The Last One to Fall – Gabriella Lepore

“Sooner or later you’re going to get what’s coming to you.”

Introduce me to a group of dysfunctional teenagers that go somewhere and all but one return because someone’s no longer breathing and now everyone else is a suspect, and I’m a happy camper. Add some social issue soup to the mix and I’ll be hooked. It doesn’t matter how many books along these lines I read; I just keep coming back for more.

Savana and Jesse are neighbours who’ve known one another for years. They’re friends and there is absolutely some chemistry between them so when Jesse asked her to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse, the senior class’ summer break party spot, of course she was going to go.

She didn’t expect to see someone fall out of a fourth storey window when she got there. She definitely didn’t plan on getting caught up in a murder investigation. But here we are.

I have a horrible feeling this is just the beginning.

Supplementing the narrative, which is told by Savana and Jesse, are transcripts of an audio file, interviews and text messages, as well as an email and news article.

This was a quick, entertaining read. I guessed the who but not the why.

I don’t know what it is about books like these. They feel like a guilty pleasure. I don’t expect to stop reading them anytime soon, though.

“Don’t assume you know the whole story.”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, domestic abuse and sexualised violence.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Six friends. Five suspects. One murder.

Savana Caruso and Jesse Melo have known each other since they were kids, so when Jesse asks Savana to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse in the middle of the night, she doesn’t hesitate. But before Savana can find Jesse, she bears witness to a horrifying murder, standing helpless on the ground as a mysterious figure is pushed out of the fourth floor of the warehouse.

Six teens were there that night, and five of them are now potential suspects. With the police circling, Savana knows what will happen if the wrong person is charged, but someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the truth from coming to light.

The Prophet and the Idiot – Jonas Jonasson

Translator – Rachel Willson-Broyles

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room … the last word in the title. It’s offensive. It’s awful. I hate it.

If I hadn’t told someone that yes, I was absolutely going to read a Jonas Jonasson book, my journey with this book would have ended as soon as I read that word. Because more than a year has passed since I made my bookish commitment, I moved on to reading the blurb and it intrigued me. It’s a shame, really, because I expect a lot of people won’t make it past the title.

If you do manage to put blinders on every time you come across that word, this is actually a fun read. The characters are quirky, there’s a road trip in an RV with a super fancy kitchen and there are wrongs to put right because the world is ending.

Everything felt right.

At which point nothing went as planned. It rarely does.

Johan, who the offensive word refers to, believes that’s what he is because his brother has called him that his entire life. Johan is not book smart but he’s a genius when it comes to combining ingredients in unique and apparently delectable way. I would very much like to sample his mango bread. Johan has also memorised a bunch of American movies.

Petra is convinced the sky is falling. Literally. And very soon. She has the calculations to prove it.

‘Who’s going to what now?’

‘The atmosphere. It will fall flat to the ground and the temperature will drop to 273.15 degrees below freezing. In a split second.’



‘Indoors as well?’

Besides being a doomsday prophet, Petra is also a very big fan of flowcharts.

At 75, retired manufacturess Agnes’ hair is more violet than it used to be. Her alter ego, ‘Travelling Eklund’, has seen much more of the world than she has, although that’s about to change.

This is a book with grappa decisions, an endangered bird and unfinished cheese business. A bunch of famous people have parts to play, including Obrama, which, even though it very much looks like it, is not a typo.

Our road trip takes us to multiple countries and the impact of this found family is felt worldwide, even as they paint themselves into so many corners you begin to wonder how they can ever get out of them.

Ultimately, this book encourages you to live your life while you have the chance because you never know when a prophet’s calculations are going to be correct.

‘Isn’t now the time to embrace the world? With what little time you have left.’

Although I still hate the title, I enjoyed spending time with this unlikely trio.

Content warnings include bullying and suicidal ideation.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sweden, late summer of 2011. Self-taught astrophysicist Petra has calculated that the atmosphere will collapse on the 21st of September that year, around 21.20 to be more precise, bringing about the end of times.

