Rumple Buttercup – Matthew Gray Gubler

I need to read this book every day for the rest of my life! Also, Rumple Buttercup is my new best friend!

Rumple lives in a drain beneath the town, hiding from the people he’s sure will reject him because he’s weird. He spends his time watching people interacting with one another and enjoying their lives but he is desperately alone so he makes his own friend out of trash, Candy Corn Carl.

I adore Rumple and love that this book is a celebration of weirdness. Let’s face it; we’re all weird in our own way. Anyone who has ever felt like they don’t belong, aren’t good enough or are too different to be accepted by others will relate to Rumple and hopefully realise, as Rumple does, that “Everyone is weird and that’s what makes us great”.

I would have read this book no matter what, simply because Matthew Gray Gubler wrote and illustrated it, but it’s so much more incredible than even I expected! This debut has a wonderful message for kids but people who have aged out of childhood also need to be reminded that it’s okay to be different. Let’s celebrate our individuality!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Rumple Buttercup has five crooked teeth, three strands of hair, green skin, and his left foot is slightly bigger than his right.

He is weird.

Join him and Candy Corn Carl (his imaginary friend made of trash) as they learn the joy of individuality as well as the magic of belonging.

Wayward Children #4: In an Absent Dream – Seanan McGuire


I’m convinced the Wayward Children series are fairy tales for adults whose door never opened for them as children, who are holding out hope against hope that some day their door will finally appear.

Alas, that this is not a fairy tale.

Okay, Seanan, I hear you. So it’s not a fairy tale, but it’s a cautionary tale, right?

this is Lundy’s story, Lundy’s cautionary tale

This cautionary tale’s doorway leads to the Goblin Market which, despite the fact that I would never make it a day there, still made me yearn for my own doorway to appear. It also made me want to reread Every Heart a Doorway to revisit Lundy’s journey after the conclusion of this book.

Lundy is this tale’s Wayward and she’s a reader!

Everything was a story, if studied in the right fashion.

She won my heart before I knew anything else about this precious soul. Lundy is also a strict keeper of rules, which is exactly why her doorway would never even consider me a possibility.

Following the rules didn’t make you a good person, just like breaking them didn’t make you a bad one, but it could make you an invisible person, and invisible people got to do as they liked.


This is a book of friendship and loyalty, of being torn between what you want and what you need, and of pies. Oh, the pies! I need to eat all of the pies.

I adored the Archivist, had a soft spot for Moon and wish I had gotten to know Mockery. I loved learning about how the Goblin Market’s rules work and especially loved the idea, foreign in our own, that unfair things always come with consequences.

I’m also entirely in love with that cover artwork and the gorgeous illustrations. I need a print of that doorway in the tree that’s large enough to span an entire wall so I can gaze at it all day, waiting for it to magically transform into the doorway to my world.

I was disappointed that some of the most exciting scenes happened off the page. I wanted to witness firsthand the battles that had been fought and won by characters when I wasn’t looking, and to be told of their conclusion rather than being shown them was frustrating for me.

Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I keep hoping there will be a Wayward Children book that explores the world I should be living in and that the simple act of opening the pages will open its doorway for me.

“It is a place where dreamers go when they don’t fit in with the dreams their homes think worth dreaming. Doors lead here. Perhaps you found one.”

How am I supposed to wait an entire year for Come Tumbling Down?!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This fourth entry and prequel tells the story of Lundy, a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.

Wayward Children #3: Beneath the Sugar Sky – Seanan McGuire

Beneath the Sugar Sky is a 2019 Hugo Awards finalist in the Best Novella category.

This will always be the Wayward Children Road Trip book to me. As soon as this disparate bunch of kids piled into the school minivan and set off on their journey I rejoiced, and their adventure just kept getting better and better, venturing through different worlds on their quest to help Rini, who fell from the sky near the beginning of the book.

This book took me an embarrassingly loooong time to read and I take full responsibility because I loved it! It unfortunately became one of those reads where life happened in between. I only wanted to read it whenever I could fully appreciate the brilliance that is Seanan McGuire, and let’s just say that 2018 sucked for me.

Recharged by the impending release of In an Absent Dream 💜 I knew I had to finish this one and, even after months of not having read a single page, I slipped straight back into the story. I hope to do a review that does some sort of justice to this book after a reread but for now please enjoy a sample of my favourite quotes:

“It’s never a good idea to eat the ground,” she said blithely, cake between her teeth and frosting on her lips. “People walk on it.”

Chandeliers of sugar crystals hung from the vaulted, painted chocolate ceiling. Stained sugar glass windows filtered and shattered the light, turning everything into an explosion of rainbows.

