My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones

A lot of people’s insides are about to start being on the outside.

Meet Jade Daniels, my new favourite outcast.

“Town reject, nice to meet you.”

Jade’s exterior is basically armour covered in spikes but beneath the surface there’s, well, more sharp, stabby things. But beneath that is someone I want to be friends with. She even reminded me a little of me, the weirdo who word vomits about their obsession to everyone in the vicinity, not that anyone asked.

Despite having an encyclopaedic knowledge of slasher films, Jade lives knowing that she can never be a final girl herself. She’s simply not pure enough. This doesn’t stop Jade from desperately wanting a slasher to turn her hometown red, though.

Real final girls only want the horror to be over. They don’t stay up late praying to Craven and Carpenter to send one of their savage angels down, just for a weekend maybe. Just for one night. Just for one dance, please? One last dance?

Finally, she sees the signs that her dream may, in fact, be coming true. Although her current slasher theory may very well be right, Jade has a reputation in this town, so for the longest time she might as well be Cassandra. After all, who’s going to take the “weird horror chick” seriously?

It’s been four weeks since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about Jade on a daily basis. I want to tell you all of the things I loved about her but I loved everything about Jade, from her resilience to her ‘stay away from me’ vibe to her enthusiasm about all things horror. Jade is over the top in the best possible way.

She’s gonna be there front-row, shoving popcorn in, maybe wearing a clear poncho and goggles against all the blood.

It took me about a chapter to get used to the writing style but, even as I was adjusting, I felt a great big hook pulling me along for the ride. I looked forward to Jade’s Slasher 101 essays, which made me want to sit down and have an extended discussion with her (and her creator).

To put it in conclusion, sir, final girls are the vessel we keep all our hope in. Bad guys don’t just die by themselves, I mean. Sometimes they need help in the form of a furie running at them, her mouth open in scream, her eyes white hot, her heart forever pure.

With one of the most bingeworthy list of movies ever included in a single novel, I’m convinced a movie night with the author needs to be on my bucket list.

“Want to go to a horror movie with me?”

This is my first Stephen Graham Jones read but this is only the beginning for me. I can’t wait to catch up on everything I’ve missed.

Content warnings include alcoholism, attempted suicide, self harm, and sexual assault.

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

Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopaedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths that occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.

D is for Drool – Amanda Noll & Shari Dash Greenspan

Illustrations – Howard McWilliam

I love alphabet books and bedtime stories, and this book is both. I wish I’d learned the alphabet this way. There’s no boring A is for Apples in this book; A is for Arms, enough that you will need to use all of your fingers to count them.

I would have giggled my way through this book as a kid and would have had fun calling out what each letter is for. The monsters aren’t scary at all; they’re actually quite adorable. Howard McWilliam’s illustrations pop with colour and all of the monsters are expressive.

I enjoyed the continuity throughout the book. When you turn the page you get to see the tail end of the monster from the page before. Oftentimes you’ll see snow or ooze on subsequent pages from the more messy monsters.

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I loved the baby Jaws making a snow angel but my favourite monster was the one with green pigtails and pink tutu.

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Howard McWilliam’s alphabet is amazing. Not only does each letter match the colour scheme of each letter’s monster, many of their attributes are also represented.

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I would love to see a special edition of this book that includes an alphabet wall border. It needs to be on my wall.

I definitely need to get my hands on the I Need My Monster series.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Flashlight Press for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Ethan can’t sleep, he doesn’t count sheep – he says his ABCs. But in monster-loving Ethan’s alphabet, A is for Arms, B is for Belly, C is for Claws, and D is for Drool! 

Kids will love pointing out the alphabetical attributes on the silly monsters that parade across Ethan’s room – like earlobes, noses, spikes, and wings – and discovering where all of those monsters are headed. 

By the time Ethan gets to Y, he’s Yawning. And by Z, kids will be ready to sleep as Ethan does, surrounded by the tails, tentacles, and drool sticking out from under his bed. ZZzzzzz

D is for Drool is a monstrously magnificent ABC book that offers a new way to fall asleep. With the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, it is a captivating companion to the award-winning I Need My Monster series.

Ham – Dhana Fox

Illustrations – Anna Demchenko

It’s safe to say that I am obsessed with this picture book. I first borrowed it from my library six months ago. Since then I’ve renewed it as many times as the library would allow, then returned it only to immediately reserve it again.

