I really liked Ema and her family but the standout character for me was Silvie. Silvie’s unbridled optimism was the perfect compliment to Ema’s “apocalyptic pessimism”. Her enthusiasm was contagious, her sense of adventure inspired me and she stole my heart. She also reintroduced me to ‘splendiferously’, which the people around me are going to ask me to stop saying any day now.

The Midnight Guild intrigued me and I desperately need to visit the Moonlight Garden.

I need a sequel for many reasons, the most pressing of which are to find out what’s next for Ema and Silvie, and to learn more about ‘Polter-granny’.

‘So, let’s go murderer-hunting, shall we?’

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House Children’s UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the bestselling author of The Unadoptables, comes a stunning new story about a missing friend, a gothic city, and a secret society full of wonder, invention and maybe a hint of magic…

Find the courage to be extraordinary…

Ema Vašková has always felt different. In a family of famous scientists, there’s not much room for superstition or omens – but they seem to follow Ema wherever she goes. It doesn’t help that she appears to predict events before they happen, and has a peculiar fear of shadows…

When Ema is sent to stay with her eccentric uncle in Prague, she fears she’ll lose the chance to ever fit in. But then she meets Silvie – a girl who finally sees Ema for the extraordinary person that she is. Soon the girls are meeting for secret midnight adventures, and facing Ema’s fears together.

But then disaster strikes. Silvie goes missing – and it’s up to Ema to find her. Now she must gather the courage to hunt the city, find her friend, and uncover the secrets of the one clue Silvie left as to where she might be – inside the mysterious Midnight Guild…

Rizzoli & Isles #13: Listen to Me – Tess Gerritsen

“Did I mention a homicide?” “No, but you’re Detective Rizzoli. Everyone knows who you are.”

Can you believe this is the first Rizzoli & Isles book published since 2017? That was pre-pandemic, so by my calculations it’s been 142 years since I read the twelfth book, give or take.

I’ve missed Jane and Maura so much and I loved being able to catch up with them again. Even though it’s been so long since I was able to tag along during one of their investigations, it took no time at all to reacquaint myself with them.

I was able to read from Angela’s perspective for the first time and if you know Angela, you know she’s going to be spending a considerable amount of time getting into someone’s business. And their business and maybe theirs as well… She absolutely delighted me as I followed her around her neighbourhood.

“I’ve lived on this street for forty years and I try to keep an eye on it, that’s all. You can’t prevent bad things from happening if no one notices those things.”

Angela spends her time investigating the mystery of why the new couple renting number 2533 aren’t being neighbourly and the case of a missing teenager, all while facing off against her archenemy and checking out the man across the street. Basic what I’m saying here is that Angela did more than enough to convince me she needs her own spin-off series.

I’m guessing all of my training with Rizzoli over the years has started paying off as I figured out one of the mysteries straight away and got another one half right.

Something I’ve always loved about the Rizzoli & Isles books is how all of the puzzle pieces end up fitting together, even when some of them originally look like they belong in separate pictures. This was the case here as well.

Some books in the series have more of a focus on Jane and others spend more time with Maura. With more page time dedicated to Jane this time, I’m hoping next time I’ll get to hang out in the morgue some more, “reading the language of death” with Maura.

I feel like I’ve just caught up with some old friends I haven’t seen in years and I’m tempted to reread the entire series and binge the TV series (again) while I wait to be invited to join their next investigation.

Bonus points for the ringtone allocated to Angela on Jane’s phone and the reveal of Maura’s secret talent.

Content warnings include domestic abuse and mention of sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Bantam Press, an imprint of Transworld Publishers, Random House UK, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Mothers know best … But who will listen?

Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles are newly plagued by what seems like a completely senseless murder. Sofia Suarez, a widow and nurse who was universally liked by her neighbours, lies bludgeoned to death in her own home. But anything can happen behind closed doors, and Sofia seemed to have plenty of secrets in her last days, making covert phone calls to traceless burner phones. When Jane finally makes a connection between Sofia and the victim of a hit-and-run from months earlier, the case only grows more blurry. What exactly was Sofia involved in? One thing is clear: The killer will do anything it takes to keep their secret safe. 