“It’s going to be okay. You’ll see. Just hang on. This would be a stupid way to die.”

“Sometimes that’s all you can do. Just keep getting through until you don’t have to do it anymore, however much time that takes, however difficult it is.”

“Every world gets to make its own rules. Sometimes those rules are going to be impossible. That doesn’t make them any less enforceable.”

Everyone who wound up at Eleanor West’s School – everyone who found a door – understood what it was to spend a lifetime waiting for something that other people wouldn’t necessarily understand. Not because they were better than other people and not because they were worse, but because they had a need trapped somewhere in their bones, gnawing constantly, trying to get out.

There is kindness in the world, if we know how to look for it. If we never start denying it the door.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Rini lands with a literal splash in the pond behind Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, the last thing she expects to find is that her mother, Sumi, died years before Rini was even conceived. But Rini can’t let Reality get in the way of her quest – not when she has an entire world to save! (Much more common than one would suppose.)

If she can’t find a way to restore her mother, Rini will have more than a world to save: she will never have been born in the first place. And in a world without magic, she doesn’t have long before Reality notices her existence and washes her away. Good thing the student body is well-acquainted with quests …

A tale of friendship, baking, and derring-do.

Warning: May contain nuts.

Matilda – Roald Dahl

Illustrations – Quentin Blake

Matilda is 30! How is that even possible?! Matilda and I became friends 29 years ago and her story remains one of my all time favourites. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve read it over the years but I can say that it gave me hope that circumstances can always improve, taught me that girls can be powerful and resilient, and that it is perfectly okay to be a book nerd, and proven if you’re really lucky you’ll find your very own Mrs Phelps and Miss Honey. I spent my childhood on the lookout for my Miss Honey.

I never had friends that enjoyed reading when I was growing up so Matilda became that for me. We even had a shared favourite book, The Secret Garden. I loved this story so much that the year after I first read it I wrote a multi page poem about the infamous chocolate cake incident for school. Not many things survived my childhood but I still have my treasured 1989 paperback copy of Matilda and that poem.

I found an amazing article by Mara Wilson about Matilda at 30. I love that there are multiple 30th anniversary editions of Matilda, each showing her thriving in a different way. Naturally this means that I have to buy one of each because, you know, marketing and obsessive book love and I have to have them all!!!

I need to press pause for a bit and tell you how much I adore all of Quentin Blake’s illustrations in Matilda and the rest of Roald Dahl’s books. As a kid I read about a bazillion books and while I always remembered the names of the titles and authors, the only illustrator whose name I knew was Quentin’s. Roald and Quentin made a perfect team, with Quentin highlighting all the phizz-whizzing quirkiness of Roald’s imagination. Even now I compare every illustrator I come across to Quentin; I can’t help it.

I don’t think you can truly put into words the impact a book has had on you like Matilda had on me but I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without it. While reading it this time I wondered where its characters would be today. I expect I’ll change my mind each time I reread this book from now on but here’s what I came up with this time:

The Wormwoods

Michael Wormwood eventually reconnected with his brilliant sister and they stay in regular contact. After some turbulent times as a teenager where he made some choices he’d prefer to forget including stealing cars, Michael turned his life around and now mentors troubled teens.

Mrs Wormwood is now a frumpet in an aged care facility where she cheats at Bingo and watches her programmes. She did try to sell Avon for a while but potential customers took one look at her caked on makeup and shut the door in her face. She never made a single sale. She bleached her hair one too many times so she’s now bald and her face has a look of perpetual surprise due to botched plastic surgery.

Mr Wormwood remains a grunion. The Wormwoods lived in Spain for a few years until his schemes were discovered and they were run out of the country. After trying and failing to implement new scams in numerous other countries Mr Wormwood eventually found work at a sawdust mill. His boss is a woman. He has a phobia of hats.

The Kids

Fred, Matilda’s friend who owned Chopper the parrot, became a veterinarian.

Lavender remains adventurous and now spends her days touring the world, conquering one extreme sport after another. She has lucrative sponsorship deals and whenever she’s photographed you can be sure her hair is a different colour, but never lavender. She has a pet newt and remains in contact with Matilda.

Hortensia now owns a pub and is known to regale her customers with wild, detailed yarns about her formative years under the watchful glare of the Trunchbull and her experiences in The Chokey. No one knows whether to believe her or not but she’s a born storyteller so they always come back for more.

Ollie Bogswhistle double crossed the wrong people and wound up serving time. He’s currently a prison snitch and after being on the receiving end of one too many punches he now sports a full set of dentures.

