Fractured Fables #1: A Spindle Splintered – Alix E. Harrow

Once upon a time, Lady Zinnia of Ohio met Princess Primrose of Perceforest and together they fucked with the fairytale.

Zinnia has spent her entire life living with the fact that she’s dying. On the night of her twenty-first birthday, which statistically will be her last, Zinnia finally finds a use for her impractical degree after accidentally multiversing her way into Princess Primrose’s story. Together these Sleeping Beauties plan to bend the arcs of their narratives.

I don’t know about the moral arc of the universe, but our arcs sure as hell don’t bend toward justice.

Unless we change them. Unless we grab our narratives by the ear and drag them kicking and screaming toward better endings. Maybe the universe doesn’t naturally bend toward justice either; maybe it’s only the weight of hands and hearts pulling it true, inch by stubborn inch.

I fell in love with this Spider-Verse Sleeping Beauty the first time I read it but my own once upon a time rudely interrupted me before I could wrangle my thoughts into sentences. I almost always plan to reread books when the release of their sequel is imminent and this time I actually followed through!

Rereading this novella today has only deepened my love for it. It was a timely reminder that no matter what your once upon a time looks like, your choices have the power to shape your ever after.

“I chose a different story for myself, a better one.”

I’m still convinced that Charm, Zinnia’s best friend, needs to be in charge of every PowerPoint presentation until the end of time.

No matter what’s going on in my life when I begin reading something Alix has written, I know I’ll feel better afterwards. What that better looks like might change slightly with each new read but invariably there’ll be hope and renewed determination to bend my own arc. And if my swear to non-swear ratio runs a tad higher in the days following the read, then all the better.

I think: oh, shit. I say, “Oh, shit.”

My preorder of A Mirror Mended arrived while I was finishing this reread and I can’t decide how to feel about starting it. I’ve waited for so long to see how this duology ends but therein lies the rub. Duology means both yay, there’s another one! and dammit, there won’t be another one after that.

While I ponder whether to power through the next one as quickly as possible to get my fix or drag it out to make it last, I’ll leave you with some fairytale wishes:

May fortune gift you a forever friend like Charm.

May you have the courage to love and be loved.

May help always come swiftly when you ask.

May your ever after outshine your once upon a time.

May you always have cause to speak in exclamation points!

Content warnings include mention of sexual assault.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

The Talents #1: Ordinary Monsters – J.M. Miro

This may well turn out to be my read of the year. I was initially fascinated by its premise but intimidated by its length. Give me two 300ish page novels to read and it’s likely I’ll ask you for another. A single book that exceeds 600 pages? It’s going to need to deliver pretty quickly or I’m probably going to abandon it.

Never fear! I was hooked from the get go and at no point did I think to myself, ‘Are we there yet?’ Despite its length, there were no wasted words. 

Before I’d even made it halfway I’d searched out and purchased a signed copy, already knowing it was destined to become a favourite. I’ve recommended it to everyone I’ve spoken to since I started it and can’t see that changing anytime soon. Now I’m telling you… READ. THIS. BOOK.

The worldbuilding was phenomenal. Not only could I clearly see every location, I could feel it. Don’t be surprised if, like me, you start Googling words like drughr, keywrasse and orsine because, while a part of you will be convinced they were created specifically for this world, you might just begin to wonder if you’re wrong.

All of the characters felt real to me. I got to know their backstories and experienced their defining moments alongside them. This enabled me to understand how they were behaving and why they were making specific decisions in the moment. 

I had favourite characters (Brynt and Ribs both stole my heart) but there wasn’t a single character I didn’t want to spend more time with. I absolutely adored their complexities. 

Clear-cut heroes and villains aren’t easy to find here. The people you think are good may actually have dark intentions. Those you think you’re going to love to hate will be so relatable and real that even when they’re doing something truly detestable, you’ll understand where they’re coming from and you might find yourself cheering them on. At times, two characters will be at odds and you’ll want them both to get what they want, even though that’s not possible.

