Aveline Jones #2: The Bewitching of Aveline Jones – Phil Hickes

Illustrations – Keith Robinson

“Haven’t you ever experienced something you can’t explain?” 

Aveline isn’t spending her summer break at the beach like she’d hoped. Instead, she and her mother are staying in a cottage in the sleepy village of Norton Wick.

While Aveline is initially concerned that this holiday will be boring, it turns out to be anything but. Conveniently located at the end of the garden are The Witch Stones, an ancient stone circle with mysterious origins.

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Aveline, with her love of things that go bump in the night and anything else that would be of interest to Mulder, is in her element. Harold, her friend from Malmouth, is coming to visit for a few days with his uncle and Lilian, Aveline’s aunt. 

Together, Aveline and Harold hope to solve the mysteries of the stone circle and the strange bottle Aveline found in the garden. 

Old bottles with things inside them couldn’t just be ignored. 

Before Harold arrives, Aveline makes a new friend, Hazel Browne. That’s “Browne with an e.” She also meets the local vicar, Alice, who’s fond of bowler hats and rainbow socks.

I was glad when Harold showed up because, although I was initially intrigued by Hazel, her possessiveness didn’t endear her to me at all. I never connected with her so found it difficult to see beyond her abrasiveness, even after I understood where she was coming from.

I enjoyed the magic in this book and definitely considered indulging in dessert with Aveline and Hazel. 

Aveline and Harold’s first response, regardless of the ooky spookiness they’re facing, is to find a bunch of books and do research. That affords them kindred spirit status with me for life.

I love both Aunt Lilian and Mr Lieberman, who I met in the first book, but they didn’t have much of a role in this one. I had been looking forward to getting to know Aveline’s mother but I didn’t really get much of a sense of her personality. I hope to get to know the adults better in the next book.

I absolutely adored Keith Robinson’s illustrations in this book. The cover image was dark, mysterious and creepy. I particularly loved the magpie featured at the beginning of each chapter.

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Although I definitely got sucked into the mystery of the first book more than this one, I love Aveline and can’t wait to hang out with her and Harold again in The Vanishing of Aveline Jones

“Everything’s creepy as far as you’re concerned, Aveline”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Turn on your torches and join Aveline Jones!

Aveline is thrilled when she discovers that the holiday cottage her mum has rented for the summer is beside a stone circle. Thousands of years old, the local villagers refer to the ancient structure as the Witch Stones, and Aveline cannot wait to learn more about them.

Then Aveline meets Hazel. Impossibly cool, mysterious yet friendly, Aveline soon falls under Hazel’s spell. In fact, Hazel is quite unlike anyone Aveline has ever met before, but she can’t work out why. Will Aveline discover the truth about Hazel, before it’s too late?

Join the world of Aveline Jones, where mysteries are solved, spirits are laid to rest, and everybody gets to bed on time.

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

Illustrations – Keith Robinson

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

P.P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reread 20 May 2022

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

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

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

Our Wives Under the Sea – Julia Armfield

Miri’s wife was supposed to be gone for three weeks but was missing for six months. Biologist Leah, engineer Matteo and marine ecologist and conservationist Jelka were conducting research for the Centre for Marine Enquiry but things didn’t exactly go to plan. 

“I think,” she says, “that there was too much water. When we were down there. I think we let it get in.” 

Hypochondriac Miri thought she’d never see her wife again. Now Leah has returned but the Leah who left is not the one that returned. 

The problem, of course, was that nothing was wrong, aside from the fact of the obvious. 

With the narrative alternating between Miri and Leah, the author explores the history of their relationship and the incomprehensible changes in Leah. 

“How will we ever explain this” 

The deliciously unsettling cover image and quotable beginning set my expectations unreasonably high. I was ready for creepy and claustrophobic. I wasn’t expecting so much of the story to be about the relationship between the wives. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy this book (I did), only that it wasn’t the read I thought I was signing up for. 

It isn’t that her being back is difficult, it’s that I’m not convinced she’s really back at all. 

The author really captured the feeling of being alone in the presence of others. The pain that accompanies loss, whatever form it takes. The struggle to hold on to what no longer exists. The resistance against letting go. 