Julius Rottwinkle has a fear of heights and flying, among many other phobias. He attends therapy frequently. He hasn’t eaten liquorice since he was a child.

Nigel Hicks has extraordinary balance. He wrote a book espousing the health benefits of not showering very frequently but for some reason remains single.

Prudence, emboldened by being able to spell a ‘difficult’ word in Miss Trunchbull’s presence, went on to become a spelling bee champion.

Amanda Thripp never cut her hair again, an achievement that has made her the Guinness World Record holder for having the longest hair. She only ever wears her hair in pigtails.

Rupert Entwistle works at the Natural History Museum but his passion is cryptozoology. He had a secret crush on his next door neighbour Lavender for many years and follows her adventures on social media.

The other Rupert, Matilda’s classmate with the golden tresses, became an accountant and carries a calculator wherever he goes.

Eric Ink has a most unusual party trick; he can waggle his ears at will. He loves cosplay and due to his large pixie shaped ears he never needs to worry about adding prosthetic ears to his costumes.

Wilfred overcame his fear of being upside down when he went bungee jumping.

Bruce Bogtrotter became a competitive eater during high school and is now a well known food critic. His favourite food is chocolate cake and travels the world in search of a more delicious cake than the one Cook baked for him. He’s yet to find one.

The Crunchem Staff

Cook, may she rest in peace, quit her job shortly after selling her prized chocolate cake recipe to the highest bidder and then proceeded to lose every cent betting on the horses.

After Mr Trilby became the Head Teacher of Crunchem Hall Primary School the students and teachers breathed a collective sigh of relief. He became the most loved Head Teacher that ever ran the school. Sure, that’s not saying much, but he was wonderful. Honest!

Miss Plimsoll remained a teacher until she retired. She never had another student as brilliant as Matilda.

The Trunchbull was never heard from again. A school without children was established several years after she disappeared. While record numbers of applications were received for the school’s teaching positions, the school itself surprisingly went bankrupt within its first year and was forced to close. There is an old lady in Arkham Asylum that constantly mutters about chalk but no one knows who she is.

The Heroes

Mrs Phelps went on to inspire countless young minds to adore reading. A number of her patrons became well known authors and you’ll find her name in the dedications and acknowledgement sections of several bestsellers. Mrs Phelps has since retired and now travels the world, Kindle in hand. She spends each Christmas with Matilda and Miss Honey.

Miss Honey found her relatives in Australia and has visited them a few times during school holidays. She adopted Matilda but only because she needed offical paperwork to prove what they already knew; they were family. Miss Honey went on to become many students’ favourite teacher and won numerous awards for her pioneering method of using music in her classroom. Her home is full of books. She loves nothing more than pottering around in the garden at The Red House and lives a peaceful, quiet life.

Matilda has led a full life. She couldn’t decide which university course to study so she completed them all and was able to study for free because of the scholarships she was awarded. She has travelled extensively, following in the footsteps of the characters in the books of her childhood. She has worked as a librarian, lovingly sharing her passion for books with a new generation. She has also published a number of books, both fiction and nonfiction. She gets excited when she finds a book she hasn’t read. After consulting with Matilda behind the scenes many leaders have implemented her ideas to solve worldwide problems. Matilda is a wonderful mother and a loving partner, and Miss Honey remains one of her favourite people. Above all, Matilda is happy.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Puffin, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK, for the excuse to read this book yet again. As soon as I saw the 30th anniversary edition on NetGalley I got so excited about Quentin Blake’s amazing covers I had to see them immediately!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Matilda is a little girl who is far too good to be true. At age five-and-a-half she’s knocking off double-digit multiplication problems and blitz-reading Dickens. Even more remarkably, her classmates love her even though she’s a super-nerd and the teacher’s pet. But everything is not perfect in Matilda’s world.

For starters she has two of the most idiotic, self-centered parents who ever lived. Then there’s the large, busty nightmare of a school principal, Miss (“The”) Trunchbull, a former hammer-throwing champion who flings children at will and is approximately as sympathetic as a bulldozer. Fortunately for Matilda, she has the inner resources to deal with such annoyances: astonishing intelligence, saintly patience, and an innate predilection for revenge.

She warms up with some practical jokes aimed at her hapless parents, but the true test comes when she rallies in defense of her teacher, the sweet Miss Honey, against the diabolical Trunchbull. There is never any doubt that Matilda will carry the day. Even so, this wonderful story is far from predictable.