So, I’ve gotten this far into my review and I’ve told you nothing about the plot. Despite making copious notes about characters, locations and themes as I was reading, intending them to form the bulk of my review, this is one of those books that I’d recommend you know as little as possible about before you dive in. The only thing I absolutely have to say is that I think I’ve now met the best cat ever. Oh, and I love bonebirds!

I need someone to make movies or a TV series of this trilogy. While I’m definitely satisfied with where I’ve had to leave all of my new favourite people (for now), if someone was inclined to sneak a copy of the sequel to me in maybe the next half an hour or so, I’d start reading it immediately. 

‘We cannot change what we are. Only what we do.’ 

Content warnings include domestic abuse, miscarriage, racism and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing for the opportunity to fall in love with this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The first in a captivating new historical fantasy series, Ordinary Monsters introduces the Talents with a catastrophic vision of the Victorian world, and the gifted, broken children who must save it.

There in the shadows was a figure in a cloak, at the bottom of the cobblestone stair, and it turned and stared up at them as still and unmoving as a pillar of darkness, but it had no face, only smoke…

1882. North of Edinburgh, on the edge of an isolated loch, lies an institution of crumbling stone, where a strange doctor collects orphans with unusual abilities. In London, two children with such powers are hunted by a figure of darkness – a man made of smoke.

Charlie Ovid discovers a gift for healing himself through a brutal upbringing in Mississippi, while Marlowe, a foundling from a railway freight, glows with a strange bluish light. When two grizzled detectives are recruited to escort them north to safety, they are confronted by a sinister, dangerous force that threatens to upend the world as they know it.

What follows is a journey from the gaslit streets of London to the lochs of Scotland, where other gifted children – the Talents – have been gathered at Cairndale Institute, and the realms of the dead and the living collide. As secrets within the Institute unfurl, Marlowe, Charlie and the rest of the Talents will discover the truth about their abilities and the nature of the force that is stalking them: that the worst monsters sometimes come bearing the sweetest gifts.

Miss Mary-Kate Martin’s Guide to Monsters #1: The Wrath of the Woolington Wyrm – Karen Foxlee

Illustrations – Freda Chiu

‘There are those that hunt monsters to harm them and there are those that hunt monsters to help them.’ 

Miss Mary-Kate Martin has much better shoes than I do, red sparkly ones. She also has the strawberry-scented notebook and glitter pens I desperately need in my life and the anxiety I’d like to return for a full refund. 

Mary-Kate is about to accompany her mother, Professor Martin (but we call her Prof), on an archaeological dig for the first time. Because Mary-Kate isn’t that good at beginnings or endings, she’d much prefer to stay at home with Granny, but Granny’s recently discovered the joys of bus trips so she’s off on her own adventure.

So, it’s time for a train ride (facing forward, of course) to the sleepy village of Woolington Well, which, incidentally, has a well.

While Prof is busy investigating some bones recently found in said well, Mary-Kate will be conducting her own investigation into why saucers of milk have been placed in front of every doorstep. Because Mary-Kate has an inquiring mind, she quickly becomes caught up in a century’s old town mystery. 

This was the strangest place she’d ever visited. 

Mary-Kate likes facts, red sparkles and infomercials. She doesn’t like complicated sandwiches, brown colouring-in pencils, small talk or mismatched clothing.

Her personality is complimented by new friend Lady Arabella Woolington, a bubbly, chatty local girl with an unforgettable hairstyle.

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During the course of her investigation, Mary-Kate also meets a pony who just wants to get on with their meal and some townsfolk who may have the answers to Mary-Kate’s questions about ‘the you-know-what’. 

‘The legend says it likes children.’ 

I loved the way anxiety was portrayed in this book. Mary-Kate is almost ten and she has a counsellor, Meg, who has taught her very helpful ways to manage her anxiety, including grounding, distraction and breathing techniques. 