Meanwhile, Angela Rizzoli hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in all the years since her daughter became a homicide detective. Maybe the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree: Nothing in Angela’s neighbourhood gets by her – not the gossip about a runaway teenager down the block and definitely not the strange neighbours who have just moved in across the street. Angela’s sure there’s no such thing as coincidence in her sleepy suburb. If only Jane would listen – instead she writes off Angela’s concerns as the result of an overactive imagination. But Angela’s convinced there’s a real wolf in her vicinity, and her cries might now fall on deaf ears. 

With so much happening on the Sofia case, Jane and Maura already struggle to see the forest for the trees, but will they lose sight of something sinister happening much closer to home?

Little Prisons – Ilona Bannister

There was a time before and there will be a time after. I cannot imagine it, Mother, but there will be a time after this one. 

Four women who seemingly have nothing in common all live in the new building on Bedford Road. 

Penny in 1B remembers a time when leaving her home didn’t feel impossible. Penny has agoraphobia.

In 1A, on the other side of Penny’s wall, Carla is doing her best to raise fourteen year old Mary Rose and twelve year old Daniel while experiencing coercive control.

Frequently knocking on both of their doors is the building’s resident Jehovah’s Witness, Mable from 3B. 

Then there’s Woman, who resides with the building’s owner and his family in 2A-2B. Woman hasn’t had an identity since she left Home Country. The promise of Better Life was a lie. Woman has been trafficked and is now a slave.

Told from the perspectives of the four central women and a few others whose lives intercept one or more of them, this story primarily takes place over the course of a year, beginning in January 2020. Written during lockdown, Little Prisons explores the lives of these four women both before and during lockdown, and how acts of kindness, some that don’t cost much and some that cost much more, change their lives.

Some really difficult life experiences are explored in this book and at times I really felt the weight of that. The perseverance and courage of the women gave me hope though and I quickly became invested in their lives. 

Initially I had trouble believing that the four women dealing with all of these monumental problems were all living in a building that only had space for nine residences. Then I stepped back and thought about it. I realised that you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s the point. 

We rarely know what’s happening behind the closed doors of people’s lives. People experiencing what the women in this book are are silenced, their traumas invisible.

I loved that these strangers, who just so happen to live in the same building, became important to one another. Sure, they don’t necessarily like one another initially and, let’s face it, have no reason to place their trust in anyone, but gradually they let themselves be seen. That’s so powerful.

There was a little ugly cry that took me unawares but my takeaway from this book is hope. I love found family stories and find strength in reading about people who have every reason to give up but keep getting out of bed every day and trying again. 

While I understood that this wasn’t their story, a part of me really wants to know more about the man in 1C, the young couple in 3A and the three girls in 3C. What were their stories and how much of what was happening in their building were they aware of?

Content warnings include domestic abuse, human trafficking, mental health, physical abuse, racism, sexual assault and slavery. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a couple of scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Two Roads, an imprint of John Murray Press, for the opportunity to read this book. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When you can’t get out, let kindness in.

In a non-descript building in a gentrifying corner of London, Penny is doing daily battle with her mind. She is convinced that the world beyond her door is too dangerous for her, though her heart knows it isn’t. Penny’s neighbour, Carla, an American expat and single mother of two teens, has lived in a coercive relationship for many years, too worn down by her controlling husband to escape her situation. Mable, Penny’s upstairs neighbour, an elderly Jamaican pensioner and devout Jehovah’s Witness, has sacrificed everything for her faith, including her relationship with her family. And Woman, the housekeeper and nanny on the second floor, has been trafficked. When she is not cleaning and cooking, she works in the laundrette the landlord owns on the ground floor, a hidden slave in full view of the public.

Through grocery deliveries, glimpses through windows, and overheard conversations in the stairwell, the women come to know each other. Their small acts of compassion help them each find a way to mend the broken paths in their lives.

Wylah the Koorie Warrior #1: Guardians – Richard Pritchard & Jordan Gould

Illustrations – Richard Pritchard & Sierra Pritchard

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

Meet Wylah (pronounced Wheel-la). She is confident in her artistic ability but not so much in the skills you’d find in the average warrior. Her claim to fame to date has been winning a throwing competition (she was the only competitor because everyone else was sick that day).

Wylah is going to need to find the warrior within though because the dragon army have stolen her Tribe and their animals, and it’s up to Wylah to save them. 

