The Indian Lake Trilogy #2: Don’t Fear the Reaper – Stephen Graham Jones

“You don’t get to pick your genre”

I love Jade Daniels! Not to bits and pieces, as would be Dark Mill South’s preference, but enough. As far as I’m concerned, she was final girl material long before the events of My Heart is a Chainsaw. You don’t survive what she has without being able to think on your feet, trust what your gut is telling you and learning how to outmanoeuvre whoever’s playing the role of Big Bad today.

Jade’s love and extensive knowledge of horror movies helped her make it to the sequel with a heartbeat. While Jade spent her life prior to Jaws Night praying for a slasher to bloody up Proofrock, she’s not actively trying to conjure up a sequel. Having now lived through a reddening, Jade is only too aware of how it feels when fiction becomes reality.

The girl she used to be would have been thrilled about all this, would have had her black pompoms out, to cheer it on.

She’s different now, though. This isn’t exciting to her anymore. It’s exactly as terrifying as it should be.

Despite the absolute kickassness she displayed in her first Proofrock massacre, Jade still doesn’t see herself as a final girl. She probably never will. But I see you, Jade, even when you’re calling yourself Jennifer.

“But you’re still you. Different name, same girl.”

While I really liked Letha in the first book, she ramped up her badassness in this one. I would distract Dark Mill South to give this woman a better chance of surviving the slaughter.

Initially, I only wanted to hear from Jade. And maybe Letha. It wasn’t long, though, before the multiple perspectives won me over.

I missed Jade’s history essays so much! They were entertaining, insightful and obviously well researched. I need every horror movie to come with a Stephen Graham Jones commentary.

I attended some of the most difficult appointments of my life last year and, in preparation, someone suggested I choose a book character I could channel to get me through them. I chose Jade Daniels. Before every appointment I’d reread all of the sentences I highlighted in My Heart is a Chainsaw. I’d think about Jade’s strength as I walked into every appointment and would borrow what I needed.

When I love a book the way I loved My Heart is a Chainsaw, the prospect of a sequel both thrills and terrifies me. I can’t wait to spend more time with the strangers turned kindred spirits I met in the first book. At the same time, I worry that a sequel won’t be able to replicate the magic I found there. Don’t Fear the Reaper exceeded my expectations.

Now I’m worried about the third book, but only because it’s the final book in the series. I never want to say goodbye to Jade Daniels. She’ll always be my final girl.

Quote that hit me the hardest:

“I was a scared little girl, I thought – I thought if I knew all the rules, if I knew all the rules, then that would mean – that would mean nothing would happen to me!”

Come to Proofrock, the town that’s gonna need a bigger morgue. The snow is red this year, the movie references are prolific and your insides can become your outsides, even though it’s slasher off season.

“They’re-they’re all dead, I think. Including … me.”

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Four years after her tumultuous senior year, Jade Daniels is released from prison right before Christmas when her conviction is overturned. But life beyond bars takes a dangerous turn as soon as she returns to Proofrock. Convicted Serial Killer, Dark Mill South, seeking revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes from his prison transfer due to a blizzard, just outside of Proofrock, Idaho.

Dark Mill South’s Reunion Tour began on December 12th, 2019, a Thursday.

Thirty-six hours and twenty bodies later, on Friday the 13th, it would be over.

The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #8: Logan Likes Mary Anne! – Gale Galligan

Text – Ann M. Martin

Colour – Braden Lamb

Cam Geary’s lookalike has started attending Stoneybrook Middle School and Mary Anne is all about the swoon.

I love this adaptation, especially seeing Mary Anne’s face when Claudia calls her out for having a crush on Logan.

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For some reason, my reviews of the BSC graphic novels started with me playing spot the difference between them and the book, and now I can’t stop. So, here’s some of the differences I noticed and random things I feel compelled to comment on.

The cover image is gorgeous. Mary Anne’s outfit has a bunch of differences.

Book: White skirt with sketchy pink and blue pictures.
Graphic novel: Orange skirt with white pictures.
Book: Pink shirt and baggy pink sweater.
Graphic novel: White shirt.
Book: White slippers with pink and blue edging.
Graphic novel: Pink shoes.
Book: Smushed orange flower pinned to her outfit. I loved the smushed flower!
Graphic novel: Flower tied to her wrist.

Graphic novel: We learn that it’s possible what Kristy learned about decorum in the first book hasn’t stuck.

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Book: Because everything is right in the universe, Mallory is not a BSC member yet.
Graphic novel: Mallory is still a BSC member before her time. Yes, I’ll probably mention this every single time until she’s supposed to be.

Book: Mary Anne gets all melty about Cam Geary being on the cover of Sixteen magazine and talks about how the previous issue had an article about him.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne gets all melty about Cam Geary being on the cover of Sixteen magazine and says she’s not usually into it but … 😍, Cam Geary.

Graphic novel: One of the reasons Mary Anne is in love with Cam Geary is because he knits. Very appropriate. I don’t remember this being mentioned in the book.

Book: Mary Anne and Dawn make it to Claudia’s room after only calling out hello to Janine.
Graphic novel: Janine tries to tell Dawn about California’s almond exports on her way to the first BSC meeting of the story.