Roald Dahl, while keeping the plot moving imaginatively, also has an unerring ear for emotional truth. The reader cares about Matilda because in addition to all her other gifts, she has real feelings.

Danny Blue’s Really Excellent Dream – Max Landrak

I’ve read this book at least five times in the past couple of months because I love it so much and because I couldn’t think of the right words to tell you how much I love it or why. The blurb tells me it’s about “creativity, comfort zones – and colour”. It feels like much more though.

Danny Blue is the son of Mr Blue, a paint maker whose factory makes “the most beautiful shades of blue in all of Blue York.” Danny lives in a world of blue, from blueberry pancakes to the blue spoon he uses to eat his blueberries for dessert.

One night Danny has a dream but this dream is different. This is a Really Excellent Dream! Danny wonders if it’s possible to show people what he saw in his dream, but how will the people of Blue York react when they’re faced with something that’s not blue?

This book speaks to me of following your dreams (sorry, I had to go there) and that different doesn’t automatically equate to bad. I thought of pioneers whose ideas are met by peoples’ resistance to change and how embracing change can spur on creativity. I also thought this was a really cool book to teach kids about primary colours.

Max Landrak’s illustrations are fantastic! I love the imaginative use of the word everything to showcase Danny’s blue world. Inside each letter you’re shown a different element of Danny’s world, from the blue parrot to the blue ice cream (with a blue cone) to the blue bricks. I loved that most of the book is greyscale with highlights of blue, like the stripes on Danny’s shirt, so by the time a new colour is introduced it really does look revolutionary.

While I’ve told you a lot about this book and probably used more words than you’ll find in the book to do so I still don’t feel like I’ve really gotten to the crux of why I love this book so much. I’m not sure I can. Sometimes you come across a book and your love for it can’t be fully explained. It just is.

In a nutshell, this is a really fun kid’s book about a boy that follows his dream and, in doing so, changes his world. It’s a new favourite.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Danny Blue lives in a world where everything is blue. And while there are many different shades and hues, everything is essentially the same. But then one night Danny sees something in a dream that is unlike anything else. He tried to describe it, but no one can understand what he means, and so he decides to create the thing he saw in his Really Excellent Dream (or R.E.D.).

A Year in the Wild – Helen Ahpornsiri

Text – Ruth Symons

My brain got stuck on WOW! mode as I made my way through this book. Ruth Symons’ words were lovely, with easy to understand explanations of what’s happening in the flora and fauna worlds throughout the seasons, but were outshone by the pictures. I don’t think it would have mattered what words were used. They were never going to be the main event here.

My mind could not wrap itself around the creativity and genius of this artist and I kept telling myself that there was no way she could be this talented – but she is! There is not a splash of paint nor line of drawing in the entire book. Helen Ahpornsiri uses flowers and leaves to create the most stunning masterpieces of flowers, plants and animals! The heron and butterfly you see on the front cover are just a couple of examples of the jaw dropping images you will discover in these pages.

I can’t find a big enough or pretty enough word to describe just how breathtaking the animals in particular are. Helen’s attention to detail is extraordinary and how she can give each animal individual characters and expressions is beyond me. With the amount of work that must go into each creation you could forgive her for using the same image of a butterfly each time one was needed, yet each butterfly is an individual. There’s a row of ducklings following their mother and every single duckling is unique.

You’ll see bats, frogs, dragonflies, deer, squirrels, foxes, field mice, a hare and various insects. There are a group of mushrooms that are so beautiful.

I thought that this book couldn’t get any better but then I found the couple of pages where the background was black instead of the white that is behind most of the images. I have no words for the portrait of the owl with the black background. I would love to do a cross stitch of this design so I can hang it on my wall and marvel at it for the rest of my life.

You have to check out the time lapse videos of the creation of some of the animals on YouTube. Fair warning though, your brain may get stuck on a WOW! loop.

My library catalogue has this book listed under junior nonfiction although adults are probably going to love this even more than their kidlets. I could easily see this book making its way onto my coffee table so it’s always close by when I need to admire it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

An intricately crafted journey through four seasons of flora and fauna

Helen Ahpornsiri’s intricate artwork transforms leaves, petals, and seeds into bounding hares, swooping swallows, and blossoming trees. Using nothing but pressed plants, this journey through the seasons captures the wonder and magic of the natural world between the pages of a book. This standout title with beautiful nonfiction text will take readers through an extraordinary year in the wild. 

Came Back to Show You I Could Fly – Robin Klein

I’m not sure how you’re supposed to review a book you’ve loved since your early teens, especially when you haven’t read it for about 20 years. With such high expectations and nostalgia taking hold I was worried that Came Back To Show You I Could Fly wouldn’t stand the test of time. How happily wrong I was!