‘You can do this, you can save our people, Wylah, the Koorie Warrior. Rise up, rise up within.’ 

To do this, Wylah and Po, a fellow artist, will need to find the five Guardians. 

‘Guardians are the protectors of Tribes and the lands they live on. Powerful creatures that reside inside Totems’ 

When I was growing up there were an abundance of books available with characters I could easily identify with so I can’t imagine what it must be like to not have that. The first in a new series, Wylah is the Indigenous hero that’s been missing from the shelves for too long. 

I loved that when most of the characters were introduced I learned the meaning of their name. There’s also a glossary in table form at the end of the book that tells readers both the English and Peek Whurrong words for names, their meaning and how to pronounce them. For the animal characters, their species is also included.

Without a doubt, Wylah’s name meaning has the most significance. Wylah comes from the word Wilan and means yellow-tailed black cockatoo. This is absolutely perfect because the yellow-tailed black cockatoo is author Jordan Gould’s tribal totem.

Wylah doesn’t immediately fully embrace her new role as the Koori Warrior, which made her more relatable. She has doubts about her abilities and she doesn’t magically become skilled in all of the areas she will need to be. It’s especially evident when she’s training that this isn’t going to be a success only journey. 

Despite her lack of experience, Wylah has the heart, courage and determination of a warrior, and I’m keen to watch her grow into her new role as the series progresses.

I’m interested in finding out how old Wylah is. This would have been important to me as a kid as I preferred to read about kids who were my age or older.

I liked all of the animals (even the dragons) but my favourite was Bunyip, who’s not quite as fearsome as they may like to think they are. The Guardians spoke and some other animals did as well. However, some didn’t and I’m not quite sure yet what the distinction is between those who speak and those who don’t.

I really enjoyed the illustrations. The megafauna are realistic and the people are expressive.

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The chapters where we follow Wylah were told in first person and had a boomerang picture above the chapter numbers. Those that focused on what was happening with the rest of the tribe were in third person, the pages were grey and the picture above the chapter numbers changed to an amulet. The boomerang and amulet were both appropriate design choices and the distinctions prevented me from ever having to wonder what perspective a chapter was being told from.

As I’d expect in a book that’s introducing a series, the premise was set up and I met some of the characters who will be important in future books. Some answers were provided but there are multiple plot points that will be ongoing.

I did have questions about a particular event in this book that weren’t answered. Why did Livingstone ask the people from Wylah’s Tribe where their home was when they’d just been taken from there by the dragons? Couldn’t the dragons have taken him to it?

Content warnings include death of a family member.

Thank you so much to Albert Street Books, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Meet Wylah: warrior, hero and friend. Her adventures have been 40,000 years in the making!

Wylah is brave, clever and strong-willed, and all her best friends are giant megafauna animals. But she isn’t a warrior. Not yet, anyway.

Then comes the day when her family is stolen by the dragon army, and her life is forever changed. She must find the courage to set out on a journey to save them. What will it take for Wylah to become a warrior, like her Grandmother before her?

Introducing an unforgettable cast of characters, Wylah the Koorie Warrior is a heart-stopping and imaginative adventure, inspired by First Nations history and grounded in culture.

Zombie Diaries #1: Apocalypse Cow! – Guy Edmonds & Matt Zeremes

Illustrations – Jake A. Minton

The apocalypse is here and it’s udderly moo-nique!

Jimmy has just started keeping a diary and he couldn’t have begun documenting his life at a better time. He’s about to capture the lead up to the apocalypse but this is not the apocalypse anyone ordered. 

The adults have begun to feel a little under the weather. This leads to a bovine problem because the adults are all turning into cows!

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Jimmy, together with his friends Daisy and Hooey, need to figure out why the people in their town are transforming and try to avoid becoming Z-Cows themselves. Along the way, there will be bullies to avoid, action scenes and the Fortress of Hoo. 

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Then there’s the multitude of 80’s and 90’s pop culture references, which I absolutely loved. However, I did wonder if the target audience would understand most of them. My favourite movie reference was Edward Spoonfeet, which wouldn’t have been complete if not for the illustration of Edward.

Speaking of the illustrations, they were so a-moo-sing. The story itself was imaginative and fun but the illustrations amplified everything.

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The people were expressive, the cows were drooly, the action scenes were explosive and the pop culture references were brilliant.