Mary-Kate is a kind and compassionate girl. She not only notices when other people are struggling themselves but is able to suggest coping strategies to them based on what she’s found helpful.

I admire Mary-Kate’s determination and bravery, and love the creativity she uses in categorising her bad days with her “H scale of Horrid”.

At the beginning of each chapter, you’ll find a quote from P.K. Mayberry’s Complete Guide to Monsters of the Northern Hemisphere. These quotes invariably provide a clue about the chapter’s contents but also made me want to meet P.K. Mayberry.

My favourite Mayberry quote was: 

Monster hunter Professor Lavinia Lightfoot famously once said, ‘People who have seen a monster are usually a lot more interesting than people who haven’t.’ 

Freda Chiu’s illustrations are so much fun, regardless of whether they’re emphasising Lady Arabella Woolington’s halo of hair or capturing the disinterest of Pickles the pony. 

I absolutely adore Mary-Kate. I want to learn more about Prof. I really hope Lady Arabella Woolington finds a way to insert herself into at least one of Mary-Kate’s future investigations. 

I know it’s still early days but I’m confident I’ve found a new favourite series. I can’t wait to go monster hunting again! 

The Rule of Monsters states that people who have met one monster are statistically much more likely to meet another. 

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There are those that hunt monsters to harm them and there are those that hunt monsters to help them. Which one are you?

Dressed in sparkly red shoes and carrying her strawberry-scented notebook, Mary-Kate is accompanying her archaeologist mother to the tranquil English countryside to investigate some interesting bones found in an old well. But once they arrive, they realise that the village of Woolington is not as peaceful as it seems. Mysterious noises, earth tremors and a terrifying legend have the locals frightened. 

Could there be any truth in the myth of the beast who lives in the ancient well? And if so, why would it return? Mary-Kate might be anxious, but she is not afraid to get to the bottom of this monstrous mystery.

Beware, Beware the Drop Bear – Heath McKenzie

Drop bears are the stuff of legends. They’re as Australian as riding a kangaroo to school.

Doing their part to ensure this national treasure never faces extinction, Heath McKenzie takes what Aussies already know about this fearsome creature and runs with it. 

A classic Aussie father, complete with the requisite t-shirt tan line, thongs and propensity to kick back with their feet on an Esky, spins a yarn to a couple of kids. You just know he’s already told this story a hundred times, embellishing it more with every retelling.

The description of the drop bear becomes more outrageous as the story progresses (this drop bear even hands out vouchers for discounts on stuff!). 

Satisfied they’ve done what they can for the day to contribute to their children’s future therapy sessions, the adults have a good laugh. But maybe the joke’s on them…

The illustrations bring the character of the father to life and include some details that I loved, from the Acca Dacca singlet to the Bubble O’ Bill ice cream that’s currently melting all over one of the kids.

As an Australian, I fully endorse this addition to the drop bear legend. It’s fun and it’s silly and I know that I would have wanted to read this over and over as a kid. And maybe as an adult.

Bonus points for being released on April Fool’s Day!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

For many long years, tales have been spread, that fill (mostly tourists) with horror and dread.

Tales about creatures all covered in hair that lurk in the branches – YOU’D BETTER BEWARE!

You’d better look up. You’d better run fast … for maybe the DROP BEARS have found you at last!

Worst Week Ever! #2: Tuesday – Eva Amores & Matt Cosgrove

After starting his Monday at the ungodly time of 5am, Justin Chase gets a bit of a sleep in today. He needed it, though, what with everything he endured yesterday. Not that he was sleeping in a comfy bed or anything. 

His missing cat, presumably abducted by aliens (although between you and I, it wouldn’t surprise me if Captain Fluffykins turns out to be the alien), appeared on the TV screen at midnight. While the TV was unplugged, mind you. Naturally, Justin fainted at this point, which is why he’s woken up on the floor.

