The Lady with the Gun Asks the Questions – Kerry Greenwood

The Honourable Phryne (which rhymes with briny) Fisher is a private detective who’s ahead of her time. A strong, intelligent woman who carries a handgun and drives a luxury car, Miss Fisher consistently outwits whoever she comes up against.

This collection includes recently edited stories set in 1928 that were originally published in A Question of Death and four new stories set in 1929.

Hotel Splendide

‘Now, I am about to do something thoroughly unlawful, and if you do not want to watch I should stay here with Madame until I have done it.’

Miss Fisher, staying in a Paris hotel, helps a fellow Aussie find her missing husband.

The Voice is Jacob’s Voice

‘Now hush, I’m eavesdropping.’

No one told Miss Fisher it possibly wasn’t the best idea to invite both Jacob and Esau Tipping to her Winter Solstice party.

Marrying the Bookie’s Daughter

‘I am what I am and I behave as I wish and I will not be dictated to by anyone.’

Miss Fisher and Lindsay attend a wedding. Miss Fisher considers a marriage proposal.

The Vanishing of Jock McHale’s Hat

‘Football produces strange passions.’

An Archbishop needs Miss Fisher’s help to find a hat.

Puttin’ on the Ritz

‘Will, old thing, I am enjoying myself and all that, but what do you want to tell me? Can we get it over with, so that we can devote all of our attention to the food?’

Miss Fisher aims to return some pearls to their rightful owner.

The Body in the Library

‘There’s going to be a scandal, you know.’

Miss Fisher helps Detective Inspector Jack Robinson solve a murder.

The Miracle of St Mungo

‘I have got into a … difficulty.’

Miss Fisher outsmarts a blackmailer.

Overheard on a Balcony

‘Are you going to turn me in, Phryne?’

A Christmas dinner in June is one diner’s final meal.

The Hours of Juana the Mad

‘The Book is in the safe. You see, we look after it well.’

The Book is not in the safe.

Death Shall Be Dead

‘So now we’ve got a mystery, and a murderer to find,’ he observed. ‘Any ideas?’

Miss Fisher helps Detective Inspector Robinson solve a mystery involving fire, death and a loyal dog.

Carnival

‘I love carnivals.’

Miss Fisher would have had a more uneventful time at the carnival if she’d been accompanied by a different escort.

The Camberwall Wonder

He said slowly, ‘I killed Mr Clarke. I killed him.’

Stevie has confessed to murder but his mother is certain that he couldn’t have done it.

Come, Sable Night

‘If I started to get worried about every corpse I saw, I’d be a wreck.’

Miss Fisher’s evening consists of music, gossip and a corpse.

The Boxer

It was a cold winter’s day in St Kilda, and Mrs Ragnell was wrapped up so tightly in furs and a sense of personal grievance that she resembled a polar bear with a hangover.

Mrs Ragnell hires Miss Fisher to find her missing granddaughter.

A Matter of Style

The Salon de Paris this Thursday morning was anything but quiet.

The staff of Miss Fisher’s hairdresser are accused of stealing from their customers.

The Chocolate Factory

‘Well, girls, what do you think?’

Miss Fisher’s portrait is going to be used on the box of a new assortment of chocolates.

The Bells of St Paul’s

‘Miss Phryne, what’s wrong with the bells? They ring them every day.’

There’s a message in the tolling of the bells.

This was one of the best kinds of book mail: the unexpected kind. It was also my introduction to the world that Phryne Fisher inhabits. I’d previously heard of the Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries TV series but haven’t watched any.

While it’s noted that the author completes extensive research prior to writing each book in the series, I couldn’t have pinpointed the time period that many of these short stories were set in had I not already been told in the author’s introduction.

I expect readers who follow this series will love the opportunity to follow Miss Fisher as she solves these short mysteries, potentially getting to know recurring characters in more depth.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The elegant Miss Phryne Fisher returns in this scintillating collection, featuring four brand-new stories.

The Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the Lulu bob, Cupid’s Bow lips, diamante garters and pearl-handled pistol – is the 1920s’ most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.

Miss Phryne Fisher is up to her stunning green eyes in intriguing crime in each of these entertaining, fun and compulsively readable stories. With the ever-loyal Dot, the ingenious Mr Butler and all of Phryne’s friends and household, the action is as fast as Phryne’s wit and logic.

Sherlock Bones #2: Sherlock Bones and the Sea-Creature Feature – Renée Treml

In Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery, we met Bones, a skeletal tawny frogmouth, and Watts, a stuffed blue Indian ringneck parrot. This unconventional team are both exhibits in the state Natural History Museum. In the first book we also met Grace, a chocolate loving raccoon.

There’s talk of a swamp monster who may have “squid-napped” the octopus. Our new mystery takes place in a brand new exhibit, Reef to Shore. There’s definitely something fishy going on in there.

I know, I know … But I couldn’t help myself. In my defence, the author started it!

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Naturally Bones, Watts and Grace take it upon themselves to investigate. Along the way they meet a new friend, Nivlac the octopus. Our intrepid trio navigate their way around touch pools and the mangroves searching for clues. It will take teamwork, keen observation skills and some cardio.

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Nevertheless, our team is keen to solve any mystery that comes their way, even the mystery of how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Granted, Grace is slightly more interested in her search for chocolate than she is in solving the bigger mysteries but you can’t blame her for that.

If you keep an eye out for visual clues you’ll probably be able to solve the mystery for yourself. Observant readers will learn the identity of the thief from the first book early in this sequel so you may want to read them in order to avoid spoilers.

Like the first book, you’ll accidentally learn as you make your way through this one, with some interesting facts about cryptozoology and some of the animals you meet along the way.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Etch, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sherlock Bones’ home, the Natural History Museum, has added an exciting new exhibit, Reef to Shore, that includes a mangrove forest and shallow coral reef habitat, with touch tanks in between. When Sherlock overhears a that a swamp monster has been sighted, he gathers his team to investigate. At first Sherlock Bones suspects Nivlac, a quirky octopus with a talent for camouflage – and tank pranks.

But then, loud bellowing leads Bones and team to the mangroves, where they find a horrifying long-haired green beast! Can they escape the creature – or is it too late for our beloved frogmouth bird skeleton and his ragtag mystery-solving team?

Eggshell Skull – Bri Lee

The term ‘eggshell skull’ refers to the legal principle that a victim must be accepted for who they are individually, regardless of where their strengths and weaknesses place them on a spectrum of human normality. If you strike a person whose skull happens to be as thin as an eggshell, and they break their head open and die, you can’t claim that they were not a ‘regular’ person. Full criminal liability – and responsibility – cannot be avoided because a victim is ‘weak’.

This was a really drawn out read for me – almost three months have passed since I read the first chapter. Part of this snail’s pace can be put down to bad timing; I’d finished reading Louise Milligan’s Witness less than two weeks before I started this book and it had already solidified my feelings about the way the Australian legal system chews up and spits out sexual assault survivors.

‘But what if the legal system is unfair?’

Reading about the cases that came across Bri’s desk while she was working as a judge’s associate became overwhelming at times. Some of the details were vividly described so if sexual assault is a particularly difficult topic for you, please take good care of yourself if you choose to read this book.

Bri’s experience working in the legal system offers her a different perspective than most survivors. Yet even she is not able to prepare herself for the emotional toll that her own case of historic sexual assault will have on her.

Bri is unlike so many survivors for a number of reasons.

She has the full support of her loved ones throughout the process. Many survivors do not have that luxury, having to go it alone.

She is confident that the people she tells about the sexual assault she experienced will believe her. So many survivors have not been believed when they’ve had the courage to speak out.

She reports the sexual assault to the police. “Less than one in three Australian women who are sexually assaulted ever go to the police.”