The kids do figure out something important in this book but you’re going to need to come back for more if you want to find out why this all started in the first place and whether there will ever be adults that don’t moo in the town of Buttburgher again.

Yes, I did look up the website that was mentioned in the book. No, it doesn’t exist.

I’m definitely going to be looking out for the sequel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hi! I’m JIMMY and I’m living in a totally weird ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!

All of the adults in my town of Buttburgher have turned into zombies, but not the flesh-eating zombies like the ones you see in movies. These Zombies are COWS! Literally! Everyone is moo-ing and drooling all over the place! And if their drool gets on you, you’re toast. And not the nice sourdough toast from Horatio’s Bakery either.

Luckily, my friends and I have a plan to find a cure…

The Greatest Thing – Sarah Winifred Searle

In this semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Sarah Winifred Searle introduces us to Win. Their two best friends have enrolled at a new school so Win is starting the tenth grade alone. Fortunately for Win, they have art and it’s through their independent study with Mrs Fransson that they meet April and Oscar.

I found the struggles of all three characters relatable. This could have been quite a dark story and it does touch on some difficult topics, specifically those relating to sexuality, identity and body image.

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There’s an exploration of mental health and the feelings of being alone and not fitting in. 

I mean, I don’t belong here. I feel like I work so hard to keep afloat but no one sees or hears me. 

The friendship between Win, April and Oscar makes all the difference.

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Their friendship isn’t always easy and things don’t always work out as planned but their connection gave this story the injection of hope that it needed. The zine they worked on together, which is included in its entirety, was heartbreaking and beautiful. 

While I connected with some of what Win and April were struggling with, it was Oscar who stole my heart. I absolutely adored him. 

I wish I could hear the song Win and Oscar listen to. I loved the illustrations and the colour palette. 

Teenage me would have read this graphic novel so much that it would have disintegrated in my hands. Adult me is definitely keen for a reread.

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To see myself through your eyes, as I look to someone who loves me … it has simply been the greatest thing. 

Content warnings include biphobia, eating disorders, fatphobia, mental health and self harm.

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s the first day of Grade Ten, and Winifred is going to reinvent herself. Now that her two best (and only) friends have transferred to a private school, Win must navigate high school on her own.

Luckily, she isn’t alone for long. In art class, she meets Oscar and April. They don’t look or act like the typical teenagers in her town: they’re creative, a little rebellious and seem comfortable in their own skin in a way that Win can only dream of. 

But even though Winifred is breaking out of her shell, there’s one secret she can’t bear to admit to April and Oscar, or even to herself – and this lie threatens everything.

Win needs to face her own truths, but she doesn’t need to do it alone. Through the healing power of clandestine sleepovers, op-shopping and zine publishing, Win finds and accepts what it means to be herself.

Sorceline – Sylvia Douyé

Illustrations – Paola Antista

Sorceline’s apprenticeship with Professor Balzar is just a teensy bit more interesting than anything you’ve got planned for summer. She’s on the Isle of Vorn to study cryptozoology. 

“It’s the study of cryptids: amazing creatures that most humans don’t think exist.” 

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She and her fellow students will be learning how to heal magical creatures and one of them, the best one (nothing like some healthy competition), will become the Professor’s assistant. And, boy, does he need one.

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In a world where unicorns, vampires, gorgons and zombie pixies all exist, there’s plenty of healing to be done. There’s also time for some mysterious goings on. Students are disappearing and Sorceline, who somehow has the ability to identify creatures simply by looking at them, thinks it’s all her fault. 

“Don’t ever doubt your incredible gifts, Sorceline!” 

Translated from French, this graphic novel combines the first three volumes of Sorceline’s story. I really enjoyed the world building. The story itself felt disjointed at times but, because I was so busy drooling over the pictures, I didn’t really mind. Paola Antista’s illustrations are absolutely incredible, particularly those that showcase the scenery.

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Beware the cliffhanger. I have so many questions that are demanding answers so will be travelling back to the Isle of Vorn as soon as possible. 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Isle of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts – including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected …

Someone in Time – Jonathan Strahan (editor)

Self confessed romantiphobe here. So why did I put my hand up to read a romance anthology? In my defence, there’s time travel, one of my very favourite things to read about and do. Shh! You’re not supposed to mention that bit.