Perhaps he should have stayed asleep because the Code Brown incident from yesterday, which should never be spoken of again, has gone viral. 

But the show must go on and today’s school photo day!

Justin is keen to break his unintentional school photo tradition. It’s not too much to ask to have one school photo where your eyes are open, is it?

Today’s also the day of the Super Science Spectacular.

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‘WHO’S READY TO BE SCIENCED?’ 

Tuesday was just as much fun to read about as Monday, with the events of Monday creating a domino effect that I expect to compound as the week progresses. While bodily functions weren’t focused on quite as much, scenes of kid friendly body horror added to the humour. I’m not ashamed to say that I experienced schadenfreude while watching Justin unwittingly wander from one excruciatingly embarrassing moment to the next.

I need to spend some time in the Wally Valley Public School Library, where you should be on the look out for a sneaky cameo of Macca the Alpaca and Dharma the Llama. There’s even a book vending machine.

The illustrations remain engaging and funny. I was hoping for as many deleted scenes as there were in the first book but only encountered one; it did feature adorable piglets, though, so all is forgiven.

Mia’s drawings are still brilliant. Is it creepy if I tell you her zombie unicorn is to die for?

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Justin’s Nan, who I flagged as my potential series favourite in the first book, didn’t have much to do in this one. I’m still holding out hope that she’ll claim her prize before the end of the week, although Mia is definitely a contender.

Justin has now survived Miserable Monday and Traumatic Tuesday. It’s a good thing he wore his lucky undies to school today or who knows what might have happened?!

What’s in store for Wacky Wednesday? I can only imagine. The only thing I know for sure is it won’t be boring.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have YOU ever had a BAD WEEK?

Justin Chase sure has, and THIS is it!

He barely made it through MONDAY, but now it’s … TUESDAY!

His cat is still missing, probably abducted by aliens. His dad is more embarrassing than ever. He’s unexpectedly gone viral online in the worst possible way. And when school photo day collides with the Super Science Spectacular, it’s destined to blow up into a hair-raising, teeth-shattering disaster of epic proportions!

Aveline Jones #1: The Haunting of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes

Illustrations – Keith Robinson

“Do you ever feel like something bad is about to happen? I’ve been getting that a lot lately.”

P.P.

Aveline Jones loves ghost stories and cheese sandwiches. She’s not thrilled with the idea of staying with her Aunt Lilian in Malmouth while her mother visits her granny in hospital.

Before long, though, Aveline finds the perfect book of ghost stories, along with the diary of Primrose Penberthy, a missing local girl. Aveline suspects the two books are connected.

Part of her wished she’d never picked it up. Or the book of ghost stories. They appeared to be leading her to a place she wasn’t wholly sure she wanted to go.

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This story takes place around Halloween and Malmouth has the perfect weather for a spooky adventure. There are even some really creepy childlike scarecrows.

I’m all set because Malmouth has a second hand bookstore and coffee shop. You will love the bookseller immediately and you’ll want to be friends with his great-nephew (not immediately because he’s shy and can seem kinda grumpy at times, but he’ll grow on you).

Aunt Lilian, who quite possibly has OCD, seemed a bit prickly at first but by the end of the story I wanted to go get a coffee with her. Aunt Lilian also provided me with my favourite sentence:

“So is there anything the matter, Aveline, or have you just decided to be pale and interesting today?”

I loved the mystery; the excerpts from Primrose’s diary, along with the newspaper article Aveline reads, really helped to draw me in. I was a scaredy-cat as a kid so I doubt I would have been able to read this book after dark, although it’s the kind of scary that would have both freaked me out and made me want to keep reading.

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I absolutely adored Keith Robinson’s illustrations. They capture the atmosphere of the story brilliantly and the scarecrow pictures, in particular, are creepy as hell. The cover image is absolutely gorgeous – Aveline looks just as I imagined she would and the weather, which has a significant part to play in the story, is highlighted.