The police charge the perpetrator in Bri’s case, while “fewer than one in five sex offences reported to the police result in charges being laid and criminal proceedings being instigated.”

While I wished for less details at times when Bri was explaining the cases she worked on as a judge’s associate, I found myself wanting more details about her own court case. With such a build up throughout the book, I felt like I only managed a quick glance around the courtroom for much of the trial.

Content warnings include alcohol and other drug use, child abuse, domestic violence, eating disorders, mental health, self harm, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

EGGSHELL SKULL: A well-established legal doctrine that a defendant must ‘take their victim as they find them’. If a single punch kills someone because of their thin skull, that victim’s weakness cannot mitigate the seriousness of the crime. 

But what if it also works the other way? What if a defendant on trial for sexual crimes has to accept his ‘victim’ as she comes: a strong, determined accuser who knows the legal system, who will not back down until justice is done?

Bri Lee began her first day of work at the Queensland District Court as a bright-eyed judge’s associate. Two years later she was back as the complainant in her own case. 

This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland – where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.

Bri Lee has written a fierce and eloquent memoir that addresses both her own reckoning with the past as well as with the stories around her, to speak the truth with wit, empathy and unflinching courage. Eggshell Skull is a haunting appraisal of modern Australia from a new and essential voice.

Beneath the Waves – Helen Ahpornsiri

Text – Lily Murray

I didn’t think the awe I felt when I first saw Helen Ahpornsiri’s A Year in the Wild could be replicated. I was wrong. Beneath the Waves has had the same effect on me.

Helen took me on a journey through the seasons in A Year in the Wild, using petals and leaves to create the most adorable array of animals. My favourite image from that book remains the owl.

In Beneath the Waves, Helen uses seaweed, coastal flowers and garden plants to explore the coast, open ocean, tropics and polar waters. I loved the entire book but did have a few favourites:

  • The baby turtles, each of which have a different expression and unique shell design.
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  • The contrast of the polar bear against the black background enables the details to stand out more. There’s a black background behind the angler fish as well and it’s absolutely stunning.
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  • The blue whale. Not only was this image so detailed, my favourite fact of the book accompanied it. Their “tongues alone weigh as much as an adult elephant!” How’s that for perspective?!
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If you can’t believe an artist could possibly transform pressed plants into such realistic animals, I’d encourage you to watch Helen at work on YouTube.

I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Take a journey through the oceans of the world in this beautiful book, made entirely from hand-pressed plants.

Artist Helen Ahpornsiri transforms silky seaweeds, feathery algae and bright coastal blooms into playful penguins, scuttling crabs and schools of silvery sharks. Turn the page to explore each corner of the oceans, from hidden rock pools to the darkest depths. Marvel as plants transform into marvellous creatures, and discover the magic and beauty that lies beneath the waves…

Girl from the Sea – Margaret Wild

Illustrations – Jane Tanner

Who lives in that cottage by the sea?

I wish. I wish. I wish it was me.

This picture book has haunted me for two weeks. Each time I look at it the narrative I tell myself about the story changes, which is fitting as the author has deliberately left it open to interpretation.

A child watches a family who live in a seaside cottage. She yearns to live there too and to share in their life. She wants to belong and hopes they will ask her in.

The illustrations are where this story truly comes alive. They’re also where the ambiguity lies.

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The child is actually a ghost who has come from the sea.

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The family consist of a mother, father, son and daughter. The members of the family never get a voice in the words of this story so it’s up to the reader to interpret their story from clues given in the illustrations.

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My interpretation is that the ghost girl drowned at sea, possibly a long time ago, and that it may even be her weathered gravestone that sits off kilter outside the family’s property. I think the family has also experienced a loss, one that the mother still grieves. They may have buried a child of their own.

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The mother is often pictured at a distance from her husband and two children. I believe this is a way of showing how her grief has separated her physically and emotionally, causing her to feel alone despite being surrounded by loved ones.

