Legends & Lattes – Travis Baldree

After twenty-two years of adventuring, Viv had reached her limit of blood and mud and bullshit. An orc’s life was strength and violence and a sudden, sharp end – but she’d be damned if she’d let hers finish that way.

It was time for something new.

If you’d told me a couple of days ago that I’d be recommending a cozy fantasy book to everyone who crosses my path, I doubt I would have believed you. But here we are.

An orc walks away from her old life to open a coffee shop.

“Oh, and hey! What in the eight hells is coffee?”

In a city where almost no one has even heard of “exotic bean water”.

And that’s pretty much the crux of the story, give or take. At face value it sounds kinda cute but nothing I’d expect to be enthusiastically shoving in people’s faces, telling them how much they’ll love it.

Viv’s story felt like a comfort read from very early on and I can easily see this being a go to read when I need some time out.

I adored Viv, Tandri, Hem, Thimble, Pendry and Cal individually but together this diverse group of kindred spirits felt like home (the good kind).

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I love that Viv was able to let go of the life that was expected of her and find a bunch of supportive friends who could see beyond her past to who she truly was, friends that encouraged her in her new venture and who had her back.

“If mortal danger threatens us, I promise to hide behind you. Deal?”

While Tandri was my favourite character, I also had a soft spot for Pendry. I enjoyed cheering them on as they gained the confidence to step outside their comfort zone.

I absolutely need a dire-cat in my life.

Favourite no context quote:

“Things don’t have to stay as what they started out as”

I’m giving this book however many hm’s it takes to fill five stars and can’t wait to meet more of Thune’s inhabitants in the author’s next book.

In the meantime, I’d like to order a bean water with milk and a heavenly frosted cinnamon pastry please.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

High fantasy, low stakes – with a double-shot of coffee.

After decades of adventuring, Viv the orc barbarian is finally hanging up her sword for good. Now she sets her sights on a new dream – for she plans to open the first coffee shop in the city of Thune. Even though no one there knows what coffee actually is.

If Viv wants to put the past behind her, she can’t go it alone. And help might arrive from unexpected quarters. Yet old rivals and new stand in the way of success. And Thune’s shady underbelly could make it all too easy for Viv to take up the blade once more.

But the true reward of the uncharted path is the travellers you meet along the way. Whether bound by ancient magic, delicious pastries or a freshly brewed cup, they may become something deeper than Viv ever could have imagined.

Arc of a Scythe #1: Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.

This book became one of my favourite reads of all time when I met Citra and Rowan five years ago. Since then I’ve wanted to visit them again but, like all of the books I’ve fallen in love with as an adult, I’ve procrastinated my reread. I wanted to hold onto the love at first read that I experienced. I was concerned that the shine wouldn’t be there the second time around.

I needn’t have worried. I didn’t think it possible but the reread shone even brighter for me. The characters I knew and loved, and those I loved to hate, came to me fully formed; I didn’t need to reacquaint myself with them, even after all of this time.

Citra and Rowan have been selected to undertake an apprenticeship. They will be spending the next year competing against one another for a job neither of them want. Ironically, this makes them the perfect candidates. Although they are both going to be trained by Scythe Faraday, their apprenticeships will be vastly different.

Theirs is a world of splats and revival centres, where nanites can dull your pain but also limit the spectrum of your emotions. It’s also a world where serial killers are not only sanctioned but revered. Here they’re called scythes and their kills aren’t murder; they’re gleanings.

Scythes have a quota of 260 gleanings per year. While this sounds like death is around every corner, your odds of being gleaned in the next 100 years are only 1 in 100.

On the one hand, I have trouble imagining living in a world where we know everything there is to know and have conquered disease and mortality itself. On the other hand, I was fully immersed in Citra and Rowan’s world. I believed.

I imagined the joy of having time to learn everything I wanted to learn, read all of the books on my TBR list and experience everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But because time’s no longer finite, the urgency of our world doesn’t exist in Citra and Rowan’s. There’s nothing left to strive towards, nothing new to discover.

With nothing to really aspire to, life has become about maintenance. Eternal maintenance.