I lost count of the amount of times I’ve read it months ago. Every reread remains udderly adorable. I love Ham and his friends, and I don’t think I will ever get sick of visiting them.

The story is so simple but so enjoyable. Ham, Satay, Chops and Stew are loving their lives on the farm until one day when they make a horrifying discovery. They’re not beloved pets after all. They’re on the menu!

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The animals knew that to save their own bacon,

a grand plan was needed before they were taken.

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The chickens come up with an especially clever way to disguise themselves. Or so they think.

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Nothing these friends try works until they realise they have the ability to help generate another food source, one that won’t put them on the chopping block.

The rhyming text added to my enjoyment of this book. Anna Demchenko’s illustrations turned a really fun premise into one of my favourite picture book reads of the year. The colours are vibrant and the animals are expressive. Even the flies are cute!

Be on the lookout for a brave fly saving its friend from a spider web.

I know at some point I’m going to have to return this book to the library for the final time. That’s probably not going to happen until I purchase my own copy, though.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What happens when Ham and his crew discover that they’re destined for the dinner table?

Ham is a hilarious farmyard romp, with lovable characters and bright illustrations. The farmyard animals, Ham, Satay, Chops, Stew (and a few chickens) must work together to save themselves from their inevitable fate – the dinner plate! Everyone knows bacon is delicious, but are there any other food options for us to discover, and could there be another purpose for these adorable animals?

The Good Luck Girls – Charlotte Nicole Davis

Aster, Clementine, Mallow, Tansy and Violet are Good Luck Girls, something that sounds fortuitous until you know what that term truly means. With the exception of Violet, they were taken from their families to Green Creek welcome house with the promise of a better life.

Favors, the welcome house version of branding, are such a contradiction: aesthetically beautiful, yet representative of such pain and suffering.

Good Luck Girls begin working as daybreak girls. On their sixteenth birthday, daybreak girls become sundown girls, through a rite of passage called their Lucky Night.

When Clementine accidentally kills a brag on her Lucky Night, her sister, Aster, is determined to protect her. Now five Good Luck Girls are on the run, pursued by both the living and the dead. Their only hope is to find the Lady Ghost, but as far as anyone knows she’s only a bedtime story.

This book could have broken me, given the darkness of what the girls have experienced, if it wasn’t for the girls themselves. Initially I thought Clementine was going to be the star of this show but Aster and Violet were the two I bonded with the most.

Slightly older than the others, Aster and Violet have experienced trauma the other girls haven’t. I loved them for their strength and courage, despite the odds stacked against them. Given what they’d been through, it would be easy for the darkness to overwhelm them but they refuse to give up, holding onto whatever scraps of hope they can carry.

Although it’s not specifically named here, the girls clearly exhibit signs of PTSD. What I loved, if you can say you love anything where PTSD is concerned, were the nuances. The trauma was expressed differently amongst the girls, with each utilising their individual strengths to survive, both physically and emotionally. There was an authenticity to their portrayal, from the dissociation and flashbacks to the difficulties trusting others and themselves.

The character that caused me the most conflict was Zee. I so wanted to trust him but, like Aster, I wasn’t sure if it was safe to do so. I ended up spending most of the book silently pleading with him to be worthy of the girls’ trust.

It felt as though Aster and Lei from Girls of Paper and Fire were kindred spirits. The raveners reminded me of Dementors, but as a physical embodiment of PTSD. The names of the girls brought to mind Lex and the other girls I met in What Unbreakable Looks Like. This book stands on its own two feet, though.

I was immersed in this world. The threat of the raveners and vengeants were ever-present. The divide between fairbloods and dustbloods was clear. The danger was unrelenting. But hope shone through as brightly as a covered favor.

This is a real underdog story, where you have the opportunity to cheer on a group of girls who have been so downtrodden that you can’t help but become invested in their journey. You want them to win. You need them to win. Because any other outcome would hurt too much.

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, human trafficking, mental health, racism, sexual assault, slavery, suicidal ideation and torture.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hot Key Books, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, for the opportunity to read this book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.

Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.

When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive. 

Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

Translator – Neil Smith

‘All interesting people have done something really stupid at least once!’

This is one of those books that gives you hope for humanity. And may make you ugly cry as you comfort eat your way through your leftover chocolate ice cream. Wait, was that too specific?

This is, without doubt, my favourite read of the month. Apologies in advance to all of the other books yet to come.