But you know what? Because the author has not joined all of the dots, someone else might see something I haven’t or disagree with my interpretation. And for this specific book, I love that. Usually I would need to know and know for sure, but not here. What I do want to know is what other people see in this story that I don’t.

The illustrations really are the star of this book. They are absolutely gorgeous but also sad, full of yearning and quite haunting. The blue the girl brings with her from the sea is the only colour amongst charcoal. I found this contrast beautiful.

The cover illustration was inspired by Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk by the Sea.

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The Monk by the Sea

This is definitely one of those picture books that adult me adores, knowing that child me wouldn’t have liked it. If I’d seen this book as a child I would have appreciated the pictures but I would have wanted more words. I know I wouldn’t have liked not absolutely knowing the truth of the story at the end of the read.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A poetic, visual mystery that will leave the reader asking questions about the mysterious girl from the sea.

Wolf Girl #1: Into the Wild – Anh Do

Illustrations – Jeremy Ley

Spoilers Ahead!

Before I tell you anything else, you need to know that I am beyond excited to finally have a signed copy of one of Anh’s books.

He’s one of my favourite authors!

Happy dance time!!!

Gwen is awoken in the middle of the night. Her school backpack is crammed with food and the rest of her family are rushing to pack what they can in their car before they leave. Gwen doesn’t know where they’re headed or what’s going on, only that something big and scary is happening. It isn’t long before she is separated from her mother, father and her big sister, Kate, who just turned eleven. She winds up alone in a forest in the middle of the night.

While Gwen can’t find any other people she does wind up meeting some animals that are just as alone as she is:
Puppy, a courageous wolf with a black patch on her forehead in the shape of a diamond. She has golden-yellow fur and turquoise eyes.
Nosey, a labrador, who is patient and smart.
Zip, a greyhound, who’s fast, but clumsy as a result of his diminished vision.
Tiny, a bossy and fearless chihuahua.

Along the way we also meet Brutus, a strong black mastiff,

and Eagle.

Over time this unlikely group become family, protecting one another and hunting together.

The dogs had become my brothers. Eagle was my little sister, and Puppy was my best friend.

Gwen still doesn’t know what happened to her human family but she’s determined to find out.

I fell in love with Anh’s writing when I discovered his WeirDo eries on the shelf of my local library a couple of years ago. I was intrigued by the fun lenticular covers and soon wanted to be a Do so I could hang out all the time with Weir and his family. I even laugh along with the terrible dad jokes! Then Hot Dog! appeared on the shelf and I met friends Hotdog the dog, Kev the cat and Lizzie the lizard. I enjoy the humour and the focus on friendship, and the importance of teamwork and being a good sport.

More recently I met Nelson Kane, Ninja Kid, and his family. I fell in love with them all, but hold a special place in my heart for Grandma Pat, who is one of the coolest grannies I’ve ever met. It was through Ninja Kid that I was introduced to one of my favourite kid’s book illustrators, Jeremy Ley.

Today I met Gwen. I was expecting more of the same when I learned Anh and Jeremy had teamed up again for a brand new series, Wolf Girl. I couldn’t have been more right! Or wrong!

The book vortex that sucks me in each time I pick up one of Anh’s books was working perfectly. There was adventure, a loving family and so much heart. Jeremy’s illustrations are just as brilliant as I’ve come to expect and still capture not only what’s happening in the story but also the way I feel as I’m reading. There’s even the familiar feeling of dangling over a cliff as I impatiently wait for the next book in the series.

It’s all so familiar … until it wasn’t. While all of Anh’s previous stories have a fun lightness underpinning them, this series begins with fear and uncertainty. What follows is the adventure I was expecting but a darker one with a distinct lack of dad jokes. Different doesn’t mean bad though. I loved it! And I may have noticed a sneaky tear trying to escape at one point. I urgently need the next book in the series.

Content warnings include war, kidnapping and remembered death of a beloved childhood pet.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When disaster separates Gwen from her family, she must fend for herself, all alone in the wilderness. 