I’m so glad Aveline has more stories to tell. I’m already looking forward to the sequel, The Bewitching of Aveline Jones, which also has an amazing cover.

Reread 20 May 2022

It’s so rare for me to reread a book, not because I don’t want to but because my TBR pile is always threatening to bury me alive. My library has now purchased the sequel and I couldn’t resist returning with Aveline to Malmouth before finding out what spookiness she encounters next.

I enjoyed this read just as much as I did the first time around. I was reminded of how much I liked Ghost Girl and Book Boy, and how perfectly the illustrations complimented the story. I appreciated the connection between the creepy scarecrows and the crossed out story in Aveline’s book more this time around. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if the release of the third book in the series makes me want to dive back into the cold, dark water with the lady in the waves. 

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Aveline Jones loves reading ghost stories, so a dreary half-term becomes much more exciting when she discovers a spooky old book. Not only are the stories spine-tingling, but it once belonged to Primrose Penberthy, who vanished mysteriously, never to be seen again. Intrigued, Aveline decides to investigate Primrose’s disappearance.

Now someone … or something, is stirring. And it is looking for Aveline.

Turn on your torches, and join Aveline Jones in her first charmingly spooky mystery, from debut author Phil Hickes.

Day of the Whale – Rachel Delahaye

Thirteen year old Cam and his mother live in Cetacea (pronounced Si-tay-sha), the part of Australia that survived the third flood. The residents of Cetacea worship Big Blue, whose words are interpreted by Byron Vos, the founder of Cetacea and the only person who can talk to whales. Together, Cam and his fellow Cetaceans are working to repair the damage people have done to the environment.

‘Look after the Earth and the Earth will look after you.’ 

The last words Cam’s father said to him before he left have become Cam’s mission. 

Follow Big Blue. Find the truth. 

Together with his new friends, Banjo (like the frog) and Petra, Cam begins to question the truths he’s grown up with. On the surface, Cetacea appears perfect but when you look a little closer you realise this utopian society may actually be a dystopia.

Cam and his friends are not encouraged to think for themselves. They’re expected to accept the status quo without question. 

Cam’s journey explores the bonds of family, the depths of grief and the value of friendship. You might think this book is about whales and you’d be right. Fundamentally, though, it is about asking questions. Being curious and seeking knowledge. Thinking for yourself rather than blindly accepting everything you see and hear as truth. 

‘Fill your head with questions,’ he advised. ‘Because if you don’t, someone else will fill it with lies.’ 

This story is unlike anything I’ve previously read by this author but I loved it. I really liked getting to know Cam and Banjo but it was Petra who stole my heart. She’s an individual, she’s a survivor and this girl has spunk.

I love it when names have meaning in books. In case you’re wondering, cetaceans are marine mammals; they include whales, dolphins and porpoises. The name given to the people who visited Arlo was especially appropriate.

As an Australian, I appreciated the inclusion of the local wildlife in this book, although I was saddened to learn that even if I made it safely to Cetacea, my home would be submerged.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be at the beach looking for cetaceans.

Thank you so much to the author for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“Follow Big Blue”. These were the last words that Cam’s father said to him. So Cam follows Big Blue, the giant whale-god, as does everyone else on Cetacea, an island in the flooded future.

The islanders’ lives play out under Big Blue’s rules, which are communicated to them by the enigmatic whale-talker, Byron Vos. Byron was once a marine scientist and is now organising an epic clean-up operation to revive the ocean after centuries of human greed and neglect. 

But, as the story unfolds, Cam begins to wonder if all is not quite as it seems. Could there be a more complex truth behind Byron’s actions? A truth that may be connected to Cam’s father’s disappearance? 

Cam’s quest to understand life under Big Blue leads him to new friends and shared adventures – but the truth, when he discovers it, turns out to be far more dangerous than he ever could have imagined.