Armed with this terrible knowledge, Petra meets Johan and Agnes, a widow of 75 who has made bank living a double life on social media as a young influencer. Together, the trio race through Europe as they plan to make the most out of the time they have left, in more ways than one.

But of course, things rarely go to plan, even the end of the world…

Where’s Wally? Days Out: Colouring Book – Martin Handford

I’m pretty sure I think about Wally more times each day than the average adult. I blame the colleague who saw my first heat pack around my neck and helpfully pointed out that its red and white stripes reminded them of Wally. Naturally we christened my heat pack Wally immediately.

My original Wally is long gone and I have yet to find a red and white striped replacement. That hasn’t stopped every heat pack since then, regardless of colour, being called Wally. No one who knows me even refers to it as a heat pack anymore, which makes misplacing it a lot less frustrating.

“Where’s Wally?”

Here, we join Wally, Wenda, Wizard Whitebeard, Woof and dastardly Odlaw in nine days out:
🐶 Doggy Day Care
🤠 The Wild, Wild West Theme Park
🐴 The Parade
🎨 The Art Gallery
🥪 A Spot of Lunch
🎵 The Musical Extravaganza
🦖 A Dino Day Out
🎥 Knights, Camera, Action!
🪩 Disco Fever

I particularly enjoyed attending the Jurassic Games.


My only quibble is with the book’s binding. I love that the scenes are large, covering two pages each. Because the spine doesn’t allow you to completely flatten the pages, though, it can be difficult to colour the middle of each scene.

At the end of the book, there’s a list of items to search for. And stickers to colour! Make sure to be on the lookout for Wally’s ice cream cone as you colour your way through the scenes. 🍦

Fun fact: Wally is also known as Waldo. Odlaw’s name makes more sense when you discover that as the “Anti-Waldo”, his name is Waldo spelled backwards.

Thank you so much to Walker Books for the hours of fun.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Pack your colouring pens and pencils for some super-exciting outings with Wally. Get ready to transform black-and-white scenes into dazzling kaleidoscopic destinations – the days out of your dreams! There are all sorts of things to search for and a page of stickers to colour in, too. Enjoy!

Wylah the Koorie Warrior #2: Custodians – Richard Pritchard & Jordan Gould

Illustrations – Richard Pritchard & Sierra Pritchard

When we last saw Wylah and Po, they were on their way to the mountains to find Po’s sister, Merri, having received her message stick. Wylah has united the great tribal Guardians but the Dragon Army are still holding her tribe captive. In order to free them, they will need to go through the Valley of the Spirits, “a legendary place where terrible creatures dwell between our world and the Dreamtime.”

Wylah may not be great at climbing trees or balancing but she has determination, courage and resilience.

There’s plenty of action in this book. The megafauna are at the forefront a lot, much to my delight. Butt crashing his way into some of my favourite scenes was Tulna, an adorable mega wombat. That’s him saying ‘cheese!’ next to Wylah on the front cover. See? Adorable!

The release of this book during Reconciliation Week is perfect timing. It invites readers to learn more about Indigenous Australians and their history and culture.

I still love that Wylah doesn’t have a success only journey. She has to make tough decisions. She needs to choose when to fight and when to show kindness. You can easily imagine being her friend.

Unlike other heroes, she doesn’t magically have all of the skills she needs as the Koorie Warrior immediately. She has to train and learn from her mistakes. She’s still finding her feet as a warrior, gradually building her confidence and realising that it’s okay to ask for help. She’s a hero you want to get behind because she’s so authentic.

I love turning the page to in search of the next illustration. The humans and animals are expressive and the animals in particular are brilliant. My favourite illustration in this book features a happy Mama Yowie.


Consistent with the first book in the series, chapters where we follow Wylah are told in first person and have a boomerang picture above the chapter numbers. Those that focused on what is happening with the rest of the tribe are in third person, the pages are grey and the picture above the chapter numbers changes to an amulet.

Another feature I loved in the first book was replicated here, 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.