Luckily, she’s not alone for long … When a wolf puppy, a Labrador, a Chihuahua, and a greyhound want to make friends, Gwen discovers talents she didn’t know she possessed. 

It will take all her new skills and strength just to survive. Does Gwen have what it takes to be leader of the pack? 

Our Little Inventor – Sher Rill Ng

Nell is a young girl who believes her invention can help the Big City. Nell and her family live in the countryside, but even from such a distance the pollution is clouding the skyline. After a long journey Nell discovers that the problem is much bigger than she realised.

A group of powerful men in the city are quick to dismiss Nell and her invention. Undeterred, Nell continues to work on her invention, making it bigger and better.

I absolutely adore this book! Nell sees a problem and uses her intelligence and creativity to solve it. Her inspirational journey is not success only but her persistence and belief in herself are a shining example to young world changers in the making. I loved that the one adult in the city who sees the potential of Nell’s invention is a woman, whose encouragement made me want to simultaneously jump up and down, hug her and buy her a coffee.

Sher Rill Ng’s story is wonderful and her illustrations are amazing, with a steampunk vibe that’s perfect for this story. The smallness of the girl with the answer to the Big City’s problem is contrasted with the looming size of the city officials who have the power to make a change but don’t.

I’m not entirely sure what I would have made of this book as a kid with little understanding of environmental issues back in the dark ages but if I was a few decades younger I’m certain I would’ve wanted to read it over and over until I came up with my own brilliant idea to fix the world. I’ll definitely be following this author/illustrator’s career.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A gorgeous and inspiring picture book about a young girl, Nell, who invents a machine to fix the pollution that is choking the city.

‘My invention is ready!’ exclaimed Nell. ‘I must show it to the people in the Big City. Uncle says he can take me most of the way.’

‘It won’t work,’ scoffed Little Brother.

Little Nell has worked hard to make an invention that will help clean up the pollution in the Big City. But she soon discovers that it can be hard for a girl to get the attention of the people in charge. 

A wonderful picture book about a girl with a big idea and a determined spirit, and who just needs a little help to make the world a better place for everyone.

Sherlock Bones #1: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery – Renée Treml

When the royal blue diamond, the world’s largest gemstone, goes missing from the State Natural History Museum it’s up to Sherlock Bones and Watts to solve the mystery, even if the main suspect is a ghost. If they don’t, then the museum may close and Bones certainly doesn’t want to be put into storage.

Sherlock Bones is a tawny frogmouth and Watts is a blue Indian ringneck parrot. Both are exhibits in the state Natural History Museum. Bones is, well, bones and Watts is stuffed, so while Bones knows what she says, the reader doesn’t. They’re joined by Grace the raccoon, who is very much alive and in need of chocolate. You’ll also meet Mickey who, you guessed it, is a mouse.

This is a really fun read. I loved the humour, which was appropriate for both adults and children. There’s some enjoyable slapstick humour but there are also some more subtle smiles that adults will appreciate. I loved the jar containing a herring that’s beside one containing a red herring. You’ll also stumble upon some accidental learning, with interesting facts included that don’t detract from the story.

This is a highly illustrated chapter book. I would encourage you to look closely at all of the pictures because there are clues scattered throughout the illustrations that will help you solve the mystery. I also liked discovering other elements that, while not part of the mystery, were interesting, including a hermit crab checking out suitable replacements for its shell.

I particularly loved that this book was written and illustrated by a fellow Australian. Okay, so she was born in America but she moved to Australia in 2007 so I’m claiming her, especially since the focus in the book was on Australian animals. There’s also the requisite “Blimey!”

I can’t tell you how much I loved that the main character was a tawny frogmouth. We have a tawny frogmouth couple who either hang out on our clothes line or hunt in our front yard most nights and I adore them!

I really hope this book is the first in a series because I need to know what mystery Sherlock Bones and Watts will investigate next.