I adored Scythe Faraday, with his thoughtful, compassionate approach. I loved the excerpts from scythes’ journals that caused me to think more deeply about their world as well as our own. I’m still chewing on the philosophical and moral issues raised in this book.

Favourite no context quote:

Well, she could learn self-control tomorrow. Today she wanted pizza.

This remains one of my favourite books of all time. I can’t wait to binge the rest of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life – and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe – a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

The Girl in the Green Dress – Jeni Haynes & George Blair-West

With Alley Pascoe

Four years of police interviews, 900,000 words in victim statements, endless therapy sessions, a lifetime of pain

I thought I was going to tell you that this is one of the best books I’ve read about mental health and sexual assault but, while that’s accurate, it falls short of what I really want to say. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. One of the most painful and difficult to read, sure, but absolutely one of the best.

I’ve read about Multiple Personality Disorder/Dissociative Identity Disorder (MPD/DID) before so I thought I already knew the basics and I guess I did. Before this book, though, I’d never truly appreciated how incredible people with MPD/DID are.

There are three factors that typically cause DID: the experience of the most extreme forms of abuse, usually extending over many years; this abuse is perpetrated by caregivers, typically parents, that the child relies upon; and it begins while the child’s mind is young, or plastic, enough, to employ high-level dissociative strategies.

The fact that such unimaginably horrific abuse is perpetrated on young children by people they should be able to trust to protect them is mind-boggling. That the brain is able to develop such a highly developed coping strategy to survive abuse of this magnitude is awe-inspiring.

Told by Jeni, some of her alters and their psychiatrist, Dr George Blair-West, this is the most comprehensive account of MPD/DID you are likely to ever read. Jeni has Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory (HSAM) so is able to recall, in detail, her experiences from when she was an infant.

MPD/DID is a response to being a victim of extreme criminal acts.

Because so much of what Symphony and the alters she created have experienced is more brutal than anything you’ll likely see in your worst nightmare, this isn’t a book you’ll want to binge. You’ll need time out to take care of yourself: go for a walk, remember that the world still holds beauty, remind yourself that Jeni, against all odds, is okay.

I really appreciated the care shown by both the publisher and Dr Blair-West, warning readers of the potential impacts of reading this book before you’ve even begun. A couple of times Jeni warns you that the content you’re about to read is even more difficult than what you’ve encountered to that point, giving you the option to skip that section.

While I read those parts, I was grateful for the warnings so I could prepare myself as best I could. At the same time, though, the fact that Jeni and her alters spent their entire childhood protecting her mother and siblings and is now taking steps to protect readers both touched and saddened me. No one protected Jeni from the torture she experienced, yet she cares enough about people she’ll likely never meet to want to make sure they’re okay.

Jeni even protects the reader by not including all of the details of the unrelenting abuse she was subjected to. Her police statement, at 900,000 words, didn’t even cover everything that happened to her. For context, that’s significantly longer than the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Jennifer Margaret Linda was the original birth child, with Symphony taking her place when she was six months old. Symphony then created the alters. In this book we hear from Jennifer Margaret Linda, Symphony, Erik, Little Ricky, The Rulebook, The Assassin, Jenny, Linda, Muscles, Captain Busby, Janet, Squadron Captain, Amber, Judas, Happy, Zombie Girl, Magsy, The Joker, Maggot, Volcano, The Student, Ed the Head, Charlotte, Gabrielle, Mr Flamboyant, Jeni and The Entity Currently Known as Jeni.

That Jeni even survived her childhood is a testament to how incredibly well her system works. The fact that she’s able to function and is even surthriving is remarkable.

Life should be about thriving as we find meaning and purpose – hence the idea of rising above to ‘surthrive’.

Everyone who works in a helping profession should read this book. Jeni’s case was the first to use a diagnosis of MPD/DID for the prosecution, not the defence, paving the way for other survivors of extreme abuse to seek justice. This book, because of the openness of the alters who contributed to it, will provide much needed insights, so hopefully others with MPD/DID won’t be failed by the people who should be helping them the way Jeni was.

My abuse didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened before a school fete, behind the closed doors of my father’s respectability.