Book: During the first meeting, Claudia and Stacey are sitting on the bed, while Dawn and Mary Anne sit on the floor.
Graphic novel: Claudia is on the bed and Stacey is on the floor. Dawn joins Claudia on the bed. Also, Mallory is there (see above grumble).

Book: Cam Geary is dating Corrie Lalique. An awkward, not entirely okay discussion ensues about the size of her breasts.
Graphic novel: Cam Geary is dating Corrie Lalique. Corrie is not defined by her breasts. Yay!

Book: Mary Anne’s gym class play field hockey.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne attempts to run in gym class.

Book: Mary Anne always gets home from BSC meetings before her father finishes work. It’s her responsibility to start dinner.
Graphic novel: Mr Spier is home, casually reading a book, when Mary Anne returns from a BSC meeting. Mary Anne and he talk about his love life. That does not happen in the book.

Graphic novel: Mallory is there during the emergency meeting and suggests that Jessi Ramsey could be another junior officer. A trial for Jessi while Stacey is babysitting Charlotte is organised. Jessi shouldn’t be in Stoneybrook yet.

Book: Logan sits next to Mary Anne during the emergency BSC meeting.
Graphic novel: Logan sits next to Dawn during the emergency BSC meeting.

I loved watching Mary Anne spruce herself up for the BSC meeting that Logan attends, even though the outfit she eventually chooses is different than the one she wears in the book.
Book: Bright vest over a white short sleeved blouse.
Graphic novel: Green shirt with cats on it and a light green cardigan.
Jessi is there and that’s when we’re introduced to her. Jessi says her family haven’t found a house yet but in the book, I’m almost positive her family has already moved in before we meet her.

Book: Stacey had to introduce Mary Anne because she can’t speak in front of Logan yet.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne actually finds the words to introduce herself and her role in the BSC.

Book: Awkward bra snapping story.
Graphic novel: There’s no awkward bra snapping story.

Book: Jackie Rodowsky is known for his red hair.
Graphic novel: Jackie Rodowsky has brown hair.

Book: Mary Anne thinks of her own picture she drew of a house but doesn’t say anything.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne makes a quip when Logan says he has a picture just like that one that he drew. Mary Anne should be too overcome to say anything, let alone anything smart, at this point.

Book: Logan’s scar is on his lip.
Graphic novel: Logan’s scar is near his lip.

Book: Logan and Mary Anne remember what they said about how much trouble can one kid be in front of Jackie.
Graphic novel: Logan and Mary Anne remember what they said about how much trouble can one kid be after they finish the babysitting job.

Book: Stacey reads Happy Birthday to You by Dr Seuss to Charlotte. Paddington Takes to the Air and Tik-Tok of Oz are also mentioned.
Graphic novel: Jessi reads Harriet’s Happy Birthday by P.G. Bunsworth to Charlotte. No other books are mentioned.

Graphic novel: There’s no mention of the underwear or sportwear departments when the girls go shopping for Mary Anne’s dance outfit.

Graphic novel: The dance begins at 7:30pm and ends at 9:30pm. Mary Anne worries that she won’t be able to find enough things to talk about with Logan for three hours. Maybe swooning affects your ability to do math?

Graphic novel: Claudia does Mary Anne’s makeup for the dance. What would Mr Spier have to say about that?

Book: Mary Anne sits in the bleachers after the shoe incident.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne hides in the toilets after the shoe incident before moving to the bleachers.

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Graphic novel: We meet Becca Ramsey in chapter 12 and learn the Ramseys are currently staying in a hotel. Not awesome, but they do have a buffet with pizza bites. Maybe it’s not so bad after all.

Book: Jessi’s books are in storage.
Graphic novel: Jessi and Mallory bond over the Off Your High Horse book series.

Book: Stacey says she’ll call Logan to let him know about the change of time for the party.
Graphic novel: Stacey says she’s already called Logan to let him know about the change of time for the party.

Book: Mary Anne arrives late to the party.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne arrives at the party on time, thanks to advice from her father.

Book: Stacey does the whole mood lighting thing before the rec room goes dark.
Graphic novel: There’s no mood lighting.

Graphic novel: Logan asks Mary Anne if it’s okay for him to call her his girlfriend.
Book: This did not happen in the book. Why did this not happen in the book?! This is awesome!

Book: Logan doesn’t want to join the BSC because of the whole embarassing being a boy at a girl club thing.
Graphic novel: Logan’s reason for not wanting to join the BSC is because he forgot he is supposed to babysit his siblings during club times on Monday and Wednesday. I’m glad the original reason was changed but this seems like a pretty lame excuse.

Book: Tigger’s siblings are two red tabbies and “one splotchy, patchy calico”.
Graphic novel: Tigger’s siblings look just like him so there’s no specific reason why he’s the right one.

Graphic novel: Logan goes back to Mary Anne’s house with her and Tigger, and hangs out with her in her bedroom! Not something Mr Spier would have approved of.

Book: Mary Anne and Stacey sort things out over the phone.
Graphic novel: Mary Anne and Stacey sort things out in person.