Thank you to Allen & Unwin for the wonderful surprise in the mail today. I love book competitions! I read an advanced proof copy and I hope nothing changes prior to publication.

Oh, and while I’m just a tad outside of the age range for this book’s target audience, that doesn’t stop me from feeling pretty darn proud of myself for finding the clues and solving the mystery before Sherlock Bones and Watts did. 😜

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hi there, I’m Sherlock Bones.

Who is Sherlock Bones, you ask? Well, I don’t like to brag, but my trusty side-kick Watts says I’m the greatest detective in our whole museum. 

Don’t you, Watts? 

Watts … ?

You might not be able to hear Watts, because he’s technically a stuffed parrot, but I always know what he’s thinking.

And right now he’s thinking: Can we solve the mystery of the missing Blue Diamond and save the Museum of Natural History, before it’s too late?

Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture – Roxane Gay (editor)

I went on a bit of a journey through Opposite Land while reading this book. I love that this book exists. I hate that it has to.

The title was what initially grabbed my attention: Not That Bad. How many times have I and countless others said that?! Was it because it wasn’t that bad? No. It was that bad but we still live in a world that, on the whole, doesn’t want to know about sexual assault.

It doesn’t quite feel right to say I have a favourite anything where rape culture is concerned so instead I’ll say that the best definition of rape culture I’ve read to date is by Clem Ford:

“A state of existence in which the impact and reality of sexual violence is minimised while the perpetrators of it are supported by a complex system built on flawed human beliefs, mythologies about gender, and good old fashioned misogyny.”

Usually I’d give each contributor in a book of essays an individual star rating and comment on their writing style or whether I connected with their story or not, but I won’t be doing that here. I’m so proud of everyone that contributed to this book and while some essays impacted me more than others, I’m not comfortable critiquing anyone’s experience of rape culture.

Instead I’ll be sharing a quote from each contributor. I highlighted so much of this book and found it difficult in most cases to choose just one for this review. In the end I decided to share the one that stood out the most when I reread my highlighted passages. As such, both the book and my review need to come with a trigger warning. Stop reading now if you need to. 💜

Introduction – Roxane Gay

It was comforting, perhaps, to tell myself that what I went through “wasn’t that bad.” Allowing myself to believe that being gang-raped wasn’t “that bad” allowed me to break down my trauma into something more manageable, into something I could carry with me instead of allowing the magnitude of it to destroy me.

But, in the long run, diminishing my experience hurt me far more than it helped.

Fragments – Aubrey Hirsch

If rape culture had a national sport, it would be … well … something with balls, for sure.

Slaughterhouse Island – Jill Christman

If nothing changes – and in thirty years, not nearly enough has changed – next year, there will be one hundred thousand more assaults on our campuses.

One is too many. One hundred thousand.

& the Truth Is, I Have No Story – Claire Schwartz

This is not about that. This is about everything after.

This is about how, all of a sudden, there was only one after.

The Luckiest MILF in Brooklyn – Lynn Melnick

I know that saying please stop made it no more likely that these things would stop.

Spectator: My Family, My Rapist, and Mourning Online – Brandon Taylor

The only way through all of it was to promise that I would remember it and that at some point, I would make it known what happened there.

I am a hard person because hardness is what comes from a life lived underground.

The Sun – Emma Smith-Stevens

So many times my mind left my body only to return to find it soiled

Sixty-Three Days – AJ McKenna

I resent having to face up to it. I resent having to be a survivor.

“Survivor” is the “special needs” of victimhood. If I say I have survived, I’m fooling nobody. I didn’t.

Only the Lonely – Lisa Mecham

And my hands, my hands. I wrapped them around my shins and pulled in tight and cried and thought about how when you’re hurt, way before you say it, you have to feel it.

What I Told Myself – Vanessa Mártir

I looked over at my daughter, who had moved on to the swings, and that’s when it hit me: I’d been blaming myself for thirty years for what happened to me when I was six.