“I think,” Juna says after a pause, “that the thing about losing someone isn’t the loss but the absence of afterwards. D’you know what I mean? The endlessness of that.” 

You will find answers in this book but not all of them. If there’d been even a teensy bit more of a focus on what happened in the depths of the ocean, I would not have been okay with this. At all. 

Because I became invested in the aftermath, I was able to sit more comfortably in the ambiguity. That’s not to say that I’d turn away anyone who wanted to spoon-feed the rest of the answers to me.

This book is really quotable, as I’m sure you’ve already picked up from my review. The first sentence, though, it’s a doozy. I’ve seen it quoted in so many reviews already but it’s what sucked me in so I have to share it too. 

The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness. 

Now, this is not important in the scheme of things but it’s still running through my head so I’m passing it along to you: Miri wonders why so many people keep bringing her coffee. I’m wondering how I can get more people to bring it to me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realise that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

Orphans of Bliss – Mark Matthews (editor)

This is the third (and final) anthology of addiction horror edited by Mark Matthews, but my first. I want to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this read but that feels so inappropriate given the subject matter. Some stories were horrific; not the jump scare variety, but the type that gets under your skin. Many of the stories will be accompanying me for a while, whether I want them to or not.

You Wait For It, Like It Waits For You by Kealan Patrick Burke 

Reality isn’t easily distinguishable for Sean, as the days pass in the room with no door. 

“Do you know where you are?”
“Inside myself.” 

One Last Blast by S.A. Cosby

Sometimes not even death can stop you from needing a fix. 

“I … can … smell it.” 

What We Name Our Dead by Cassandra Khaw

Eleanor returns to her childhood home, a place of fear and pain. 

Hurt changes you. Hurt stays. Hurt gnaws a nest for itself in the heart and stays burrowed there until you die. 

Huddled Masses, Yearning to Breathe Free by John F.D. Taff 

Alan Denbrough is a collector. If you have trypophobia, you may want to skip this one. 

I don’t hoard so much as … collect. And yes, there’s a distinction.

Through the Looking Glass and Straight Into Hell by Christa Carmen

This rehab offers something different: virtual reality recovery simulation. 

“What do you wish it would show you?” 

Holding On by Gabino Iglesias

Guillermo needs to get Max and Alondra out of Section C before it’s too late. 

In Section C, nothing good ever happens at night.

Buyer’s Remorse by Samantha Kolesnik

Sometimes the punishment fits the crime. 

“Everything has a price” 

A Solid Black Lighthouse on a Pier in the Cryptic by Josh Malerman 

If you draw the attention of a witch in a bar, be prepared for the consequences. 

“Drink and you are drunk.” 

Singularity by Kathe Koja 

We’re in space, but I was fairly lost. I may need to reread this one. 

You know you’ve never been wanted the way the dark wants you now. 

My Soul’s Bliss by Mark Matthews 

We meet two addicts, whose lives had diverged, at a funeral. 

Because that’s what happens with certain moments. They imprint themselves on you and you can’t change them. They define you, become the hinge all your decisions swing upon. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I began this anthology but out of ten stories, I came away with five favourites, those by Cassandra Khaw, John F.D. Taff, Christa Carmen, Josh Malerman and Mark Matthews. 

Now I’m keen to read Garden of Fiends and Lullabies for Suffering.

Content warnings include mention of ableism, addiction, death by suicide, homophobia, mental health, physical abuse, racism and suicidal ideation. Readers with emetophobia, beware.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wicked Run Press for the opportunity to read this anthology. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“My soul’s bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.” – Emily Bronte

Addiction is the perpetual epidemic, where swarms of human moths flutter to the flames of hell. Because that warm blanket of a heroin high, that joyful intoxication of a pint of vodka, that electric energy from a line of cocaine, over time leaves you with a cold loneliness and a bitter heart. Relationships destroyed, bodies deteriorate, loved ones lost, yet the craving continues for that which is killing us – living, as the title suggests, like an Orphan of Bliss.

Welcome to the third and final fix of addiction horror and the follow up to the Shirley Jackson Award Finalist, Lullabies for Suffering. A diverse table of contents brought together for an explosive grand finale – an unflinching look at the insidious nature of addiction, told with searing honesty but compassion for those who suffer.