It was already on my special book radar before I began reading. It was recommended to someone I know by a local bookstore staff member. They loved it and told me enough about it, including the ugly cry, to pique my interest. I then waited, not so patiently, for my library reservation to magically transform into the book that’s barely left my hands since I started it.

The whole thing is a complicated, unlikely story. Perhaps that’s because what we think stories are about often isn’t what they’re about at all. This, for instance, might not actually be the story of a bank robbery, or an apartment viewing or a hostage drama. Perhaps it isn’t even a story about idiots.

Perhaps this is a story about a bridge.

This is a book where what seems to be and what is can be vastly different things, where a bunch of strangers who wouldn’t normally interact discover they have commonalities and where “sometimes Christmas lights are just Christmas lights.”

I loved all of the idiots in this book, even Zara. I may have liked her the most. There’s something about being privileged enough to be able to catch a glimpse at what lies beneath the surface of people who present themselves to the world with their armour firmly affixed, their edges carefully sharpened so only the exceptionally brave or exceedingly stupid will attempt to approach them. I also had a huge soft spot for Estelle.

And then there’s the rabbit. It took me a long time to find this book and I may not have found it yet if not for the person who told me about it, not realising that I’m a bit of a book stalker. You tell me about a book and I’m almost always going to need to read it. I could say it’s because it interests me and most of the time that’s part of it. It is a book, after all. But it’s also because I want to get to know you better and learning what books you love gives me an insight into who you are at your core.

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It would have taken me no time at all to find this book if I had seen this cover before now. How anyone could see this design and then think that this book should be packaged in any other way is beyond me. It’s perfection!

I don’t think I have even been so emotional over a bank robbery and hostage situation. I knew very little about this book going into it and am certain that‘s the best way to approach it.

I want to quote most of the book to you but am going to restrain myself and instead leave you with my three favourites:

The truth, of course, is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn’t spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who’s having a really good day spends half of it taking pictures of themselves.

They say that a person’s personality is the sum of their experiences. But that isn’t true, at least not entirely, because if our past was all that defined us, we’d never be able to put up with ourselves. We need to be allowed to convince ourselves that we’re more than the mistakes we made yesterday. That we are all of our next choices, too, all of our tomorrows.

‘Worst hostages ever.’

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, domestic abuse, mental health and suicidal ideation.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a small town in Sweden it appears to be an ordinary day. But look more closely, and you’ll see a masked figure approaching a bank…

Two hours later, chaos has descended. An attempted robbery has developed into a hostage situation – with the offender refusing to voice their demands.

Fear turns to irritation for the seven strangers trapped inside. If this is to be their last day on earth, shouldn’t it be more dramatic? 

But as the minutes tick by, they begin to suspect that the criminal holding them hostage might be more in need of rescuing than they are… 

Rainbow Grey – Laura Ellen Anderson

Once upon a time there were seven groups of Weatherlings. Then a Rogue created the worst storm Earth has ever seen, Storm Tornadia, and since that time rainbow Weatherlings have been extinct.

‘I thought rainbows were just made up?’

All that remain are Weatherlings of “Sun, snow, rain, cloud, wind, thunder ‘n’ lightning.”

Ray is a Weatherling but she doesn’t have any weather magic. She does have a cloud-cat called Nim who changes shape and explodes without warning. She also has two best friends, know almost everything Snowden Everfreeze, whose think-flakes are all sorts of quirky, and homework averse orphan Droplett Dewbells, who can teleport between puddles.

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You might think Ray would be envious of her classmates, who all have weather magic. She’s not, though, and I think I know the reason. While the rest of her class practice their weather magic, Ray gets to go to the library to read.

Tonight is special because Ray, a ten year old, will be witnessing her first ever eclipse, an event that only takes place once every eleven years.

‘These beauuuuutiful twinkly specks called STARS fill the whole sky. Then you’ll see the great Moon King with his large plate of big round cheese. He dances around, using the big cheese wheel to cover up the old Sunflower while the Sunkeepers prepare a new one to glow for the next eleven years.’

The world building in this book was so imaginative. From the silver lining that Ray’s mother fixes on their home (Cloud Nine) to the different types of magic on display and the yummy treats at the local bakery (make sure you eat the rumblebun in time), there’s so much to look at and enjoy.

My favourite character was Ray’s cloud-cat. Nim may not get any lines but they’re definitely the comic relief. His eyes aren’t always where you expect them to be and he’s not the most reliable form of transport in Celestia but I absolutely adored this defective cloud-companion.