Stasis – Ally Sheedy

I didn’t go on auditions for films that I felt glorified sex work, that depicted women being sexually abused in a gratuitous way, or that required me to leave my sense of self on the doorstep. (All of these films became huge hits.)

The Ways We Are Taught to Be a Girl – xTx

We learn not to tell everything. We know telling everything will make them see the bad in us. How it is our fault. How we contributed. We fear repercussions, albeit lighter than the ones we will administer to ourselves; slut, bad, ugly, weak, whore, trash, shame, hate. We tell just enough, if we tell at all.

Floccinaucinihilipilification – So Mayer

It’s a conundrum: if you survive, then it – that, the trauma – can’t have been that bad. Being dead is the only way to prove it was. It really was bad. It was terrible. It was so awful there was no way I could survive.

What did this child die of? Shame, mainly. And narrative necessity.

If you survive, you have to prove it was that bad; or else, they think you are.

Surviving is some kind of sin, like floating up off the dunking stool like a witch. You have to be permanently écorchée, heart-on-sleeve, offering up organs and body parts like a medieval saint.

The Life Ruiner – Nora Salem

Perhaps the most horrifying thing about nonconsensual sex is that, in an instant, it erases you. Your own desires, your safety and well-being, your ownership of the body that may very well have been the only thing you ever felt sure you owned – all of it becomes irrelevant, even nonexistent.

All the Angry Women – Lyz Lenz

Anger is the privilege of the truly broken, and yet, I’ve never met a woman who was broken enough that she allowed herself to be angry.

Good Girls – Amy Jo Burns

Much of the furor spread not because a crime occurred, but because these girls had the nerve to say that it had.

A good girl is a quick study, and this is what you, always a good girl, learned: It doesn’t matter how good you are, because a man will always be better.

Utmost Resistance: Law and the Queer Woman or How I Sat in a Classroom and Listened to My Male Classmates Debate How to Define Force and Consent – V.L. Seek

When your truth is so inherently questioned, it is easier to say nothing than anything at all.

Bodies Against Borders – Michelle Chen

The flip side of treating “victims” or “survivors” as subjects of a narrative is that the process of intellectualizing the issue also requires neatly transmuting the subject into the object. And objectifying people who have lived through sexual violence is not a good place to begin, or end, any story – not our own, and not theirs.

Wiping the Stain Clean – Gabrielle Union

Rape is a wound that throbs long after it heals. And for some of us the throbbing gets too loud. Post-traumatic stress syndrome is very real and chips away at the soul and sanity of so many of us who have survived sexual violence.

What We Didn’t Say – Liz Rosema

I don’t even remember his name but I remember what he said – the corner of that page is folded in my memory. I turn right to it.

I Said Yes – Anthony Frame

“It’s your eyes. They’re so … Was that the year it happened?”

Knowing Better – Samhita Mukhopadhyay

She had learned, somewhere in the interim, to do more than simply reveal what had happened to her; she had learned to tell the story of it so that it didn’t become her only story.

Not That Loud: Quiet Encounters with Rape Culture – Miriam Zoila Pérez

Sexual assault is no longer an undercurrent in political life: it shouts at us from news headlines, colors the electoral debates, shapes rally slogans and protest chants. But something doesn’t have to be loud to be deafening, to suck up all the oxygen in the room, to shroud the windows and dim the lights.

Why I Stopped – Zoë Medeiros

Sometimes I see ghosts. The worst ghosts for me are not usually the flashbacks, although those can be pretty bad, but the ones who show me what I might have been if it never happened. It’s like suddenly feeling what it would be like to run on a leg that had never been broken, just for a second, and then it’s gone and the old bone-deep pain is with me again.

Picture Perfect – Sharisse Tracey

For once, I was glad I didn’t have a little sister.

To Get Out from Under It – Stacey May Fowles

What I need is what most women need when they talk about the sexual violence they have endured. I need someone to listen. I need someone to believe me.