Table of Contents includes: 

Kealan Patrick Burke
Cassandra Khaw
Josh Malerman 
S.A. Cosby
John FD Taff
Christa Carmen
Gabino Iglesias
Samantha Kolesnik
Mark Matthews
Kathe Koja

The three Addiction Horror anthologies, Garden of Fiends, Lullabies for Suffering, and Orphans of Bliss, do not have to be read in order and are not sequential.

Edinburgh Nights #2: Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments – T.L. Huchu

Being a ghostalker never exactly brought in the big bucks and “certain shenanigans which I daren’t recall saw that business go kaput.” But now Ropa is seeing dollar signs. She’s just scored an apprenticeship at the General Discoveries Department with her mentor, Sir Callander. Fancy.

Only, before she even begins, her apprenticeship is downgraded to an unpaid internship. Dammit!

Ropa’s not one to sit around waiting for the money to find her. There’s some mysterious goings on at the appropriately named Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments, the clinic where Priya, Ropa’s friend, works. Max Wu, a student from the Edinburgh School, has an illness of unknown origin and Ropa’s particularly skill set is just what the doctor ordered. 

‘Snooping around’s my thing, and if the kid’s parents pay well, then that’s me sorted’ 

In between scoffing as many Jammie Dodgers as she can get her hands on, Ropa begins her investigation. It involves the Monks of the Misty Order and the One Above All, and takes her all over Edinburgh, from a school and a bank to a whole other realm. Ropa may not have a fancy magical education but she has street smarts, River (her vulpine companion) and a scarf called Cruickshank.

While she’s tough as nails on the outside, Ropa’s heart goes all mushy when she thinks about her family. 

Me, Gran and Izwi. That’s my real fortune, and I wouldn’t place it in any bank in the world, ‘cause I keep it right here in a vault in my heart. 

Come to think of it, this family makes me a bit mushy too. I also love Ropa’s friends: Priya, who has some brilliant moves, and Jomo, who works in the Library.

Now, you know this series had me at ‘library’. This one keeps getting better and better. The location is fantastic, the card system is unique and the books really want you to read them. 

‘I will meet you at the Library.’ 

I am enjoying getting to witness how magic works in Ropa’s world but it very much feels like I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. I’m looking forward to seeing how the new developments with Gran and Izwi unfold and want to spend more time with the Hamster Squad. Obviously I also need to learn more about the Library of the Dead.

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I don’t think anything in life quite prepares you for the experience of trying to load a stiff onto a tricycle hearse on a hot summer’s night in Edinburgh, that’s for sure. 

Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with a couple of scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor for the opportunity to read this book. Bring on book 3!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ropa Moyo’s ghostalking practice has tanked, desperate for money to pay bills and look after her family she reluctantly accepts a job to look into the history of a coma patient receiving treatment at the magical private hospital Our Lady of Mysterious Ailments. The patient is a teenage schoolboy called Max Wu, and healers at the hospital are baffled by the illness which has confounded medicine and magic.

Ropa’s investigation leads her to the Edinburgh Ordinary School for Boys, one of only the four registered schools for magic in the whole of Scotland (the oldest and only one that remains closed to female students).

But the headmaster there is hiding something and as more students succumb Ropa learns that a long-dormant and malevolent entity has once again taken hold in this world.

She sets off to track the current host for this spirit and try to stop it before other lives are endangered.

The Shadow Glass – Josh Winning

‘In a forgotten time, in a forgotten world, deep within a forgotten chamber few have ever seen, the Shadow Glass sees all.’ 

Bob Corman’s 1986 feature debut, The Shadow Glass, was a flop at the box office. The “puppet-animated fantasy adventure” has since gained a cult following but Bob’s son, who was one of The Shadow Glass’ first super-fans, wants nothing to do with it. 

Jack’s childhood, once a magical place brimming with imagination and joy, darkened when his father morphed from his hero to someone he barely recognised as his obsession with Iri (pronounced eerie) and its inhabitants consumed him.

Returning to his childhood home after his father’s death, Jack discovers the characters, born in his father’s imagination, are very much alive. And they need Jack’s help.