Book: The BSC members bring Mary Anne the leftovers of the cake and there’s enough for four small slices.
Graphic novel: The BSC members bring over an entire cake. Much better! Also, Logan, Mallory and Jessi are there.

Book: Mary Anne gets a Smash tape from Kristy, socks from Stacey, a shirt from Dawn and jewellery from Claudia.
Graphic novel: the Smash tape becomes yarn and Mallory and Jessi give her books.

Book: Logan becomes an associate member over the phone.
Graphic novel: Logan and Jessi become members at Mary Anne’s house.

Graphic novel: The Chewy Perkins incident doesn’t happen.

Book: Kristy mentions that Louie is getting old, foreshadowing the trauma that is to come.
Graphic novel: Louie isn’t mentioned.

I’m not emotionally ready for the next book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s the first day of a new school year, and while Mary Anne doesn’t know what to expect from the eighth grade, she’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. One thing she definitely doesn’t expect is to meet Logan Bruno, who just moved to Stoneybrook!

Logan has a dreamy southern accent, he’s awfully cute… and he might be interested in joining the BSC. But the baby-sitters aren’t sure if Logan would make a good club member, so they send him on a job with Mary Anne as a test. Logan and Mary Anne hit it off, but Mary Anne isn’t sure of where their friendship could go. Life in the Baby-sitters Club has never been this complicated – or this fun!

The Baby-Sitters Club #10: Logan Likes Mary Anne! – Ann M. Martin

Before you get all swoony over Logan Bruno from Louisville, Kentucky (complete with southern accent), make sure you’ve read Kristy’s Big Day, Claudia and Mean Janine, Boy-Crazy Stacey and The Ghost at Dawn’s House as there are spoilers for all of these in the intro.

Mary Anne, the romantic of the BSC, was already pretty swoony about Cam Geary so you can imagine the effect encountering his lookalike at school has on her. It’s essentially love at first drool.

Mary Anne isn’t the only one swooning over Logan, though. All of the BSC members do and if you look at the original cover illustration, it looks like Jackie Rodowsky is a bit swoony as well.

This isn’t the first time Mary Anne’s hormones have kicked in. Remember Sea City? But Logan isn’t a summer fling, even though it would have been all sorts of lovely if he’d been her first kiss.

We babysit Jenny Prezzioso, David Michael Thomas, Karen and Andrew Brewer, Charlotte Johanssen, Buddy, Suzi and Marni Barrett, the Pikes, the Marshalls, Myriah and Gabbie (plus Chewy the dog) Perkins, Jamie (“hi-hi!”) and Lucy Newton, the two Ohdner girls (no, we haven’t met them before), Jackie Rodowsky (the Rodowsky’s are also newbie BSC clients) and four Morgan boys.

Dawn wears a “pretty snappy outfit – hot-pink shorts with a big, breezy island-print shirt over a white tank top.”

Mary Anne comes up with her very own great idea but Kristy comes up with the name “associate member” for Logan. I’d forgotten that he’d said he had some guy friends who might want to babysit for the BSC as well. I don’t remember that ever eventuating.

Claudia serves refreshments junk food. She also almost commits the apparently unpardonable sin of saying “bra strap in front of a boy.”

Stacey does a Porky Pig impressions. That’s all folks.

Mary Anne gets her first bra on the first day of eighth grade. Now Kristy is the only braless BSC member.

Kristy has to take a bus to school instead of walking with ex-next door neighbour, Mary Anne, like every other first day of school. Incidentally, the first day of school is a Thursday.

When I first read this book, I didn’t realise that Chewbacca Perkins was named after someone…

The BSC members hold an emergency meeting (naturally) but this one is called by Claudia. They even cancel a meeting; getting Mary Anne ready for the dance is more important, even for Kristy, who is the one to suggest cancelling the meeting.

“I say we cancel today’s club meeting and go over to Mary Anne’s instead.”

Then Stacey calls a special BSC meeting at Mary Anne’s house on a Sunday. Has Kristy lost all control?

The school cafeteria food includes “a dirty sock that’s been left out in the rain and then hidden in a dark closet for three weeks” and “steamed rubber in Turtle Wax”.

Mary Anne’s classes are English, math, gym, social studies, science, French and she has homeroom, lunch and study hall.

I looked forward to using a folder with looseleaf paper, just like Mary Anne, when I first read this book. At the time it felt like a more mature way of doing school than the exercise books I was used to.

If I was Mary Anne, my favourite birthday present (besides Tigger) would have been the wind-up dinosaur that shoots sparks out of its mouth. Good one, Alan Gray, you pest.

By the numbers: Mary Anne’s locker combination is 132, her homeroom number is 216, the club members each pay $1 per week in club dues, Logan’s phone number (in case you want to call him and swoon) is KL51018, Mary Anne has a 10 minute phone call limit and Stacey has a 5 minute phone call limit when she’s calling Laine in New York (she’s found a loophole, though).