Friday Barnes #10: Undercover – R.A. Spratt

We catch up with Friday Barnes exactly where we left her at the end of No Escape, pondering a job offer that would allow her to work alongside Ian, her “super-hot, brilliant, emotionally unstable boyfriend”. It’s a big decision but first Friday needs to solve some mysteries. Besides, they’re a good cover story for running away. 

‘There’s nothing wrong with running away,’ said Melanie. ‘Not if you’re being chased by a bear or a chainsaw-wielding psychopath.’ 

Melanie’s brother, Binky, is in Norway. His girlfriend is a princess and the only way to make her father semi okay with their relationship was for Binky to sign up to serve two years in the Norwegian army. The only problem is, he might be getting kicked out of the army and if that happens, it’s goodbye Ingrid. 

What mystery does this involve? Dereliction of duty. See, Binky was on guard duty and it appeared he fell asleep on the job but he wasn’t actually asleep. He was knocked unconscious by a polar bear and no one will believe him. Friday thinks the polar bear was framed.

Friday is also busy solving the case of the missing clothes and the case of the missing artwork. 

‘I need you to do that thing where you crawl along the floor sniffing things, then stand up and patronise everyone for five minutes before revealing who did it.’ 

That doesn’t mean there’s no time for playing dress up and dancing. Luckily for Friday, she has an awkward-social-situation ejector button. It works sometimes.

Melanie still managed to snag her fair share of the best lines; when she was awake, that is. Binky just gets more and more adorable every time I see him. 

My favourite character in this book, though, was Arthur. Anyone who hides behind a curtain reading a book because there’s a social gathering going on is my kind of human being. 

‘You are a very strange boy,’ said Friday.
‘I know,’ said Arthur. ‘I try to hide it, but everyone sees right through me.’ 

Ten books in and I’m still loving this series. I can’t wait for the next one!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Friday is not running away. Yes, she did get on a train to Norway without telling anyone where she was going – but she had to help Binky. He may or may not have been attacked by a polar bear. Now he’s facing court martial for dereliction of duty. Obviously, Friday had to drop everything and travel 3000 kilometres to solve the case.

The fact that it’s easier to handle her feelings for Ian Wainscott if there’s a continent between them is just a coincidence. When Friday arrives in Oslo, there are so many mysteries to solve. Is someone trying to keep Binky and Princess Ingrid apart? How can a painting leave a museum when all the doors are sealed? And will Melanie persuade Friday to go to the royal ball without wearing a brown cardigan?

If Friday survives her trip to the remote Global Seed Vault, we may find out.

Take a Breath – Sujean Rim

Sometimes something on your do to list starts climbing over all of the other somethings, eager to capture your attention. They think if they’re the loudest and can make you start to panic, you’ll set aside the dozen or so other things that are due first just to silence them. 

Sometimes when this happens, you might forget how important breathing is. But sometimes, just sometimes, life intervenes on your behalf. You pick up a book, look at the title and chuckle to yourself about the irony. This is that book.

Meet Bob, my new favourite feathered friend. Unlike the other birds, Bob can’t fly. Yet.

He doesn’t let being grounded get him down. He fills his time puzzling solutions to age old questions and getting to know the land dwelling locals. Bob also has good taste in music.

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I love Bob’s persistence and the creativity he applies to learning how to fly. Some of Bob’s more humorous attempts at taking flight involve a balloon, slingshot and springs.

Bob might be many things but, like most of us, he’s not immune to self doubt. What are some of the best things about Bob? He recognises when he needs help and is open to trying new things.

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Enter Crow, my other new favourite feathered friend. Crow empathises with Bob and is willing to share what helped them when they were in a similar situation. Crow is patient, kind and encouraging.

Bob and Crow teach (or remind) readers of the importance of mindfulness. By focusing on his breathing (sounds simple until you realise you’ve been either holding your breath or are on your way to hyperventilating), Bob is able to centre himself. 

The lessons in this book are easy to apply and realistic. A couple of really important things happen that make all the difference to Bob. Someone has cared enough to listen to his concerns and validated him, and the breathing technique Crow has taught him has quietened his mind and helped regulate his body. 