It was super obvious who this book’s villain was going to be and the resolution was a bit too sweet, but … adult reading a kid’s book here. I probably would have been blindsided by the reveal had I actually read this when I was the target audience.

While this story wraps up quite nicely, there is a sneaky set up in the epilogue for the next book in the series. Yes, you bet I’ll be reading it and yes, I’m passing this one along to my mother because I think she’ll love it too. Especially when she learns of the existence of duck-nados!

‘Let’s follow that rainbow!’

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ten-year-old Ray Grey lives in the magical Weatherlands, high in the sky! Ray is surrounded by Weatherlings with astounding weather power at their fingertips … but she doesn’t have ANY magic!

Then, after a trip to Earth, Ray’s life changes forever. She is transformed from Ray Grey intro RAINBOW GREY! With the help of her best friends (and exploding cloud cat, Nim) now all Ray has to do is master her powers AND save the world from a mysterious, powerful enemy…

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea #2: Squeals on Wheels – Renée Treml

This is almost unheard of for me. I loved the sequel even more than the first book in this series.

Ollie, the owl who needs to wear glasses, and Bea, the bunny with the kangaroo sized feet, return. They’re joined by the friends they met in the first book: CeeCee the otter, Pedro the chameleon, Sera the deer and Simon the squirrel.

Having already figured out what all of their superpowers are, the friends are ready to have some fun. On the agenda for today is rollerskating. Except one of the friends keeps making excuses. The thought of skating is making Bea anxious. She’s worried she’ll look silly.

Thankfully her friends come up with the perfect solution, one that makes Bea feel comfortable skating so she can have fun too.

Puns abound in this book as well. My favourite was Ollie’s “Owl be back!” I know I’m not the only one to read that in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s voice.

The colourful illustrations, which I appreciated in the first book, really make the details come alive in this one. Be on the lookout for Sera the deer; her outfit is brilliant!

I love the focus on supportive friendships in this series. They highlight how integral friendships can be in building self confidence and overcoming obstacles.

This book deserves all of the carrots! 🥕🥕🥕🥕🥕

I can’t wait to see what other adventures are in store for Ollie, Bea and their friends. I’m already dreaming up a crossover where Ollie and Bea visit the State Natural History Museum and team up with Sherlock Bones and Watts to solve a mystery.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Best friends Ollie and Bea continue to delight young readers in Book 2 of this super sweet and funny full-colour graphic novel series that celebrates friendship and the differences that make us special.

Q. What’s the hardest part of learning to skate?
A. THE GROUND!

Ollie is having a HOOT on his rollerskates, but Bea is full of excuses for why she can’t join in. Will she realise that sometimes it’s okay to look silly, and that real friends don’t CARROT all if you have very big feet?

Ollie and Bea continue to charm in this super-cute series about the joys of friends and fun and lots of puns. The perfect book for young readers who love to laugh.

Pow Pow Pig #1: An Unexpected Hero – Anh Do

Illustrations – Peter Cheong

‘Every good deed makes the future a little brighter.’

Anh Do has another winner on his hands with this first book in a new series. It’s dystopian. It’s time travel. It’s a bunch of animals who didn’t cut the mustard working together to save the world!

Pow Pow Pig, Kung Fu Duck, Cha Cha Chicken and Barry the Goat are my new favourite team up. They’ve all completed their CHOC (Creatures Helping Other Creatures) training and are keen to begin making a difference.

While Pow Pow Pig wants more than anything else to join A team, he knows that’s not likely because, while the rest of the trainees have been busily learning the skills needed to help other creatures, Pow Pow and his friends have been stuck on cleaning duty. But they never thought that they would be assigned to … Z team.

A series of events promotes this rag tag team from zeroes to potential heroes. The fate of the world is in their trotters, wings and hooves. Now they must travel back in time to prevent the world from ending. If only it was that easy.

There’s something about Anh Do books. It only takes me about two pages to get sucked into the story and I fall in love at first sight with the new friends I meet.

The story is imaginative but it was the details that captured my attention. In particular, Kung Fu Chicken’s skills with a tea towel delighted me. 

I also loved how the team work together to solve problems, persevering despite the odds that are stacked against them.

I wasn’t previously familiar with Peter Cheong’s work but his illustrations bring this team and the rest of the creatures to life. In keeping with the humour that’s pretty much a given with Anh Do’s books, Peter majors on expressions and action, complimenting the text well. Be on the lookout for a cow who’s been cured of mad cow disease.