Stoneybrook Central Time: At the beginning of this book, it’s been over two months since the end of seventh grade and it’s the final day of summer vacation. Stacey and her family have lived in Stoneybrook for a year now. Mary Anne, the youngest current BSC member, won’t turn 13 for a few weeks.

Up next: Kristy gets to know some snobs and Ann M. Martin traumatises me for life.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It used to be that Mary Anne had to wear her hair in braids and ask her dad before did anything. But not anymore. Mary Anne has been growing up … and the Baby-sitters Club members aren’t the only ones who’ve noticed.

Logan Bruno likes Mary Anne! He has a dreamy southern accent, he’s awfully cute – and he wants to join the Baby-sitters Club.

The Baby-sitters aren’t sure Logan will make a good club member. And Mary Anne thinks she’s too shy for Logan. Life in the Baby-sitters Club has never been this complicated – or this fun!


The Baby-Sitters Club Graphic Novels #7: Boy-Crazy Stacey – Gale Galligan

Text – Ann M. Martin

Colour – Braden Lamb

Welcome to one of my childhood favourite BSC books, which is adorable as a graphic novel.

There are a lot of minor changes in this graphic novel. Most don’t make any difference and there are some improvements on the original, but since I’ve already said pretty much everything I need to about the story in my review of the book, here are some of the changes I noticed.

Stacey’s hair is quite short. It doesn’t line up with the descriptions in the books, but it looks cute and I think I prefer it this way.

Book: Mallory hasn’t been initiated into the BSC yet. She is not at the party at Kristy’s new mansion.
Graphic novel: Mallory is a BSC Junior Officer. She is at the party at Kristy’s new mansion. I’m never going to be okay with Mallory joining the BSC before her time.

Book: Stacey’s mother offers her apple slices to take with her to Kristy’s new mansion.
Graphic novel: Stacey’s father offers her pretzel sticks to take with her to Kristy’s new mansion.

Book: Stacey’s father is in the garden when she’s leaving for the mansion.
Graphic novel: Stacey’s father is inside sitting on an office chair when she’s leaving for the mansion.

Book: Mimi is in the car when Mr Kishi drives Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey to Kristy’s house. Given Mimi’s recent stroke, this makes sense to me.
Graphic novel: Mimi is not in the car when Mr Kishi drives Claudia, Mary Anne and Stacey to Kristy’s house. Is anyone at the Kishi’s house making sure my Mimi is okay?

Book: It’s Kristy’s idea for the BSC members to write to each other while they’re separated for two whole weeks.
Graphic novel: It’s Mary Anne’s idea for the BSC members to write to each other while they’re separated for two whole weeks. While Mary Anne is the sentimental type, I kinda like the idea of this being homework from Kristy.

Book: Stacey’s bikini is yellow and skimpy.
Graphic novel: Stacey’s bikini has flowers on it and no yellow.

Book: Stacey’s mother gives her stamps for postcards.
Graphic novel: Stacey already has stamps for postcards when her mother asks about them.

Book: On the way to Sea City, the Pikes stop for ice cream at Howard Johnson’s.
Graphic novel: On the way to Sea City, the Pikes stop for ice cream at Happy’s Ice Cream.

Book: Nicky makes a VOMIT COMET sign in response to the triplet’s BARFMOBILE sign.
Graphic novel: Nicky doesn’t make his sign. This sign delighted me as a kid. I wish it had stayed.

Book: Scott has blonde hair.
Graphic novel: Scott has brown hair.

Book: Hunky lifeguard Scott is 18 years old.
Graphic novel: Hunky lifeguard Scott is 15 years old. That’s much better!

Book: The Enchanted Tree at Burger Garden has chocolate bars. If you find one with a golden wrapper you win a prize.
Graphic novel: The Enchanted Tree at Burger Garden has mystery eggs. If you’re lucky you’ll find a coupon inside one.

Book: Claire brings Mary Anne butter for her sunburn.
Graphic novel: Claire brings Mary Anne peanut butter when she’s sunburnt because it’s yummy. Good thinking, Claire.

Book: The Pikes go to Fred’s Putt-Putt Course.
Graphic novel: The Pikes go to Marty’s Mini Golf.

Book: Stacey and Mary Anne arrive at Hercules’ Hot Dogs before Alex and Toby.
Graphic novel: Alex and Toby are waiting outside Hercules Hot Dogs when Stacey and Mary Anne arrive.

Book: Stacey has a hamburger at Hercules’ Hot Dogs.
Graphic novel: Stacey has a vegie dog at Hercules Hot Dogs.

Burger Garden was awesome! I need to go there.

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Claire is just as skilled at miniature golf as she is in the book.

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Scott doesn’t act all creepy with Stacey, which is a huge relief.

I will always love Sea City. I went there so many times with Mary Anne and Stacey when I was a kid that it began to feel like my very own holiday destination.

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Stacey and Mary Anne are baby-sitting for the Pike family for two weeks at the New Jersey shore. Things are great in Sea City: There’s a gorgeous house right on the beach, a boardwalk, plenty of sun and sand… and the cutest boy Stacey has ever seen!