Do these things magically solve all of Bob’s problems? No, but he sure is in a better frame of mind to tackle them. 

Sometimes you just have to be grounded before you can fly. 

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

An anxious baby bird who fears he’ll never learn to fly gets a lesson in mindfulness in this funny and sweetly encouraging picture book about believing in yourself.

Every morning, the birds are flapping with excitement for their first flight of the day … except for Bob. Bob doesn’t get the whole flying thing; when the other baby birds go up, up, up, he goes down, down, down. Bob can’t help worrying … what if he never learns how to fly? 

His friend Crow tells him, “All you need to do is breathe, Bob.” Of course, Bob breathes all the time, but there’s breathing and then there’s B-R-E-A-T-H-I-N-G. And it might just be the thing to calm Bob’s ruffled feathers.

On Reckoning – Amy Remeikis

This is such a small book but it packs a punch. Tracing the political floundering that was evident from the Prime Minister’s initial response to Brittany Higgins’ allegation (I hate that word but … Australian defamation law, etc) that she was raped in Parliament House to the dismal response to those made against a senior minister of government, the rage is evident – and justified.

Sometimes you read a book that says many of the things you want to say, only better. This is one of them. I tried really hard to minimise the amount of quotes I wanted to include here but, as you’ll see, I failed miserably. 

I present to you the sentences I couldn’t leave behind: 

Lines were drawn between those who lived in the before time, and those who knew what the after felt like. 

Staying quiet can save your life, but eventually, all that quiet begins to scream. 

Your body can’t forget trauma. It holds the sights and the scents and the sounds deep in your tissue. 

We all know someone who has been sexually assaulted, or know of someone who has been, but we never seem to know the perpetrators. And yet, that’s statistically impossible. Someone is carrying out these assaults; someone is creating this trauma. 

There is every chance that someone in your everyday life is someone else’s monster. 

Anger can be destructive, but it can also be transformative. Used well, it can bring about a necessary clarity, stripping back all the frosting to what lies rotten underneath. 

Flight, fight, freeze and fawn, and everything in between, are completely legitimate responses to fear, and if you are having a fear response, you’re in an unsafe situation. 

In 2020, the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reported that about 15,000 women came forward to report a sexual assault. Only 2 per cent – or about 300 – of those cases led to a guilty verdict in court.
And those were the ones that made it to court.
Commissioner Fuller himself reported that only about 10 per cent of the sexual assault allegations taken to NSW officers led to charges being laid. Of that 10 per cent taken to court, only 10 per cent would lead to a conviction. 

Not everyone can tell their story. And no-one has to. After everything else has been ripped away from you, your story is your own. Telling, not telling – none of it makes you any less brave, less worthy. Just putting one step in front of the other after all you’ve been through is more than enough. Your story belongs to no-one but you, and you don’t owe it to anyone to share. 

There’s no right way to do any of this. Remember that, and do what it is that works for you. 

Reckonings don’t come for free. It’s always been broken people, patched back together, who pay. And pay they do, to try to make sure those coming after them will never know what it costs. 

I only wish this book was longer.

Content warnings include domestic and family abuse, miscarriage and sexual assault.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

On Reckoning tells of the moment when the personal became very political, when rape became the national conversation.

What happens when the usual political tactics of deflect and dodge are no longer enough?

A reckoning.

The Guardian’s political reporter Amy Remeikis has spoken before about being a survivor of sexual assault, but Brittany Higgins going public with her story ripped the curtain back not just on political attempts to deal with real-world issues, but also how unsafe women can be, even inside the most protected building in the country.

Amy didn’t expect to see political leaders fumble the moment so completely. And what followed was people taking back the conversation from the politicians.

On Reckoning is a searing account of Amy’s personal and professional rage, taking you inside the parliament – and out – during one of the most confronting and uncomfortable conversations in recent memory.