Also, there are contributions by two of my favourite authors, Alix E. Harrow and Seanan McGuire, so it was kind of inevitable that this book would find its way to me in every timeline.

Roadside Attraction by Alix E. Harrow

When Floyd approaches the pillar of sandstone covered in graffiti, he’s certain he knows what he’s searching for. 

“Did you find your destiny?” 

The Past Life Reconstruction Service by Zen Cho 

Rui is using the Past Life Reconstruction Service because he’s seeking inspiration. 

“Your dream won’t affect anyone or anything else. The most it can do is change the world inside you.” 

First Aid by Seanan McGuire 

Taylor has been preparing for her one way trip to Elizabethan England for years. 

There was no going back. There never had been. 

I Remember Satellites by Sarah Gailey

When you work for the Agency, a short straw trip means you’re not coming back. 

Everybody draws the short straw in the end. 

The Golden Hour by Jeffrey Ford 

Mr Russell is trying to write his novel when he meets the time traveller. 

“Past or future?” I asked.
“Where the clues lead, young man. Where else?” 

The Lichens by Nina Allan 

There’s something important in the past that’s not accessible in Josephine’s time. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here fantasising about the idea of books being able to be transported to the past. 

So you know about lichens?

Kronia by Elizabeth Hand 

So many fleeting moments, finding one another over the course of lifetimes. 

Unrecognized: I never knew you.

Bergamot and Vetiver by Lavanya Lakshminarayan 

To save the past, this time traveller is willing to destroy their future. 

“To thirst is to be alive, but to devour is to be monstrous.” 

The Difference Between Love and Time by Catherynne M. Valente 

Loving the space/time continuum can be complicated. 

Be my wife forever, limited puddle-being. 

Unbashed, Or: Jackson, Whose Cowardice Tore a Hole in the Chronoverse by Sam J. Miller 

It all comes back to this moment. 

“Walk me home?” 

Romance: Historical by Rowan Coleman 

Communicating through books is probably the most romantic thing ever. 

Beth steadied herself; after all she had spent her whole life in training for this moment, preparing unreservedly to believe in the impossible.

The Place of All the Souls by Margo Lanagan

In that realm, they’re perfect. In this one, they’re happily married … but not to one another. 

Whatever came of the discovery, there was at least a moment’s peace to be enjoyed, now that she knew. 

Timed Obsolescence by Sameem Siddiqui

Two time travellers meet throughout time. 

“Was discovering random historical factoids what drew you into this line of work?” 

A Letter to Merlin by Theodora Goss 

Guinevere loves Arthur in every lifetime. 

“You’re going to be dead in twenty-four hours. Would you like to save the world?” 

Dead Poets by Carrie Vaughn 

The love of poems and poets. 

The study of literature is the process of continually falling in love with dead people. 

Time Gypsy by Ellen Klages 

Sara Baxter Clarke has been Dr. McCullough’s hero since she was a child. 

“I’m offering you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” 

I have four favourite reads in this anthology: the two I was here for in the first place (no big surprise there) and two by authors who were new to me. 

Rowan Coleman’s story made me tear up. It was also the only story that made me interrupt the reader sitting beside me (who was partway through a chapter of the book they were reading), declaring that they need to read this right now. In case you’re wondering, I was forgiven; they loved it as much as I did. It’s just such a beautiful story.

Ellen Klages’ story, where heroes can live up to your expectations, had me railing against injustice even as I was feeling all mushy about the growing love between the protagonists.

The bottom line? If a romantiphobe can find so much to love about this anthology, then the rest of you are in for a treat.

Content warnings include mention of abortion, death by suicide, domestic abuse, homophobia, miscarriage and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a few sentences.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Solaris, an imprint of Rebellion Publishing, for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Anthology of inclusive tales of people through time looking for one another and for ways for the world to be better.

Even time travel can’t unravel love.

Time travel is a way for writers to play with history and imagine different futures – for better, or worse.

When romance is thrown into the mix, time travel becomes a passionate tool, or heart-breaking weapon. A time agent in the 22nd century puts their whole mission at risk when they fall in love with the wrong person. No matter which part of history a man visits, he cannot not escape his ex. A woman is desperately in love with the space/time continuum, but it doesn’t love her back. As time passes and falls apart, a time traveller must say goodbye to their soulmate.