Mary Anne thinks that Stacey should leave Scott alone and focus on the Pike kids, but Stacey’s in love. Looking for reasons to hang around his lifeguard stand takes up all of her time, which means Mary Anne has to do the job of two baby-sitters. Mary Anne doesn’t like it one bit! How can she tell Stacey that Scott just isn’t interested without ruining their friendship and breaking Stacey’s heart?

The Baby-Sitters Club #8: Boy-Crazy Stacey – Ann M. Martin

Stacey and Mary Anne are spending two weeks together as mother’s helpers, babysitting for the Pike kids. But that’s not all. They’re all going to be on vacation in Sea City, New Jersey. 

“We’re back, we’re here, we’ve come once more, to our gingerbread house by the white seashore!”

The Pike kids are:

  • Mallory – 11, future BSC member
  • Jordan – 10
  • Byron – 10, loves to eat, has some fears
  • Adam – 10
  • Vanessa – 9, poet who speaks in rhyme all the time
  • Nicky – 8
  • Margo – 7
  • Claire – 5, calls her mother ‘Moozie’ and her father ‘Daggles’, adds ‘silly-billy-goo-goo’ to the end of everyone’s names.

Back in Stoneybrook, Kristy babysits David Michael, Karen and Andrew. Dawn has been babysitting in California and Claudia has babysat some kids at the mountain resort in New Hampshire, including Skip.

The house the Pikes rent at Sea City has three levels and is right on the beach. The lifeguard stand is in front of it. That’s where Stacey is going to spend the majority of her time. 

Mr Pike makes sure he knows what Stacey can and can’t eat when he’s cooking breakfast the first day in Sea City, which is great. What wasn’t so great was that he did it on the sly, lowering his voice so his kids didn’t hear him. This just reinforced to me as a kid how unimaginably scary diabetes was. Adult me can’t understand why the Pike kids couldn’t know about Stacey’s diabetes.

Mary Anne, who until a few books ago had to wear her hair in braids and wasn’t allowed to wear pants to school, has her first bikini! She also ends up looking like a “tomato with hair”.

Mary Anne meets a boy mother’s helper, Alex. Stacey meets Toby, Alex’s cousin.

Stacey, 13, is in luv with Scott, 18, the lifeguard with the wavy blonde hair. He lets girls do favours for him, like buying him sodas, getting him lunch and picking up things that fall off the lifeguard stand. Wow, what a prize that guy is.

Random bits:

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It was Stacey’s pink shirt with the big, bright green and yellow birds that I was thinking of when I bought a pair of bird earrings when I was on holidays with my parents as a kid. Yes, I still have them.

The hunky, chauvinistic lifeguard’s full name is Scott Foley. That’s the name of the actor who played Noel Crane on Felicity.

Millionaire Watson has three cars: an old black Ford, a red sports car and a fancy new car. Kristy’s mother has a green station wagon.

Claudia threw a pot. I originally took that literally.

Kristy learned you should never let kids wash a car without supervision.

Mary Anne learned that boys aren’t scary.

Stacey learned that boys aren’t supposed to use you. Well, I hope she learned it anyway.

Books in a book:

  • Mallory reads The Secret Garden, one of my all time favourite books.
  • Mary Anne reads A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Further proof that Stacey’s parents have more than enough money: We already know that they lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park in New York and that the building had a doorman. Now we learn that their apartment had four bedrooms. That’s gotta be worth a fortune!

This was one of my favourite BSC books as a kid. Naturally, one of my many reads took place at the beach. I kept not so subtly glancing up from my book to see if there was a cute lifeguard in the vicinity. This would have been pretty impressive if it happened, especially considering the fact that we were on an unpatrolled beach…

When I wasn’t attempting to find non-existent lifeguards, I was daydreaming about summer romances. I decided that I, too, was going to have one. Spoiler: it was not as advertised.

I was absolutely obsessed with Sea City. I wanted to go everywhere Mary Anne and Stacey did: Trampoline Land, Fred’s Putt-Putt Course, Ice-Cream Palace, Candy Heaven, touristy shops, Burger Garden, Candy Kitchen (they have fudge), If the Suit Fits (they sell bikinis), Hercules’ Hot Dogs and the boardwalk with the arcade.

As a kid, having an 18 year old boyfriend when you’re 13 felt like peak dating. Adult me can’t get over how creepy that is.

Kid me mostly sided with Stacey in this book, even though Mary Anne was my favourite babysitter. Adult me stands 100% with Mary Anne. How dare Stacey leave her to take care of so many kids alone?! Sure, the Pike kids are unnaturally well behaved most of the time but there’s an entire team of them.

Word of the book: kerflooey, which is how Stacey’s blood sugar levels can go if she’s not careful.

Stoneybrook Central Time: It’s the beginning of August when we start this book and the summer holidays between seventh and eighth grade. On the first Tuesday back at school it will have been a year since Kristy had her great idea.

Up next: Dawn goes ghostbusting.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Stacey and Mary Anne are baby-sitting for the Pike
family for two weeks at the New Jersey shore.

Things are great in Sea City. There’s a gorgeous old house, a boardwalk, plenty of sun and sand… and
the cutest boy Stacey has ever seen!