It was everything I remembered and more. Angie and Seymour, both lonely outcasts, took up residence in my heart way back in the early 1990’s when it was assigned reading for my English class. I can’t begin to imagine how many times I reread this book as a teenager, taking hope from what is quite a sad book on the surface.

Seymour is staying for several weeks over the school holidays with Thelma, a lady who clearly has no experience caring for children, but has been basically conned into protecting Seymour from his father by his drama queen mother. Seymour is a lonely, neglected, bullied 11 year old who is so well mannered and adorable that I just want to hug and then adopt him. I was only a year or two older than Seymour at the time I first experienced this book and while I saw him as a peer at the time, I now look on him as someone I desperately want to mother.

By chance Seymour winds up at Angie’s home and over the course of the novel they form a sibling/friend bond and go on adventures all over the city. Angie brings colour and excitement to Seymour’s stone grey life. Seriously, Seymour’s Mum, a stone grey pencil case is not a cool birthday present!

Angie is effervescent and possibly stole someone else’s personality because she seems to have more than one person’s quota. With the ability to talk under water and regale Seymour with humourous anecdotes from her childhood, complete with impersonations, she’s a live wire. As a young teen fresh from a several year The Baby-sitters Club obsession, Angie’s dress sense reminded me of what I loved about Claudia Kishi, in particular the quirky earrings.

Beneath Angie’s bravado she’s hiding a secret from Seymour. Angie is addicted to drugs. I was really naïve in this area as a kid, coming from a family where no one even drinks alcohol, so this book was my introduction into this previously unknown world. It really opened my eyes at the time and in retrospect I can trace my love of social issues YA books to this one. I can also see the signs through the book of what’s really happening in Angie’s world that I missed as a kid.

What I really appreciated in my reread as an adult is how honestly Angie’s addiction is portrayed, vomit and all. Besides the suspicions Seymour has that Angie’s flu isn’t actually the flu, there is a sensitive yet heartbreaking insight into how drug addiction also affects parents, siblings and friends. While this is clearly shown with Angie’s Mum and sister, I am surprised that I never noticed before that Angie’s Dad and brother are barely even mentioned.

One of the things I love about books is how they influence who you become when you let them into your soul. The awe I felt as a kid at Angie’s clothes and earrings had a huge impact on me and I have an array of weird and wonderful earrings in my collection now. Angie’s lifelong habit of naming her outfits turned into me naming my cars. My first car I actually named Angie after this character. My car, like Angie, was initially rough around the edges but with some love and time I knew it would be loyal and good because beneath the exterior it was a fighter. That car served me well for a number of years.

Nostalgia aside, Robin Klein’s book definitely stands the test of time. Her characters are damaged but loveable, and even when they’re making truly dodgy decisions you want them to prevail in life. Once again I was emotionally invested in the story and no, they’re not tears. I’ve just got something in my eyes. 😭 This remains one of my all time favourites and I could happily go straight back to page 1 and read it all over again right now.

What I Hated: I almost feel like apologising to you about the cover image of this edition. While there’s nothing wrong with this image itself (although not my taste) and it would work well for another book, it does not belong on the cover of this one. Please, in this instance do not judge a book by its cover. The Angie on this cover is bland, boring, forgettable; an imposter. Angie is anything but.

The cover of my copy (the same one our English class at school read from) is the 1991 Puffin Books edition, and this features the real Angie and the real Seymour. The cover illustration is by Vivienne Goodman and you can tell she understood these characters.

Angie is up front, with her dyed hair tousled, shoulder tattoo, painted black fingernails, a jumble of bangles and the earrings I think she purchased with Seymour in her ears along with the first few of an array of earrings working their way up underneath her hair. She’s got this look on her face that’s one part “don’t mess with me”, one part sad, and with a hint of the potential of something sarcastic and inappropriate for the situation about to make its way out of her mouth. She looks like a troubled Meg Ryan, circa When Harry Met Sally….

In the background, there’s Seymour in his jeans, grandpa shirt and daggy sandals, with this smile on his face like he can’t believe he’s in the presence of this angelic being. Right behind Seymour is an old, worn fence, obviously from the non-posh side of the alley. These are the people you’ll be meeting in this book. I hope you’ll love them like I do.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Text Publishing for the opportunity to renew my love for this classic Australian novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s the summer holidays and eleven-year-old loner, Seymour, lodged with a fussy guardian in an inner-city suburb, is bored and unhappy in his confined world.