I can’t wait for the next book in the series. This one ends on a cliffhanger and my mind is frantically trying to predict where (or should I say, when) this team will end up next. While I already have a pretty good idea how this series is going to end, I hope it’s a long ride because everything I love about Anh Do books is already evident here: underdogs, friendship, teamwork, making the right (but not always the easiest) choices and humour.

And if I haven’t already sold you on this book, you need to know one more important thing: there’s a page of stickers at the end of the book! I’m one very happy book nerd.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A hilarious new adventure from the mega-bestselling author of Wolf Girl and Ninja Kid.

Hi there! I’m Pow Pow Pig!

Me and my friends didn’t make the A team … or the B team … or the C, D or E teams ….

We made the Z team!

How are we going to save the world when we were the last ones picked?!

The Final Girl Support Group – Grady Hendrix

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

“Someone always wants to kill us. It’s never over.”

Dr Carol Elliott has been conducting regular group sessions with final girls for sixteen years. Our final girls are:

  • Marilyn Torres, who won’t let leather touch her skin
  • Adrienne Butler, who was a counsellor at Camp Red Lake
  • Dani Shipman, whose babysitting job didn’t quite go to plan
  • Heather DeLuca, who faced off against the Dream King
  • Julia Campbell, whose experiences were turned into the Stab movies
  • Lynnette Tarkington, who tells the story.

These women have watched friends and family members being butchered by “monsters” but they survived the unsurvivable. Many have even survived sequels. Their stories have been made into successful movie franchises, some have attended conventions and then there are the superfans to contend with.

No one except another final girl can truly understand what it’s like to live with the impacts of this type of trauma. Their scars are both physical and psychological. And it’s really hard to try to move on because there’s never any certainty that the past will stay in the past. These monsters have a habit of not staying dead, after all.

We get subjected to sequels. That’s what makes our guys different, that’s what makes them monsters – they keep coming back.

The final girl support group has been the one constant in the lives of many of these survivors but it’s no longer safe. Someone has been planning their deaths and it’s time for them to fight for their lives. Again.

“This is the sequel or a crossover, or I don’t know what.”

This book was so much fun! I was delighted to discover that the atrocities these women have survived were based on some of my favourite horror movie franchises. Between them, these women have survived Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason and Mrs Voorhees, Ghostface, and Billy and Ricky Chapman. I have never seen the Silent Night, Deadly Night movies but I’ve binged all of the others many times. Some details have changed but the basic plots remain the same.

I loved picking up on the similarities and differences between the backstories of these women and the movies I know so well. The chapter titles are spot on: The Final Girl Support Group’s New Nightmare, Season of the Final Girls, The Final Chapter, The Final Chapter II.

Even the names of the characters are perfect. For example, the woman whose story represents the Scream movies is called Julie Campbell. Neve Campbell, Scream’s final girl, played a character called Julia in Party of Five. Details like that really stood out to me.

After the trauma they have all experienced, it’s not surprising that the final girls live with a variety of long term impacts. I particularly appreciated that there was no ‘one size fits all’ approach in this book. While they all experienced living nightmares, these women cope with their trauma in individual ways. Their different personalities, their support systems (or lack thereof) and their individual strengths and weaknesses all play a part in what their lives look like now.

“Are those guys really that scary?” he asks.

“Scarier than you can ever imagine,” I answer.

In between the blood spatter I started thinking about serial killers. The names of those who commit heinous crimes are usually burned into our brains but how well do we remember the names of the people they murdered? I know the names and predilections of so many infamous serial killers. I often know in detail what they did to their victims but I’d be hard pressed to tell you the names of their victims. I think it’s time for me to rectify this.

Because I’m me, I tested out the address that a character in the book receives emails from. As usual, I was disappointed to get an automatic response saying my email was undeliverable. One of these days an author or marketing person is going to set up the email address that’s included in a book and I’ll finally get a real response. I’m hoping for an exclusive short story, a personal message from the character that I’ve emailed or even a treasure hunt or details of a competition where I can win a signed copy of the book. One day…

I own every single one of Grady Hendrix’s books. I knew I’d love them but somehow they made it into my Kindle’s black hole of good intentions so this is my first Grady Hendrix read. Believe me when I say it will not be my last!