Mary Anne knows that Scott the lifeguard is way too old for Stacey, but Stacey’s in love. She fixes Scott’s lunch, fetches his sodas, and spends all her
time with him… instead of with the Pike kids.

Suddenly Mary Anne’s doing the work of two baby-sitters, and she doesn’t like it one bit. But how can she tell Stacey that Scott just isn’t interested – without breaking Stacey’s heart?


Savage Woods – Mary SanGiovanni

Every time I read a Mary SanGiovanni book I remember how much I love them. I’m also reminded of how fun it is when she introduces something I’ve either never heard of or know very little about, generating enough interest in me that I decide I need to become an expert in whatever the something is.

In Inside the Asylum, this was tulpas. I’d never heard of them but by the end of the book I’d read everything I could find about them. Years later, they came up in some random TV episode. The person sitting next to me asked if I knew what that word was. Naturally, I proceeded to tell them all about tulpas, including some handy hints for how to make one if they were so inclined.

While I was trying to find my way out of the Savage Woods, I began reading about tree spirits. When I wasn’t busy trying to pronounce Kèkpëchehëlat.

This is my first Mary SanGiovanni read that isn’t a Kathy Ryan book (note to self: read the rest of Mary’s books!). I kept thinking that the subject matter was right up Kathy’s alley and loved that her research had a cameo, even though she didn’t.

Brothers Todd and Kenny decide Nilhollow is the perfect place for their camping trip. They don’t believe the “clichéd stuff about cursed grounds, unexplained hiker deaths and disappearances, lights in the sky, that sort of thing.”

They’re also dismissive about the reports of the missing people “turning up inside-out and hanging from trees”. What brothers Todd and Kenny don’t realise is that they’re first chapter characters and, as such, they’re almost certainly destined to stop breathing before the main characters show up.

Something about Nilhollow was just … all wrong.

Which brings me to Julia Russo, who’s trying to escape her abusive ex-boyfriend, Darren. Darren, who clearly doesn’t understand the purpose of a restraining order, decides to run Julia off the road. In the wrong part of the woods.

Officer Pete Grainger, a New Jersey state trooper, knows Julia’s situation well and has developed some not especially professional feelings for her. Of course, when he learns she’s in trouble, Grainge responds. So do a whole gaggle of law enforcement corpses in the making.

This book is an absolute splatterfest and I loved every squishy, crunchy, rending moment. I flew through it, cheering on the trees as they painted the woods red. I’m more convinced than ever that I need to read everything Mary SanGiovanni ever writes.

“You need to warn the others that whatever slept in these woods is awake now, and it wants blood.”

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, domestic abuse, stalking and suicidal ideation.

Thank you very much to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nilhollow – six-hundred-plus acres of haunted woods in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens – is the stuff of urban legend. Amid tales of tree spirits and all-powerful forest gods are frightening accounts of hikers who went insane right before taking their own lives. It is here that Julia Russo flees when her violent ex-boyfriend runs her off the road … here that she vanishes without a trace.

State Trooper Peter Grainger has witnessed unspeakable things that have broken other men. But he has to find Julia and can’t turn back now. Every step takes him closer to an ugliness that won’t be appeased – a centuries-old, devouring hatred rising up to eviscerate humankind. Waiting, feeding, surviving. It’s unstoppable. And its time has come.

Terrible Worlds: Destinations #3: And Put Away Childish Things – Adrian Tchaikovsky

Mary Bodie’s Underhill children’s books were the inspiration for movies and merchandise. The characters live on in the hearts of the Underlings, who brought their love of the series with them into adulthood.

The series itself was based on stories Magda’s mother, Devaty, told her when she was a child. (Mary was Magda’s pen name.) Devaty claimed to be the “Queen of Fairyland” so she regaled her daughter with stories about Underhill from an asylum.

We catch up with what’s left of the Bodie line at the beginning of the pandemic. Felix ‘Harry’ Bodie, Magda’s grandson, is a minor celebrity with a drinking problem and a curious habit of accidentally running in circles.

“I want you to come and see a wardrobe.”

It turns out that, despite everything Harry has believed up until now, Underhill is real. Unfortunately, all is not well in not-Narnia.

Its residents, which include Timon the fawn, Wish Dog the best dog, Hulder the dryad and Gombles the clown, aren’t exactly as advertised. It’s all a bit decrepit, actually, and there’s nary a Turkish delight in sight. Although there is cosmic dandruff. And swearing, which I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t find in Narnia.

“I am…” Harry said, “not sure what’s going on.”

This is a story of family legacy. It’s about how you respond when the role that was written for you doesn’t line up with reality. It’s characters yearning to fulfil their destiny when the world they inhabit goes off script. It’s portal fiction, which so many of my favourite reads are.

I loved not-Narnia, in all of its dilapidation. I loved its inhabitants, who have been doing the best they can with what they’ve been given. I loved that this felt like one big underdog story, one that was dreary and dismal but that also provided some humour and hope.

Of course, I thought of Narnia frequently and, even when I wasn’t, the book made comparisons for me. The discovery that a fictional world isn’t as fictional as you’d been led to believe reminded me of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.