By chance he meets Angie – beautiful, charismatic Angie. He is bewitched, and his world is opened as she takes him on unexpected holiday outings and shopping sprees.

Angie, however, is not what she seems.

Ellery Hathaway #1: The Vanishing Season – Joanna Schaffhausen

I’ve done it! I’ve finally done it!! I’ve found an author whose writing is worthy of being compared to Tess Gerritsen in a sentence like “I’ve finally found an author as good as Tess” or “This book had everything I love about Tess books and more, and it’s not even written by Tess!”

Friends, please allow me to introduce you (if you haven’t already discovered her) to Joanna Schaffhausen. I’m going to go out on a limb here and call it early … remember this name because Joanna’s ability to immerse you in her character’s world has bestseller written all over it. I feel as though nothing I say here can possibly do justice to her debut but I’ll give it a shot and encourage you to read it yourself so we can gush together about how much we loved it.

Ellery Hathaway is the sole survivor of infamous serial killer Francis Michael Coben. Saved by Agent Reed Markham before she became Coben’s seventeenth murder victim, Ellery now works as a police officer in a quiet town where no one knows who she really is. She is the only one who believes there’s a link between three seemingly unconnected disappearances in three years in her town, which all occurred around her birthday, the day she was abducted fourteen years ago. Ellery’s next birthday is approaching and she calls Reed, knowing he is the only one who will believe her.

I wanted to both rush through The Vanishing Season and read as slowly as possible to draw the experience of the first read out for as long as possible. I became immersed by about paragraph 3 and each time I came back to where I’d left the story I got sucked straight back in. I wound up so engaged that I didn’t realise I’d said, not thought, “I knew it!” until one of the people that had been respectfully honouring my ‘don’t you dare interrupt me until I finish my book or there will be dire consequences’ look came from the other side of the house to find out what my outburst was about. Oops!

I know a book has its hooks in me when I start repeating a phrase to myself while reading, as if the number of times I repeat it can magically increase the likelihood of my being able to influence the outcome. Yes, in my mind I wield that much power! In this case I had two magical phrases:

  1. Please don’t let Bump die!”
  2. “Let the killer be anyone but 🤚.” (And, no, I’m not telling you who the hand represents but it seemed an appropriate substitute given the content of the book.)

I adored Bump. The loyal and trustworthy male in Ellery’s life, Bump is a basset hound who loves walks and rides in the car, liberally distributing slobber over humans he likes and dreams of the day when someone will accidentally drop a piece of chocolate in his vicinity. Also, the story surrounding the choice of his name is wonderful and dog owners everywhere will relate and wonder why they didn’t think of naming their dog Bump.

I loved the people characters as well. No one was perfect. All of the major players had pasts which influenced the way they thought and acted in the situation they found themselves in. There were questionable ethics and life choices, secrets galore and issues surrounding trust were hiding beneath the surface, and shame and guilt were both explored.

I really enjoyed Ellery and Brady’s banter. Their friendship felt comfortable and their bond over 80’s music and quips about what they disagreed on made me feel like I was being included. I almost wanted to add my own opinion a couple of times. I’m looking forward to reading Ellery and Reed banter in future books. There were hints of it here but good banter takes time to develop in a friendship so I’m thankful it didn’t happen immediately.

Coben gave me a what a fantastic yet disgusting and interesting in a disturbing way vibe that was similar to the way I felt when reading about Hannibal Lecter. Which brings me to the gore. It was gruesome enough to satisfy the disturbed side of me that watches B grade movies in part to cheer when the gigantic shark leaps out of the water and takes down a plane, yet it wasn’t so focused on the brutality of the murders that it detracted from the interactions between characters and the mystery of who was behind the murders and why.

Content warnings include domestic violence and sexual assault.

The references to sexual assault are not gratuitous by any means but I felt the character directly affected was so realistic that if this has been your experience you are likely to see parts of your own response mirrored back at you (which incidentally I applaud because life after sexual assault is rarely written well). I wasn’t personally triggered while reading, instead feeling hopeful when I encountered ‘me, too’ moments.

I’m always interested, when someone is rescued after being kidnapped or otherwise traumatised, in what happens next. What becomes of the survivor? What does their life look like now compared to what it looked like prior to whatever happened to them? How do they cope? Do they think they’re a victim or a survivor? So many books that explore the effects of sexual assault portray the person who experiences it as either a victim hiding from the world in a corner or someone who’s taking on the world and has no residual physical or psychological impacts in their life.