Content warnings include addiction, alcoholism, mental health and suicidal ideation.

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

Ever wonder what happens to those Final Girls? After the cops eliminate them as suspects, after the press releases their brace-faced, pizza-cheeked, bad-hair-day class photos that inevitably get included on the cover of the true crime book? After the candlelight vigils and the moments of silence, after someone plants the memorial shrub?

For Lynette Tarkington, it’s been a support group. Her, five other final girls, a therapist. Close to twenty years. Today’s the last day for group, but Lynne doesn’t know it yet. It’s also going to be the last day for one of the group. And maybe the final day for all of the final girls, because someone’s been planning a nasty surprise for them for a long time.

Creatura – Bec Crew

What I’ve learned from my time writing about weird animals is that there is always something weirder than you could have ever imagined just around the corner.

Australia is known for its wildlife, from the kangaroos we ride to school (not a thing; sorry) to drop bears (you can read all about them in this Australian Geographic article posted on 1 April 2021). You might fear our deadly spiders and snakes but the animal that’s most likely to scare an Australian is a territorial magpie during swooping season.

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I love books about animals that are classified as weird and wonderful so it’s a special treat for me to find a book about the weird, wonderful creatures that live in Australia. It seems perfectly fitting that this book was published on my Nan’s birthday, who was her own special blend of weird and wonderful. (You would have loved her! And she would have loved me calling her weird and wonderful.)

Because I can’t help myself, I’m going to tell you a few of my favourite facts from each section of this book.

Mammals

Ningaui are small carnivorous marsupials that are named for an “Aboriginal legend that describes imp-like creatures that live in the mangroves and lure passers-by to their deaths, consuming them raw.”

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, which is found around the world in tropical and temperate waters, holds the records for the deepest (2992m or 9816 feet) and longest (138 minutes) dives performed by a mammal.

Common Spotted Cuscus sleep high in trees with their head between their legs. In what seems to be an ingenious way to camouflage themselves, they wrap leaves around themselves.

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Fish and Sea Creatures

Bubble Algae are “one of the largest single-celled organisms on Earth”, with a diameter of up to 9cm (3.5 inches).

Banded Archerfish are omnivores whose diet consists of food found both in and out of the water. They can shoot ‘spit missiles’ (jets of water) at insects up to 3 metres (almost 10 feet) away to knock them off branches and into the water.

Blanket Octopus females can grow up to 2 metres (6.5 feet) long and 10kg (22 pounds), whereas males are only 2.4cm (just under 1 inch).

Invertebrates

The Head-Stacking Caterpillar, the larvae of the gumleaf skeletoniser moth, moults their exoskeletons as it grows. It stacks its shedded heads on top of one another and wears them like hats.

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If a Hammerhead Worm is “cut into bits, either lengthwise or across its body, each piece will become a new, perfectly functional worm over the course of two or three weeks.” I don’t want to meet the sadist that discovered this.

Leichhardt’s Grasshopper apparently taste awful because they only eat bitter-tasting plants.

Birds

A young Apostlebird will stay with its parents for 200 days.

The Nankeen Kestrel is the only bird of prey that can hover.

The Whistling Kite spread bushfires, “carrying lit twigs in their beaks and claws, to flush out exhausted and confused prey.”

Reptiles and Amphibians

Never having evolved the ability to survive on land, the Yellow-Bellied Sea Snake is the “most aquatic snake in the world”.

The Crucifix Frog is “one of the only species of Australian frog to employ aposematism, which is the use of bright patterning to ward off predators.”

The eyesight of geckos is 350 times better than ours and they can see in full colour in moonlight. The Golden-Tailed Gecko squirts a “putrid, sticky liquid from their tails straight at any would-be predators.”

I don’t know how it’s possible that I’ve lived my entire life in Australia and I’ve never come across or even heard of most of these animals before. I definitely want to check out the Australian Geographic Creatura blog to see what other wonders are in the neighbourhood.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There’s no doubt that Australia has more than its fair share of weird and wonderful animals – just think about the platypus – but the true diversity of our wildlife is more extraordinary than you might imagine. There’s the caterpillar that wears its old head shells as a macabre hat, the cuscus that wraps itself in a leafy camouflage while sleeping and the fish that targets prey with a high-powered jet of water. In this collection of stories from Australian Geographic blog Creatura, science writer Bec Crew celebrates the strange behaviours, special adaptations and peculiar features of our amazing Australian creatures.