A fun new addition in this book were two character profiles, Pippy and adorable Tulna.

While this is a kid’s book, it’s also an entertaining read for adults. I always enjoy finding gems in kid’s books that only adults will truly appreciate. Here, Alinta, who Wylah meets along the way, channels her inner Mick Dundee.

‘That’s not a boomerang, this is a boomerang’

Be on the lookout for one of Australia’s national treasures, drop bears!

‘Why are there so many creatures out here that want to eat us?!’

Thank you so much to Albert Street Books, an imprint of Allen & Unwin, for the opportunity to read this book. I am really looking forward to the next one.

Title: Custodians: Wylah the Koorie Warrior 2
Authors: Jordan Gould and Richard Pritchard
Publisher: Allen & Unwin. I love the book’s activity sheet on their website.
Published: May 2023.
RRP: AUD $15.99.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Wylah has already accomplished the unbelievable feat of uniting the five Guardians, but her journey is far from over. Together with her megafauna friends, she must travel through the treacherous and forbidden Valley of the Spirits to face off against the Dragon Army.

Can Wylah defeat the perils that lay ahead and become the ultimate Koorie Warrior? 

Embark on a heart-stopping journey filled with danger and excitement with book 2 in the bestselling Wylah the Koorie Warrior series. Inspired by First Nations history and grounded in culture, this is a must-read for adventure lovers of all ages!

Silenced – Ann Claycomb

Four women who work for the same company have experienced sexualised violence by the CEO. This is a man who will use all of his considerable power to silence the women he assaults.

He’s counting on us not telling anyone because we’re afraid they won’t believe us.

Jo, Abony, Ranjani and Maia have all tried to find ways to be heard but each has been constricted, by fairy tales of all things. These are definitely not the Disney sanitised versions with songs and adorable talking animals.

This is a difficult but important read. It highlights the many ways people who have experienced sexualised violence can be silenced by not only the perpetrator but also the systems we expect to help victims of these crimes.

“If you weren’t so scared that people would believe women, why have you tried so hard to silence us?”

It also clearly explores trauma responses and how the impacts can vary from person to person and across time. These can include the inability to say the words and the shrinking of your world.

There are scenes that describe the violations the women have experienced. While they’re not especially graphic, they don’t allow any doubt about what each woman has experienced so please tread carefully if you are likely find this content difficult to read.

Content warnings include addiction, dementia and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may want to skip this one.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Four women. Four enchantments. One man. But he is no handsome prince, and this is no sugar-sweet fairy tale. Jo, Abony, Ranjani, and Maia all have something in common: they have each been cursed by the CEO of their workplace after he abused his power to prey on them. He wants them silent and uses his sinister dark magic to keep them quiet about what he did. But Jo, Abony, Ranjani and Maia are not fairy-tale princesses waiting to be rescued. They are fierce, angry women with a bond forged in pain, and they’re about to discover that they have power of their own.

In this sharply written, bitingly relevant modern fable, the magic is dark and damaging, and the women are determined to rescue themselves.

Strange Animals – Tom Jackson

This book combines two of my favourite things, photography and fun facts. Because I’ve devoured so many books with fascinating, adorable and weird animals over the years, there wasn’t a lot of information that was new to me here. It was still an entertaining read, though, and I loved the photos.

It’s always hard to choose my favourite facts. This time around I’ve picked two from each section: Asia, Africa, Australasia, North America, Central & South America, Europe and Oceans. They’re a combination of my favourite animals, photos and facts.

A tarsier’s eye is bigger than its brain.

At around 35cm (14 inches) from snout to tail, the tokay is the world’s largest gecko.

Photo of a torkay

A naked mole-rat queen “controls her workers using chemicals in her urine.”

The African fat-tailed gecko uses the fat stored in its tail when food becomes scarce.

Photo of an African fat-tailed gecko

The duck-billed platypus detects electrical currents produced by its prey with its bill.