I’ve spoken a lot about Jeni and her alters but I need to point out that I found the insights Dr Blair-West gives in this book so helpful. He has the ability to take something that’s complex and explain it in a way that makes it feel like it’s not complex at all. I’ve read a lot about PTSD, dissociation and the way the brain manages trauma but Dr Blair-West’s explanations have given me a much better understanding of them.

To Jeni, Symphony, the alters who contributed to this book and those I haven’t met: Thank you for telling your story. I feel honoured to have been introduced to so many of you. I can only imagine how traumatic it was to revisit these experiences in order to write about them. Your story means more to me than you’ll ever know. You are brave and resilient and I’m in awe of you. You are truly extraordinary.

Content warnings include death by suicide, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, mental health, miscarriage, neglect, physical abuse, sexual assault, suicidal ideation and torture.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

‘I didn’t know that you’re only supposed to have one personality. I didn’t realise that having lots of voices in your head was abnormal. But you are protecting yourself. You are protecting your soul, and that’s what I did.’

An intelligent, poised woman, Jeni Haynes sat in court and listened as the man who had abused her from birth, a man who should have been her protector, a man who tortured and terrified her, was jailed for a non-parole period of 33 years. The man was her father.

The abuse that began when Jeni was only a baby is unimaginable to most. It was physically, psychologically and emotionally sadistic and never-ending. The fact she survived may be called a miracle by some – but the reality is, it is testament to the extraordinary strength of Jeni’s mind.

What saved her was the process of dissociation – Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – a defence mechanism that saw Jeni create over 2500 separate personalities, or alters, who protected her as best they could from the trauma. This army of alters included four-year-old Symphony, teenage motorcycle-loving Muscles, elegant Linda, forthright Judas and eight-year-old Ricky.

With her army, the support of her psychiatrist Dr George Blair-West, and a police officer’s belief in her, Jeni fought to create a life for herself and bring her father to justice. In a history-making ruling, Jeni’s alters were empowered to give evidence in court. In speaking out, Jeni’s courage would see many understand MPD for the first time.

The Girl in the Green Dress is an unforgettable memoir from a woman who refused to be silenced. Jeni Haynes is an inspiration and her bravery and determination to live is a powerful reminder of the resilience of the human spirit. This is a unique and profoundly important book as it is not only a story of survival, it also includes incredible insight from Dr George Blair-West, Jeni’s psychiatrist and an expert in DID.

When Women Were Dragons – Kelly Barnhill

“All women are magic. Literally all of us. It’s in our nature. It’s best you learn that now.”

Sometimes a cover image is enough to reel me in. Sometimes I only need to read the blurb to know for sure that a book is destined to become a favourite. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll only make it to the third page before I buy the ebook so I can highlight passages to my heart’s content. This is that book.

Marya Tilman’s transformation on 18 September 1898 was the “earliest scientifically confirmed case of spontaneous dragoning within the United States” but there were records of dragoning occurring centuries prior. You might believe that it was all over after the Mass Dragoning of 1955 but you’d be wrong. So very wrong.

For those whose feet remained firmly on the ground on 25 April 1955, life went on. People still went to work. Children still went to school. It was business as usual. But this new normal came at a cost.

Dragoning is unmentionable. Don’t talk about what happened.

Forget those who dragoned. They never existed in the first place.

Keep your eyes on the ground. You don’t want any dangerous ideas.

Perhaps this is how we learn silence – an absence of words, an absence of context, a hole in the universe where the truth should be.

This is Alex’s memoir (of sorts). Alex saw her first dragon when she was four. She was still a child when the Mass Dragoning happened. Through her eyes, we not only see how the Mass Dragoning changed society as a whole but also how it impacted upon Alex’s own family.

Through dragoning, this book explores trauma and the silencing that often takes place in its aftermath. It’s about how women diminish themselves to fit into the shape that society prescribes and the toxicity of secrets. It’s the power of women taking up space and refusing to be gaslit anymore.

When I started this book I thought it was going to be about an alternate 1950’s, one where women got pissed off with the patriarchy and turned into dragons. And it is. Sort of. But it’s so much more. There’s rage in this book but there’s also joy.