Reaping What Rape Culture Sows: Live from the Killing Fields of Growing Up Female in America – Elisabeth Fairfield Stokes

the world, I had learned, was a place that didn’t condemn sexual violence; it accepted and excused it.

Invisible Light Waves – Meredith Talusan

I stayed to prove that he could not affect me

Getting Home – Nicole Boyce

There’s something so naive about insisting that daylight makes a difference. Why do I imagine that violence wears a wristwatch?

Why I Didn’t Say No – Elissa Bassist

Because when a woman challenges a man, then the facts are automatically in dispute, as is the speaker, and the speaker’s license to speak.

Early this week I had my latest experience with rape culture. At a time when I had already read about half of this book I found myself in a room with a man in a position of authority who, while telling me that it wasn’t a matter of whether he believed me or not, also told me numerous times that my story was “unbelievable”, along with an incredulous “How is that even possible?!”

Feeling disempowered by his lack of belief and judgement, and vulnerable after being given no choice over the location of our meeting, I found myself minimising my experience by telling him that the sexual assault I’d experienced in that building (a few offices to my right) wasn’t as bad as the sexual assault I’d experienced across the street from where we were meeting.

“Not as bad.” As soon as the words were out of my mouth the title of this book flashed in my mind and I internally chastised myself. While I couldn’t take back those words I made sure I wasn’t silent when this man went on to talk about the “gains” people achieve by making up false allegations against “poor” men. I (we) have a long way to go but I believe that by refusing to be silent about the “unbelievable” we (I) can be catalysts for change.

If you have read this review and have experienced any form of sexual assault please know that you are not alone and it was not your fault. I believe you. Your story matters. You matter!

If you need support or information you can contact:

You can also search for resources in over a hundred countries at:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Cultural critic and bestselling author Roxane Gay has edited a collection of essays that explore what it means to live in a world where women are frequently belittled and harassed due to their gender, and offers a call to arms insisting that “not that bad” must no longer be good enough.

Small Things – Mel Tregonning

How to break my heart yet still give me hope 101

Step 1: Put this book in front of me.

Mel Tregonning’s artwork takes you inside the lonely world of anxiety and depression in such a beautiful but haunting way. The monsters that lurk and chip away at the main character piece by piece are perfect. Each monster is unique but clearly from the same monster gene pool. Once you’ve seen them you can identify them but would have trouble explaining them to someone who hasn’t seen them. Anxiety and depression feel like that. How can you truly explain to someone who hasn’t seen those monsters what they look like and how living with them impacts every part of you.

Step 2: Show me the book’s dedication.

This book is dedicated to Mel, the illustrator. How can that be?!

Step 3: Investigate further.

Upon investigating I came across this article and Mel’s website.

Step 4: Cry.

Step 5: Be grateful for the hope provided in this book, but maybe cry a bit more first.

At the heart of this book is a powerful message about early intervention. Support from people who care about you truly can make all the difference. There are ways to make the monsters retreat. You are not alone. Please know there is hope.

My heart breaks for Mel’s family. If she can have this much of an impact on me just because I ‘read’ her book I can’t even begin to imagine what her loss must be like for those who loved her in life. 💕

Content warnings include mental illness and suicide.

I ordered this from the library mostly because of the haunting cover illustration. I needed to know more. Now I do and while I don’t have as many tissues as I did before I started I’m so glad I found this book.

It’s part of the NSW Premier’s Reading Challenge (Challenge Level 5-6) and I’m so glad it’s there. Children (and adults) need the message of this book. It’s not one that I’d just hand a child and go on with my day though. This is a book that deserves to be discussed.

P.S. There are a list of the reading challenge books here if you’re interested. My library has heaps of them. I love my library!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

On the cusp of having everything slip from his grasp, a young boy has to find a way to rebuild his sense of self. An ordinary boy in an ordinary world. With no words, only illustrations, Small Things tells the story of a boy who feels alone with worries but who learns that help is always close by. An extraordinary story, told simply and with breathtaking beauty.