Echidnas are related to the platypus. “It too lays eggs, and the pointed snout is sensitive to electricity given out by insect prey.”

Photo of an echidna

The thorn bug is a treehopper. “It sits on a twig and jabs its pointed mouthpart into plants.”

The rubber boa ties itself in a knot when it’s threatened.

Photo of a rubber boa

The pink river dolphin is born grey. When its skin rubs against objects, it becomes pinker.

The axolotl was named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning.

Photo of an axolotl

The wisent (European bison) is Europe’s largest wild land animal.

The Atlantic puffin’s diet consists solely of fish.

Photo of an Atlantic puffin

The Christmas tree worm grows on coral reefs around the world.

The Pacific hagfish have a “spiral of teeth that they twist into corpses to drill out a cylinder of flesh.”

Photo of a Pacific hagfish

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

How does a mudskipper fish manage to “walk” on land? Why is the Hoatzin also known as ‘The Stinkbird’? And once the female Pipa toad has laid her eggs, where does she put them?

The answers? The mudskipper can “walk” using its pectoral fins, the Hoatzin has a unique digestive system which gives the bird a manure-like odour, and the female Pipa Toad embeds its eggs on its back where they develop to adult stage.

Illustrated throughout with outstanding colour photographs, Strange Animals presents the most unusual aspects of 100 of the most unusual species. The selection spans a broad spectrum of wildlife, from the tallest land living mammal, the giraffe, to the light, laughing chorus of Australian kookaburra birds, from the intelligence of the Bottlenose dolphin to octopuses that change colour when they dream to the slow pace of the three-toed sloth.

Arranged geographically, the photographs are accompanied by fascinating captions, which explain the quirky characteristics of each entry. Including egg-laying mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, cannibalistic insects and other invertebrates, Strange Animals is a compelling introduction to some of nature’s most curious beasts.

Such Sharp Teeth – Rachel Harrison

It’s a miracle and it’s a curse, the secrets our bodies keep.

When Rory agreed to temporarily move back to her hometown to support her pregnant twin, Scarlett, irrevocable changes to her life (and body) weren’t what she had in mind. After running into Ian, who’s been in love with her forever, at a bar, she has an accident on her way home.

It wasn’t a bear that attacked Rory that night under the watchful gaze of the full moon. It turns out werewolves aren’t as fictional as we’ve all been led to believe.

“Yep. Werewolf,” I say. “A real thing apparently. Who knew?”

While Rory was justifiably concerned about Bambi’s welfare after the accident, it’s not Rory’s car Bambi needs to worry about; it’s her appetite.

The body horror is strong with this one, with the transformation process a particularly visceral experience. The close encounters with a smorgasbord of meats will mean you’re likely to either crave a big juicy steak while reading or reconsider your carnivore status entirely. Or, if you’re like me, your stomach will be turning even as you wish you had a cheeseburger in front of you waiting to be devoured.

Having a female werewolf central to the story doesn’t just make for an entertaining read. It also paves the way for themes of power and control, rage, how we live after trauma and the reclamation of bodily autonomy when your body has been used by another as an object and it doesn’t feel like you inhabit it anymore. Rory’s struggles with what her life looks like now and with her family and past are explored while she works her way through the deli section of the local supermarket.

In all the fairy tales, the wolf is big and bad and dangerous. A predator. Devious and evil. Something to be feared. But fairy tales are bullshit. Maybe wolves just get a bad edit.

There are worse things to be. I know because I’ve faced those monsters.

Content warnings include mention of domestic abuse, grooming, physical abuse and sexual assault. If you have emetophobia, do an about-face now. This is not the book for you.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.

Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver – and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else – something else. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside her the key to acceptance?

This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage and vulnerability.

Dinosaurs – Dean Lomax

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

October Animals – Nicholas Day

Searching for monsters can be dangerous.

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

“I can’t do this anymore.”

Owl is Lizzie’s best friend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

A House With Good Bones – T. Kingfisher

“The roses say to say your prayers”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Favourite no context quote:

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

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