I felt a slightly confusing nostalgia about characters I hadn’t grown up with when I read Josh Winning’s The Shadow Glass that I also felt here. I probably spent too much time trying to figure out where on Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children Compass (Nonsense, Logic, Wickedness, and Virtue) this novella would fit.

This is my first Adrian Tchaikovsky read and it’s safe to say that I’m hooked. I’ve been eyeing off this book for months and it was even better than I’d hoped. The world was literally falling apart, the characters were damaged and I loved every minute of it.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All roads lead to Underhill, where it’s always winter, and never nice.

Harry Bodie has a famous grandmother, who wrote beloved children’s books set in the delightful world of Underhill. Harry himself is a failing kids’ TV presenter whose every attempt to advance his career ends in self-sabotage. His family history seems to be nothing but an impediment.

An impediment… or worse. What if Underhill is real?What if it has been waiting decades for a promised child to visit? What if it isn’t delightful at all? And what if its denizens have run out of patience and are taking matters into their own hands?

Wayward Children #8: Lost in the Moment and Found – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

Every Heart a Doorway remains my favourite book of all time and I can’t imagine a day when Wayward Children won’t be my favourite series. I look forward to January every year so I can renew the search for my own door.

But … a little piece of my heart breaks every time I’m introduced to a wayward child. I can never forget that childhood trauma connects every wayward. After all, if everything in their lives was unicorns and rainbows, they wouldn’t need a door.

“Some children need to escape from places that will only hurt them, or grind them away until they’re nothing. And some children need to go somewhere else if they’re ever going to grow into the people they were meant to be. The Doors choose carefully.”

It’s safe to say that I hurt for every wayward but Antsy’s story broke me in a way that no other has.

That was the fourth thing she lost: the belief that if something made her unhappy or uncomfortable, she could tell an adult who loved her and they would make everything better.

I didn’t run soon enough. I don’t have words to explain how relieved I am that Antsy did. Not that there wasn’t a cost.

Doors always comes with a cost. Maybe you age out of the world where you belong or you accidentally break a rule and it kicks you out. Antsy’s experience with doors is unlike any we’ve been granted access to before and the cost is similarly unique.

When you consider the reason Antsy found her door in the first place, you’ll realise how appropriate the cost is. People who have experienced trauma that’s a similar shape to Antsy’s will likely have seen this cost play out in their own lives. Maybe not as visibly as in Antsy’s story but it’s still recognisable on the inside.

I doubt we’ll ever walk through Seanan’s door and I don’t think we should ever ask that of her because doors and the worlds that lie behind them are personal. However, between the dedication and the existence of cat-people, I’m pretty sure we’ve never been closer to it.

I would never expect anything different from Rovina Cai but I need to say that the illustrations in this book were practically perfect in every way.

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I was absolutely delighted to discover that a couple of my favourite Door-touched people had cameos in this book.

Favourite quote:

“If an adult hurt you, that’s on them, not on you. Being bruised doesn’t make you bad, unless you’re a peach, and even a bruised peach is good for making jam.”

I’m thinking of starting a petition to name every month January so I don’t have to wait so long to go on my next not a quest with a wayward.

Content warnings include emotional abuse, gaslighting, grief, grooming and physical abuse.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.
If you ever wondered about favourite toy from childhood… it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.
And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it…

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

Lost in the Moment and Found tells us that childhood and innocence, once lost, can never be found.

City of Nightmares – Rebecca Schaeffer

Welcome to Gotham Newham, a city that can literally crawl with villains, where the authorities are more likely to bribe you than help you. It’s mouldy, it’s smoggy, it smells like “urine and dust, barbecue and burnt coal.” It’s also where you’ll find the the cult that Nessa joined three years ago.

“It’s not a cult.”

Uh huh… It’s called Friends of the Restful Soul. Tell me that’s not a cult!

Ness has been a coward (her words, not mine, but she’s not wrong…) for eight years, ever since her sister turned into a giant spider and started eating people.

See, this is a world where your nightmares become Nightmares. Don’t understand the difference? Well, a Nightmare is what happens when you don’t drink the tap water laced with Helomine or remember to down some Nightmare-prevention drugs and allow yourself to dream. Dreaming results in you waking up as your worst fear.

I had such high expectations for this book that I didn’t think it was possible for it to meet them. I wanted to hold onto my hope so much that I put off reading it for weeks. I needn’t have worried. I was hooked by the second page and I read nonstop until I finished.

Ness is living her best scared life. She runs away from any person, location or situation that could maybe, possibly be dangerous. It’s a good thing she has her badass best friend, Priya, to protect her and the brick box that she calls home (previously the janitor’s closet), the only place she feels safe. Our Ness has trust issues.

I can’t get too close to anyone, you never know who’s already a Nightmare – or who will turn into one.

Badass Priya runs towards danger and is looking forward to the day when she gets paid to kill sea monsters and sky monsters. Basically, any monster will do. Just let Priya at ‘em!

“If it’s attacking me, I kill it. If it’s attacking other people, I kill it. If it’s not attacking anyone, I don’t kill it. I feel like it’s a really simple distinction.”