It is joy that burns me now, and joy that makes my back ache for wings, and it is joy that makes me long to be more than myself.

I fell in love with auntie Marla and Beatrice. I met the best librarian ever. I felt rage and helplessness alongside determination and hope and love. I ugly cried. Oh, did I ugly cry.

I felt a kinship with the characters who dragoned and a fire inside that I fully expected to result in my own dragoning. I love this book so much!

“Today’s the day!”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, death of animals, domestic abuse, racism and sexual assault.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, set in 1950’s America, Kelly Barnhill exposes a world that wants to keep girls and women small – and examines what happens when they rise up. 

Alex Green is four years old when she first sees a dragon. In her next-door neighbour’s garden, in the spot where the old lady usually sits, is a huge dragon, an astonished expression on its face before it opens its wings and soars away across the rooftops.

And Alex doesn’t see the little old lady after that. No one mentions her. It’s as if she’s never existed.

Then Alex’s mother disappears, and reappears a week later, one quiet Tuesday, with no explanation whatsoever as to where she has been. But she is a ghostly shadow of her former self, and with scars across her body – wide, deep burns, as though she had been attacked by a monster who breathed fire.

Alex, growing from young girl to fiercely independent teenager, is desperate for answers, but doesn’t get any.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Mass Dragoning is coming. And nothing will be the same after that. Everything is about to change, forever.

And when it does, this, too, will be unmentionable…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think: oh, shit. I say, “Oh, shit.”

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

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

May fortune gift you a forever friend like Charm.

May you have the courage to love and be loved.

May help always come swiftly when you ask.

May your ever after outshine your once upon a time.

May you always have cause to speak in exclamation points!

Content warnings include mention of sexual assault.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

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

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

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

Nettle & Bone – T. Kingfisher

Once upon a time, there were three princesses. The youngest of these, who’s “almost a nun and barely a princess”, is on a quest. 

Accompanying her are a dust-wife, a former knight who’s also a diplomat and a fairy godmother. Rounding out this ragtag bunch are a chicken with a demon, a highly motivated chick and quite possibly the best dog ever. 

Their mission? Kill the prince. Don’t worry; he definitely deserves it. 

“It’s a fool’s errand and we’ll probably all die” 

I’m always keen to spread the word about books I love but every so often a read comes along that tips me over into book evangelism. This is one of those books. I want everyone to adore it as much as I did. 

If you encounter me in the wild in the foreseeable future, I’m going to be recommending you read it and if you don’t love it as much as I did, you may notice me looking at you a little strangely. This will be my silently judging you for not getting it look.

How can you not love a book that brings the intrigue, the weird and the need to know everything in the first two sentences? 

The trees were full of crows and the woods were full of madmen. The pit was full of bones and her hands were full of wires. 

This book has everything I need in my life right now. The lengths you will go to for family, even the ones that don’t particularly like you. A found family who shouldn’t gel so well, but they do. A reminder that you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Making the impossible possible. A quest that’s born from a need for justice. Bonedog.

Bonedog is one of my favourite characters of all time. I either need to permanently borrow him from Marra or beg ask her really nicely if she would pretty please make a sibling for him and allow me to hang out with Bonedog II forever.

Content warnings include domestic abuse and miscarriage.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for introducing me to Bonedog and the rest of my new found family.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra – the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter – has finally realised that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince – if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

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.

House of Hollow – Krystal Sutherland

Three little girls fell through a crack in the world. 

When Iris Hollow was seven, she and her two older sisters, Grey and Vivi, were missing for a month. When they returned, they couldn’t remember where they’d been or what happened to them. Now, a decade later, the past is intruding on their present and their lives will never be the same. 

Dark, dangerous things happened around the Hollow sisters. 

I’ve been obsessed with this cover for months and now I’m equally obsessed with the Hollow sisters. This story is dark but somehow still gorgeous. I both loved and was wary of the intense bond between these sisters. 

It was a compulsive read and the imagery was almost tangible. I don’t think I’ve ever been more relieved that a book didn’t come with Smell-O-Pages.

I absolutely adored this book and want to gush about each of the sisters, their history, the imagery, the horror and the beauty. However, this is one of those books where the less you know going in the better. 