Now erplings Bobson, a Melia, fanboy Toby and the Guild must join forces with kettu Zavanna and Brol if they have any hope of saving Iri from imminent destruction. 

‘Are you friend or food?’ 

The Shadow Glass is a love letter to the 80’s films that infused themselves into my very core and it’s about fandom: the obsessive, possessive fans that make it creepy (‘why else do you think they call us fanatics?’) and those whose love and dedication keep franchises alive. It’s about family, the ones we’re born into and the ones we form along the way. Above all, this is a hero’s journey. 

‘What is a hero but a normal person overcoming their own failings to defeat the demons of their soul?’ 

I primarily identify as a book nerd so it’s a rare week that passes without me needing to book evangelise the most recent treasure I’ve discovered. This book, though… I haven’t had this much fun reading since Dan Hanks’ Swashbucklers.

Both books major in 80’s nostalgia. Swashbucklers was the Ghostbusters/Goonies mashup I didn’t know I needed. The Shadow Glass had me reminiscing about borrowing and reborrowing The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story from my local video store.

There’s no shortage of action in this book and the characters became so real to me it felt like I was fighting alongside them. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel nostalgia for a movie I’ve never seen and doesn’t exist (yet) but here we are. What’s going to stay with me the most, though, is this book’s heart. 

I related to Bobson as he navigated his complicated family legacy, while figuring out who he is and what he stands for. I was fangirling alongside Toby as his passion for Iri made him practically glow from within. Occasionally I empathised with Cutter, as his pain distorted something that was once pure.

There’s so much to lub about this book. I lub the erplings. I lub kettu. I lub lubs. I even lub Kunin Yillda.

It’s fairly common for me to finish a book and immediately want to see the movie adaptation of it, whether it currently exists or not. I need a movie of this book but I also need Bob Corman’s original 1986 movie in my life. 

‘It’s real and scary and it’s not safe.’ 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to fall in lub with Iri.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible – the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

The Butterfly Club #1: The Ship of Doom – M.A. Bennett

Illustrations – David Dean

Watch out for the Watch. 

When Luna attends a meeting of her aunt’s Butterfly Club, she discovers the club’s true purpose: they’re time travellers who ‘borrow’ technology from the future to “bring progress forward.” 

‘I must tell you that time travel is perfectly possible.’
‘But how?’
‘All in good time.’ 

Before she’s even got her head around the fact that time travel exists, Luna learns that she’s about to see the future for herself. Luna and her two travelling companions, Konstantin, an avid reader with a clockwork heart, and Aidan, who has a “brain like a machine”, are about to board the Time Train for their very first mission.

The trio are tasked with retrieving a very important item from Southampton in 1912. It’s on board an unsinkable ship. 

This is a story of friendship and adventure, one where ordinary people can be heroes. Being true to yourself is valued and integrity is modelled by a number of characters. 

There are also some characters whose motives are more self serving and there’s a decidedly dastardly character, who I’m keen to get to know better as the series progresses. I love a good villain.

I enjoyed seeing all of the ways that humans and machinery interact in this book. Besides the boy with a clockwork heart, there’s also a man with a pocket watch eye and something intriguing about Luna’s aunt. 

‘Tiny, tiny changes can have huge consequences.’ 

Butterflies weave their way through the story, from the butterfly effect to butterfly kisses. There’s also a metaphor that helps explain something important about one of the characters. My personal favourite was the use of butterflies to describe colours, e.g., a “yellow gown the colour of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly”. 

While much of the story lined up with what I know of the Titanic’s voyage, there was one part of the story that didn’t match what I’d previously heard. When Luna sees the iceberg that sinks the Titanic, it is said to look as though it has been “lit from within” as a result of the moonlight. My understanding is that it was a moonless night when the Titanic sank.

As someone who has inhaled as many stories and movies about time travel as I can find, I questioned some of the ways time travel worked in this book.

Over the course of the book, Luna and her new friends travel to the same day on multiple occasions. Although they are in the same areas at the same time as they were previously and have conversations with the same people, their selves from the first time they lived that day are nowhere to be found. I kept thinking of Marty McFly watching the Delorean speeding through the Twin Pines Mall Lone Pine Mall car park on its way to 1985 at the end of the first movie (and the times he has to avoid running into himself in 1985 in the second one).