The character in The Vanishing Season who’s been sexually assaulted was irrevocably changed by their experiences and is a wonderful mix of strength and vulnerability. They’ve overcome so much but there are still physical reminders on their body and in their home that speak to the pain they carry with them. They’re at a point in their life where they’ve worked so hard to no longer be the victim yet they still feel the need to hide. I loved the dichotomies and the implication that healing from sexual assault isn’t a one size fits all process.

If I were to nitpick I’d tell you that I wanted more details of the Big Bad’s background. It’s not as though we don’t know some pivotal moments in their life that help set their particular brand of crazy in motion and we’re given access to the twisted way they think, but I wanted more. To be fair, I have an obsession interest in what causes people with similar genetic and environmental factors to take drastically different paths in life, so my need to know more says more about me than it does about this book. I was also left wanting to know what happens to Anna after the book finished.

And now for your chance to laugh at and with me, I’ll tell you my favourite How Stupid Am I moment I encountered while reading. Initially when I read the town’s name I got Woodbury confused with Woodsboro and for a while I was thinking of how funny it would be if there was a cameo of some random person in a Scream mask running through a scene. 🤪

I love debut novels but I often wind up disappointed by a feeling of knowing how good a book could have been if only that brilliant idea had the execution you usually only expect with experience. Joanna’s debut had the excitement of a first time author’s passion but was written with the character development, story arc, backstories, delightful twists and sucked into a reading black hole ability I only expect of the greats once they’ve found their feet. There were some sentences where the imagery made it feel like I was reading poetry.

I don’t even know Joanna yet I feel proud of her for writing such an impressive debut. If this is what she can accomplish with a first novel I can only imagine how much fun it’s going to be to read her future novels. If anyone has any spare stars I’d love to borrow some because ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ aren’t enough.

Thank you to NetGalley, Minotaur Books and St. Martin’s Press for ✨ granting my wish ✨ and giving me this opportunity to read this book. I don’t know if I can wait for the next Ellery/Reed/Bump book to be released. I’ve found a new author whose books will be added to my to be read list sight unseen.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Ellery Hathaway knows a thing or two about serial killers, but not through her police training. She’s an officer in sleepy Woodbury, MA, where a bicycle theft still makes the newspapers. No one there knows she was once victim number seventeen in the grisly story of serial killer Francis Michael Coben. The only victim who lived. 

When three people disappear from her town in three years, all around her birthday – the day she was kidnapped so long ago – Ellery fears someone knows her secret. Someone very dangerous. Her superiors dismiss her concerns, but Ellery knows the vanishing season is coming and anyone could be next. She contacts the one man she knows will believe her: the FBI agent who saved her from a killer’s closet all those years ago.

Agent Reed Markham made his name and fame on the back of the Coben case, but his fortunes have since turned. His marriage is in shambles, his bosses think he’s washed up, and worst of all, he blew a major investigation. When Ellery calls him, he can’t help but wonder: sure, he rescued her, but was she ever truly saved? His greatest triumph is Ellery’s waking nightmare, and now both of them are about to be sucked into the past, back to the case that made them … with a killer who can’t let go.

The Unbelievables #1: The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts – K.C. Tansley

👻 Haunted Halloween Book! 👻

“Ghosts don’t exist. They can’t touch me. They can’t hurt me. They aren’t real.”

The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts is one of those books that has everything you want and all the stuff you didn’t even know you needed, and yet it doesn’t feel cluttered.

Intelligent female main character that loves to read and doesn’t have a perfect body – ✔️

129 year old murder mystery to solve – ✔️

Intergenerational multi-family curse – ✔️

Ghosts, AKA, “I see dead people” – ✔️

Library in a castle on its own island with signed and first editions galore – ✔️

Time travel without a flux capacitor – ✔️

Bacon, eggs and coffee – ✔️

Secret passageways – ✔️

Sparkly gemstone jewellery – ✔️

Magic – ✔️

Kat grew up believing in the unbelievables. Ghosts were her childhood friends until something so scary happened that she had to stop believing. Fast forward eight years and Kat, now a junior at McTernan Academy, surrounds herself with people (especially unbelievers), animals, plants and stones, and recites her mantra to protect herself.

Kat accessorises with metal and stone – earrings, necklaces, bracelets, you name it, for additional protection. I loved that her knowledge of gemstones carries over into her descriptions of people whose eyes aren’t boring colours but instead are aquamarine, larimar, hematite and iolite.