Get to know the Hollows and let their world unfurl around you. Just be prepared for them to get under your skin, whichever way you choose to interpret that. 

I am the thing in the dark.” 

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide (including method used), self harm and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Iris Hollow and her two older sisters are unquestionably strange.

Ever since they disappeared on a suburban street in Scotland as children only to return a month a later with no memory of what happened to them, odd, eerie occurrences seem to follow in their wake. And they’re changing. First, their dark hair turned white. Then, their blue eyes slowly turned black. People find them disturbingly intoxicating, unbearably beautiful and inexplicably dangerous. 

Now, ten years later, seventeen-year-old Iris Hollow is doing all she can to fit in and graduate high school – something her two famously glamorous globe-trotting older sisters, Grey and Vivi, never managed to do. But when Grey goes missing, leaving behind only bizarre clues, Iris and Vivi are left to trace her last few days. They aren’t the only ones looking for her. As they brush against the supernatural, they realise that the story they’ve been told about their past is unravelling and the world that returned them seemingly unharmed ten years ago, might just be calling them home.

Krystal Sutherland’s latest novel is a dark and twisty modern-day fairytale that expertly melds the fantastical with the real as the Hollow sisters discover just how much horror can lie beneath the surface. 

The Beatryce Prophecy – Kate DiCamillo

Illustrations – Sophie Blackall

How to make me fall in love with your book in 5 easy steps

Step 1: Begin with a quote that makes me cheer on the girl before I’ve even met her. 

It is written in the Chronicles of Sorrowing that one day there will come a child who will unseat a king.

The prophecy states that this child will be a girl.

Because of this, the prophecy has long been ignored. 

Step 2: Make your main character someone who loves to read, who is imaginative and brave and resilient and adorable. 

“There are twenty-six letters in all,” she said. “You will learn each of them, and once you know them, you can mix them as you will, and then use them to form the words of the world and the things of the world. You can write of everything – what is and what was and what might yet be.” 

Step 3: Introduce me to characters who will live in my heart long after I finish reading. People like…

* A monk who sees beauty everywhere and whose words are true
* A boy with a brilliant memory who talks to bees
* A man who remembers how wonderful it is to laugh.

Step 4: Impart wisdom and, in doing so, make me highlight an absurd amount of sentences. 

He said, “The world is not always a kind place.”

“No,” she agreed.

“But there are sweet things to be had,” he said.

“Nothing is more terrifying to evil than joy.” 

She felt as though the darkness were trying to swallow her up.

She must not allow that to happen. She must stay herself. 

To be brave is to not turn away.

To be brave is to go forward.

To be brave is to love. 

Seemingly, the heart could hold an untold amount of things – letters and people and goats and bees.

Seemingly, there was no limit to what it could contain. 

We shall all, in the end,

be led to where we belong.

We shall all, in the end,

find our way home. 

Step 5: Include gorgeous illustrations.

description

Bonus points if there’s a goat called Answelica who has attitude and a very hard head. 

“I do believe the best and wisest thing we can do is to follow the goat.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We shall all, in the end, be led to where we belong. We shall all, in the end, find our way home.

In a time of war, a mysterious child appears at the monastery of the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing. Gentle Brother Edik finds the girl, Beatryce, curled in a stall, wracked with fever, coated in dirt and blood, and holding fast to the ear of Answelica the goat. As the monk nurses Beatryce to health, he uncovers her dangerous secret, one that imperils them all – for the king of the land seeks just such a girl, and Brother Edik, who penned the prophecy himself, knows why.

And so it is that a girl with a head full of stories – powerful tales – within the tale of queens and kings, mermaids and wolves – ventures into a dark wood in search of the castle of one who wishes her dead. But Beatryce knows that, should she lose her way, those who love her – a wild-eyed monk, a man who had once been king, a boy with a terrible sword, and a goat with a head as hard as stone – will never give up searching for her, and to know this is to know everything. With its timeless themes, unforgettable cast, and magical medieval setting, Kate DiCamillo’s lyrical tale, paired with resonant black-and-white illustrations by Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall, is a true collaboration between masters.