With stories from best-selling and award-winning authors such as Seanan McGuire, Alix E. Harrow and Nina Allan, this anthology gives a taste for the rich treasure trove of stories we can imagine with love, loss and reunion across time and space. 

Including stories by: Alix E. Harrow, Zen Cho, Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Jeffrey Ford, Nina Allan, Elizabeth Hand, Lavanya Lakshminarayan, Catherynne M. Valente, Sam J. Miller, Rowan Coleman, Margo Lanagan, Sameem Siddiqui, Theodora Goss, Carrie Vaughn, Ellen Klages.

Orphans of Bliss – Mark Matthews (editor)

This is the third (and final) anthology of addiction horror edited by Mark Matthews, but my first. I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this read but that feels so inappropriate given the subject matter. Some stories were horrific; not the jump scare variety, but the type that gets under your skin. Many of the stories will be accompanying me for a while, whether I want them to or not.

You Wait For It, Like It Waits For You by Kealan Patrick Burke 

Reality isn’t easily distinguishable for Sean, as the days pass in the room with no door. 

“Do you know where you are?”
“Inside myself.” 

One Last Blast by S.A. Cosby

Sometimes not even death can stop you from needing a fix. 

“I … can … smell it.” 

What We Name Our Dead by Cassandra Khaw

Eleanor returns to her childhood home, a place of fear and pain. 

Hurt changes you. Hurt stays. Hurt gnaws a nest for itself in the heart and stays burrowed there until you die. 

Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free by John F.D. Taff 

Alan Denbrough is a collector. If you have trypophobia, you may want to skip this one. 

I don’t hoard so much as … collect. And yes, there’s a distinction.

Through the Looking Glass and Straight Into Hell by Christa Carmen

This rehab offers something different: virtual reality recovery simulation. 

“What do you wish it would show you?” 

Holding On by Gabino Iglesias

Guillermo needs to get Max and Alondra out of Section C before it’s too late. 

In Section C, nothing good ever happens at night.

Buyer’s Remorse by Samantha Kolesnik

Sometimes the punishment fits the crime. 

“Everything has a price” 

A Solid Black Lighthouse on a Pier in the Cryptic by Josh Malerman 

If you draw the attention of a witch in a bar, be prepared for the consequences. 

“Drink and you are drunk.” 

Singularity by Kathe Koja 

We’re in space, but I was fairly lost. I may need to reread this one. 

You know you’ve never been wanted the way the dark wants you now. 

My Soul’s Bliss by Mark Matthews 

We meet two addicts, whose lives had diverged, at a funeral. 

Because that’s what happens with certain moments. They imprint themselves on you and you can’t change them. They define you, become the hinge all your decisions swing upon. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this anthology but out of ten stories, I came away with five favourites, those by Cassandra Khaw, John F.D. Taff, Christa Carmen, Josh Malerman and Mark Matthews. 

Now I’m keen to read Garden of Fiends and Lullabies for Suffering.

Content warnings include mention of ableism, addiction, death by suicide, homophobia, mental health, physical abuse, racism and suicidal ideation. Readers with emetophobia, beware.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wicked Run Press for the opportunity to read this anthology. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“My soul’s bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.” – Emily Bronte

Addiction is the perpetual epidemic, where swarms of human moths flutter to the flames of hell. Because that warm blanket of a heroin high, that joyful intoxication of a pint of vodka, that electric energy from a line of cocaine, over time leaves you with a cold loneliness and a bitter heart. Relationships destroyed, bodies deteriorate, loved ones lost, yet the craving continues for that which is killing us – living, as the title suggests, like an Orphan of Bliss.

Welcome to the third and final fix of addiction horror and the follow up to the Shirley Jackson Award Finalist, Lullabies for Suffering. A diverse table of contents brought together for an explosive grand finale – an unflinching look at the insidious nature of addiction, told with searing honesty but compassion for those who suffer.

Table of Contents includes: 

Kealan Patrick Burke
Cassandra Khaw
Josh Malerman 
S.A. Cosby
John FD Taff
Christa Carmen
Gabino Iglesias
Samantha Kolesnik
Mark Matthews
Kathe Koja

The three Addiction Horror anthologies, Garden of Fiends, Lullabies for Suffering, and Orphans of Bliss, do not have to be read in order and are not sequential.