Then there’s Cy the sigher. He’s probably my favourite character. When you get to know him, you’ll want to be his friend too.

The Nightmares are brilliant, the mayor has an attack pterodactyl and Ness is definitely a cult member.

“Still not a cult.”

I urgently need the sequel!

Favourite no context quote:

“He was still my husband. We just couldn’t communicate anymore because I don’t speak giant cockroach!”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Gotham meets Strange the Dreamer in this thrilling young adult fantasy about a cowardly girl who finds herself at the centre of a criminal syndicate conspiracy, in a city where crooked politicians and sinister cults reign and dreaming means waking up as your worst nightmare.

Ever since her sister became a man-eating spider and slaughtered her way through town, nineteen-year-old Ness has been terrified – terrified of some other Nightmare murdering her, and terrified of ending up like her sister. Because in Newham, the city that never sleeps, dreaming means waking up as your worst fear.

Whether that means becoming a Nightmare that’s monstrous only in appearance, to transforming into a twisted, unrecognisable creature that terrorises the city, no one is safe. Ness will do anything to avoid becoming another victim, even if that means lying low among the Friends of the Restful Soul, a questionable organisation that may or may not be a cult.

But being a member of maybe-cult has a price. In order to prove herself, Ness cons her way into what’s supposed to be a simple job for the organisation – only for it to blow up in her face. Literally. Tangled up in the aftermath of an explosive assassination, now Ness and the only other survivor – a Nightmare boy who Ness suspects is planning to eat her – must find their way back to Newham and uncover the sinister truth behind the attack, even as the horrors of her past loom ominously near.

The Light We Carry – Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama’s authenticity and relatability make me want to just sit and listen to her talk about whatever she has on her mind.

There’s a purity that shines through in Michelle’s writing. It’s not naivety or toxic positivity. There’s a self assurance that doesn’t ignore self doubt. It’s a hope that’s infused with kindness, yet there’s an honest discussion about the darkness.

Michelle brings the wisdom she’s earned from different roles in her life to this book: daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, former First Lady, role model. I love her openness and her tenacity. I’m obsessed with the concept of cultivating a kitchen table of friends.

I want to meet Michelle’s mother and would definitely read a book written by her if she ever changes her mind.

I borrowed this book from the library so didn’t have the luxury of highlighting all of my favourite quotes like I do when I read ebooks. At this point, my ebook purchase is inevitable. Until then, I want to hold onto my current favourite quotes.

Small endeavours help to guard our happiness, to keep it from getting consumed by all that’s big. And when we feel good, it turns out we become less paralysed.

I’ve learned to recognise and appreciate balance when I feel it – to enjoy and make note of the moments when I feel the steadiest, most focused, most clear – and to think analytically about what’s helped me get to that place.

Our hurts become our fears. Our fears become our limits.

The unknown is where possibility glitters. If you don’t take the risk, if you don’t ride out a few jolts, you are taking away your opportunities to transform.

We only hurt ourselves when we hide our realness away.

There’s power in knowing where you don’t want to go.

And then there’s also power in discovering where you want to head next.

Going high is like drawing a line in the sand, a boundary we can make visible and then take a moment to consider. Which side of this do I want to be on? It’s a reminder to pause and be thoughtful, a call to respond with both your heart and your head. Going high is always a test, as I see it.

What I want to say, then, is stay vigorous and faithful, humble and empathetic. Tell the truth, do your best by others, keep perspective, understand history and context. Stay prudent, stay tough, and stay outraged.

But more than anything, don’t forget to do the work.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In an inspiring follow-up to her critically acclaimed, #1 bestselling memoir Becoming, former First Lady Michelle Obama shares practical wisdom and powerful strategies for staying hopeful and balanced in today’s highly uncertain world.

There may be no tidy solutions or pithy answers to life’s big challenges, but Michelle Obama believes that we can all locate and lean on a set of tools to help us better navigate change and remain steady within flux. In The Light We Carry, she opens a frank and honest dialogue with readers, considering the questions many of us wrestle with: How do we build enduring and honest relationships? How can we discover strength and community inside our differences? What tools do we use to address feelings of self-doubt or helplessness? What do we do when it all starts to feel like too much?

Michelle Obama offers readers a series of fresh stories and insightful reflections on change, challenge, and power, including her belief that when we light up for others, we can illuminate the richness and potential of the world around us, discovering deeper truths and new pathways for progress. Drawing from her experiences as a mother, daughter, spouse, friend, and First Lady, she shares the habits and principles she has developed to successfully adapt to change and overcome various obstacles – the earned wisdom that helps her continue to “become.” She details her most valuable practices, like “starting kind,” “going high,” and assembling a “kitchen table” of trusted friends and mentors. With trademark humour, candour, and compassion, she also explores issues connected to race, gender, and visibility, encouraging readers to work through fear, find strength in community, and live with boldness.

“When we are able to recognise our own light, we become empowered to use it,” writes Michelle Obama. A rewarding blend of powerful stories and profound advice that will ignite conversation, The Light We Carry inspires readers to examine their own lives, identify their sources of gladness, and connect meaningfully in a turbulent world.