Assisting Professor Astor with his research into the mysterious events 129 years ago at Castle Creighton, Kat knows she is delving into dangerous unbelievables territory. Along with best friend Morgan, Evan the Terrible and serial flirter Seth, Kat winds up at Castle Creighton to investigate what really happened there and to study the Radcliffe Curse. Now Kat is stuck on an island with a hurricane approaching and there’s no escaping the unbelievables.

I loved the way Castle Creighton’s creeptastic secrets unfolded throughout the story. This story had friendship, forgiveness, hope, secrets and betrayal. It also had love, lots of love. Now, you’ve heard of a love triangle, but have you ever heard of a love pentagon? As a bit of a summary of how a love pentagon works (and for the sake of not ruining who everyone is in love with, we won’t use their real names):

  • A is in love with B.
  • B is in love with C, is friends with A, is jealous of D, is using E to make D jealous.
  • C is marrying D but has history with and also still loves B.
  • D is marrying C but has history with E.
  • E still wants D but is having fun with B, is using B to make D jealous.

Did you get all of that?

Beginning The Girl Who Saved Ghosts immediately! I would’ve gone mental waiting for the sequel if I’d read The Girl Who Ignored Ghosts when it was first published.

Tip to readers: Make sure you have the sequel on hand when you finish this book. While a lot of plot lines are wrapped up other questions are raised and you’re not going to want to wait to find out what happens next!

Content warnings include sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Beckett Publishing Group for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Kat Preston doesn’t believe in ghosts. Not because she’s never seen one, but because she saw one too many. Refusing to believe is the only way to protect herself from the ghost that tried to steal her life. Kat’s disbelief keeps her safe until her junior year at McTernan Academy, when a research project for an eccentric teacher takes her to a tiny, private island off the coast of Connecticut. 

The site of a grisly mystery, the Isle of Acacia is no place for a girl who ignores ghosts, but the ghosts leave Kat little choice. Accompanied by her research partner, Evan Kingsley, she investigates the disappearance of Cassie Mallory and Sebastian Radcliffe on their wedding night in 1886. Evan’s scientific approach to everything leaves Kat on her own to confront a host of unbelievables: ancestral curses, powerful spells, and her strange connection to the ghosts that haunt Castle Creighton. 

But that’s all before Kat’s yanked through a magic portal and Evan follows her. When the two of them awaken 129 years in the past with their souls trapped inside the bodies of two wedding guests, everything changes. Together, Kat and Evan race to stop the wedding-night murders and find a way back to their own time — and their own bodies — before their souls slip away forever. 

The Girl Who Said Sorry – Hayoung Yim

Illustrations – Marta Maszkiewicz


This book!!! Oh, my goodness!!! Please buy a copy for EVERY. SINGLE. GIRL. you know!!! By girl, I’m talking ages from newborn to 100 plus years old.

As girls we grow up being taught so many conflicting things and then told to apologise, well, basically for being a girl. We’re too fat. We’re too thin. We’re too quiet. We’re too loud. It’s the real Neverending Story.

In The Girl Who Said Sorry, girls are not told to be sorry for who they are! Let’s just celebrate that for a moment … While encouraged to own their mistakes and ensure their choices and words don’t hurt anyone, they’re told IT’S. OK. TO. BE. UNAPOLOGETICALLY. YOURSELF. Hallelujah!!!

This is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. So simple yet so profound, I want to read this book over and over again until I unlearn all of the sorry conditioning I’ve ever been exposed to. Can you imagine a world where girls don’t apologise for being who they are? I can’t, but I desperately want to!

Hayoung Yim, this book makes me so proud to be a woman! Thank you!

Marta Maszkiewicz, your illustrations are exceptional! They’re so soft yet so strong at the same time, and they capture the feel of the book brilliantly.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Independent Book Publishers Association for the opportunity to read this book. If there was an option to give more than ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️, I’d be giving this book every star I could find.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Too girly or too boyish. Too thin or too fat. Too quiet, too loud. Be ambitious, but don’t hurt feelings. Be inquisitive, but don’t interrupt. Be outspoken, but don’t be bossy. Most of all, be yourself – but be a lady.

What’s a girl to do in a world filled with contradicting gender expectations, aside from saying sorry?

The way we teach politeness norms to children is often confusing, changing based on gender – and can have lasting effects. And while everyone should be courteous and accountable for their actions, apologetic language out of context can undermine confidence and perceived capability.

Within the subtle yet beautiful illustrations and powerful rhyme of The Girl Who Said Sorry developing girls will learn that self-expression and personal choices can be made without apology, and with confidence.

50% of profits from this book is donated to Girl Up, a United Nations Foundation campaign dedicated to empowering young girls to take action on global issues.