There is a discussion about not being able to take someone back to a time when they were younger because of the potential timey wimey consequences of having two of the same person in the same time. Knowing that the person they were talking about was soon going to stop breathing permanently, I wondered why they couldn’t take them to a day in the future shortly after the date of their untimely death.

David Dean’s illustrations are stunning. I absolutely adored the clockwork butterfly.

I’ll be boarding the Time Train when my new friends travel to their second mission. Next stop: the Valley of the Kings. 

‘When are you?’ 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Welbeck Flame, an imprint of Welbeck Children’s Limited, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Greenwich, London, 15th February 1894.

Luna thinks that an evening at her aunt’s butterfly club sounds deathly boring.

But it turns out that the meeting, held in the Butterfly Room at the Greenwich Observatory, is not at all as Luna expects. The Butterfly Club is a society with an unusual secret … they use time travel to plunder the future for wonders.

Together with her friends, Konstantin and Aidan, and a clockwork cuckoo, Luna boards the Time Train. The gang travel to 1912 and find themselves aboard a great ship travelling from Southampton to New York. They locate a man called Guglielmo Marconi and his new invention: the wireless radio. But as the ship heads into icy waters, they discover its name:

The RMS TITANIC

Can Luna and the boys save Marconi and his invention from the doomed ship?

Can they get the radio back home to the Butterfly Club?

And how will their actions change the rest of time?

It Fell From the Sky – Terry Fan & Eric Fan

When it fell from the sky, everyone approached it differently. Some tried to figure out where it came from. Others investigated, attempting to taste, roll or hatch it. 

Everyone agreed it was the most amazing thing they had ever seen. 

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Spider decides to capitalise on the Wonder. That is, until things don’t quite go to plan.

Spider, initially only focused on how he could personally benefit from the Wonder, eventually learns a valuable lesson about selfishness. Maybe Wonders are more wonderful if they’re shared.

The illustrations in this picture book are absolutely gorgeous. The animals are so realistic that I almost expected them to crawl, hop and fly off the page. I was tempted to blow on the dandelions. 

While the pictures are incredibly lifelike, that doesn’t mean they’re without whimsy. There’s something so adorable and smile worthy about seeing critters you’d find in your garden casually wearing top hats and carrying briefcases.

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I probably wouldn’t have appreciated this as much as a kid but adult me loved the minimal use of colour in the illustrations. Initially, the only splash of colour comes from the thing that fell from the sky. Gradually, more colour is introduced. 

Beware the five-legged creature!

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A picture book about community, art, the importance of giving back – and the wonder that fell from the sky.

It fell from the sky on a Thursday.

None of the insects know where it came from, or what it is. Some say it’s an egg. Others, a gumdrop. But whatever it is, it fell near Spider’s house, so he’s convinced it belongs to him.

Spider builds a wondrous display so that insects from far and wide can come look at the marvel. Spider has their best interests at heart. So what if he has to charge a small fee? So what if the lines are long? So what if no one can even see the wonder anymore?

But what will Spider do after everyone stops showing up?

Wayward Children #7: Where the Drowned Girls Go – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

That strange noise you’re hearing? That’s what a contented sigh mixed with an undercurrent of panic sounds like. It’s January so that means I’ve been able to hang out with some Wayward Children, some I already knew and others I’ve just met. Also, it’s January so I now have to wait until the calendar winds its way through all of the other months and says ‘January’ again before I’m allowed to go on my next quest. Yeah, I know. 

No solicitation. No visitors.
No quests. 

In this not-a-quest, we follow Cora, who we already know and love. Cora, who travelled to the Trenches and has quite possibly the best hair ever as a result, broke my heart all over again in this novella. Haunted by her time in the Moors, Cora comes to the very logical but devastating conclusion that if she can only find a way to forget, she will be safe from the Drowned Gods. 

And everyone knew that things from the other side of the door could absolutely leak through into this reality. 

Cora’s decision takes her away from my beloved Eleanor to the Whitethorn Institute, a place where care is weaponised. There we meet more Waywards, their experience of reentry into this world nothing like those we’ve seen so far. I spent much of this book feeling sad and angry and powerless, but I know Waywards and they’re a plucky bunch so hope is never too far away, even when the circumstances look, sound and, dare I say, taste dire.

I love every world I’ve visited so far and every one I’ve heard about in passing. There’s always a part of me, though, that hopes this will be the story of my door, that when I read it I’ll recognise its shape and it will finally open to me. I already know I’m sure, even if my world eventually spits me back out into this one. I’m going to keep believing and it will find me. 

The closest I’ve come to finding my door came in this book, explored in only four sentences. The never ending Halloween of Emily’s world sounded right up my alley and I’m hoping to get to explore it further in a future book.

As always, I’m obsessed with Rovina Cai’s illustrations. I’m including two of the ones from this novella here so you can drool over them as well and anticipate the awesomeness of this read if you haven’t been there, done that yet. 

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While I’m still patiently waiting for the time when Seanan is sure enough to share Kade’s story with us, I’m also still hoping to visit Eleanor’s world, as well as those of the nameless girl and one of the matrons. 

“The doors never completely leave us.” 

Content warnings include bullying, domestic abuse, fat shaming and a suicide attempt.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.

It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming …

Square3 – Mira Grant

One moment, nature had laws and generally followed them, unenforced and unpoliced. One moment, everything was normal. The next, physics and mathematics were negotiable things, and the supposed laws that had always governed biology were shattered beyond all repair.

Seventeen year old Katharine and her fourteen year old sister, Susan, are almost close enough to one another when the incursion happens. Almost.

Now an adult, Susan works in “rift physics”, the world she knew as a child changed in ways her and other scientists are still trying to come to grips with. Katharine, meanwhile, is on the other side of the rift. Susan doesn’t even know if her sister is still alive. That side of the rift is where the monsters came from, after all.

“Sometimes you have to be inside a thing to understand it”

I preordered this book in May 2021 and may have accidentally burned the cover image into my brain since then. It had me expecting more monsters per page than I actually encountered but the monsters I met were well worth the anticipation. 

I loved Katharine and Susan and the ways they looked after one another as kids. I loved the science and how easily I believed all of this was not only possible but potentially imminent. 

Just in case this novella winds up in the non fiction section, it’s been really nice knowing you. No matter which side of the rift I end up on, it’s practically a certainty that I’m a goner. Maybe I’ll be too mesmerised by the impossible colours to notice the monsters. Maybe I’ll be too curious about the possibilities of the other side of the rift. Maybe I’ll irritate the wrong kid. 

“Should I be alarmed?”

”It won’t change anything if you are, so I wouldn’t bother wasting the time if I were you.”

Bonus points for the delightfully appropriate chapter numbering and Susan’s Project title. 

Now, if someone would please commission a companion novella written from Katharine’s point of view or a sequel, I’d be a really happy soon to be squished, melted or otherwise mangled rift casualty. And if that could happen some time in the next, oh, 130 days, that’d be awesome.

Heads up: the incursion happens on 16 May 2022. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

“This is a safety light!”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We think we understand the laws of physics. We think reality is an immutable monolith, consistent from one end of the universe to the next. We think the square/cube law has actual relevance.

We think a lot of things. It was perhaps inevitable that some of them would turn out to be wrong. 

When the great incursion occurred, no one was prepared.  How could they have been?  Of all the things physicists had predicted, “the fabric of reality might rip open and giant monsters could come pouring through” had not made the list. But somehow, on a fine morning in May, that was precisely what happened.

For sisters Susan and Katharine Black, the day of the incursion was the day they lost everything. Their home, their parents, their sense of normalcy … and each other, because when the rift opened, Susan was on one side and Katharine was on the other, and each sister was stranded in a separate form of reality. For Susan, it was science and study and the struggle to solve the mystery of the altered physics inside the zones transformed by the incursion. For Katharine, it was monsters and mayhem and the fight to stay alive in a world unlike the world of her birth.

The world has changed. The laws of physics have changed. The girls have changed. And the one universal truth of all states of changed matter is that nothing can be completely restored to what it was originally, no matter how much you might wish it could be.

Nothing goes back.