In Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery, we met Bones, a skeletal tawny frogmouth, and Watts, a stuffed blue Indian ringneck parrot. This unconventional team are both exhibits in the state Natural History Museum. In the first book we also met Grace, a chocolate loving raccoon.
There’s talk of a swamp monster who may have “squid-napped” the octopus. Our new mystery takes place in a brand new exhibit, Reef to Shore. There’s definitely something fishy going on in there.
I know, I know … But I couldn’t help myself. In my defence, the author started it!
Naturally Bones, Watts and Grace take it upon themselves to investigate. Along the way they meet a new friend, Nivlac the octopus. Our intrepid trio navigate their way around touch pools and the mangroves searching for clues. It will take teamwork, keen observation skills and some cardio.
Nevertheless, our team is keen to solve any mystery that comes their way, even the mystery of how to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Granted, Grace is slightly more interested in her search for chocolate than she is in solving the bigger mysteries but you can’t blame her for that.
If you keep an eye out for visual clues you’ll probably be able to solve the mystery for yourself. Observant readers will learn the identity of the thief from the first book early in this sequel so you may want to read them in order to avoid spoilers.
Like the first book, you’ll accidentally learn as you make your way through this one, with some interesting facts about cryptozoology and some of the animals you meet along the way.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Etch, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for the opportunity to read this book.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
Sherlock Bones’ home, the Natural History Museum, has added an exciting new exhibit, Reef to Shore, that includes a mangrove forest and shallow coral reef habitat, with touch tanks in between. When Sherlock overhears a that a swamp monster has been sighted, he gathers his team to investigate. At first Sherlock Bones suspects Nivlac, a quirky octopus with a talent for camouflage – and tank pranks.
But then, loud bellowing leads Bones and team to the mangroves, where they find a horrifying long-haired green beast! Can they escape the creature – or is it too late for our beloved frogmouth bird skeleton and his ragtag mystery-solving team?
“Patients are people. We are people. Be a person with your patients, and you are already halfway there.”
Committed provides an overview of what it’s like to be a resident psychiatrist, from imposter syndrome to applying textbook knowledge to patients’ lives. Dr Stern was one of 15 residents in “The Golden Class” at Harvard Medical School, the “highest ranked class in the history of the program”. In this book, he explores the highs and lows of these four years in three Parts (years three and four are combined).
There was a greater focus on the other members of the class than I had expected. I loved Feelings class, where the residents were able to bond, process the emotions they experienced as interns and learn to “never worry alone”. I also hadn’t anticipated the amount of time dedicated to Dr Stern’s dating experiences during his internship. It was probably because of her name but it started to feel like I was in an episode of Friends when Dr Stern was figuring out if he should ever kiss Rachel. I did eventually get sucked into the ‘will they or won’t they?’ though.
“Always find out about the people behind your diagnoses. That’s the most important part of this whole deal.”
I enjoyed Dr Stern’s writing style and would be interested in reading about patients he treated after his time as an intern. I felt I got to know Jane reasonably well and loved her, although I’m not sure if it was because of or despite her constantly challenging Dr Stern.
When I read Lori Gottlieb’s Maybe You Should Talk to Someone I couldn’t help becoming emotionally invested in the lives of her patients. While I was interested in Dr Stern’s other patients’ stories, I didn’t become invested in most of them. Much of this could be put down to the transitory nature of residency; oftentimes Dr Stern would be introduced to a patient, start to treat them and then move on to a new rotation, not knowing how the patient fared over the long term himself.
Content warnings include bullying, child abuse, death by suicide, eating disorders and mental health.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read this book.
Rating: 4 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
Grey’s Anatomy meets One L in this psychiatrist’s charming and poignant memoir about his residency at Harvard.
Adam Stern was a student at a state medical school before being selected to train as a psychiatry resident at one of the most prestigious programs in the country. His new and initially intimidating classmates were high achievers from the Ivy League and other elite universities around the nation. Faculty raved about the group as though the residency program had won the lottery, nicknaming them “The Golden Class,” but would Stern ever prove that he belonged?
In his memoir, Stern pulls back the curtain on the intense and emotionally challenging lessons he and his fellow doctors learned while studying the human condition, and ultimately, the value of connection. The narrative focuses on these residents, their growth as doctors, and the life choices they make as they try to survive their grueling four-year residency. Rich with drama, insight, and emotion, Stern shares engrossing stories of life on the psychiatric wards, as well as the group’s experiences as they grapple with impostor syndrome and learn about love and loss. Most importantly, as they study how to help distressed patients in search of a better life, they discover the meaning of failure and the preciousness of success.
Stern’s growth as a doctor, and as a man, have readers rooting for him and his patients, and ultimately find their own hearts fuller for having taken this journey with him.
It’s been a really long ten days. I’ve finally finished reading this book and I’m so conflicted. As one of my most anticipated reads of the year, there were so many elements I was ready to love. How to do daily life after surviving the battle to end all battles against the big bad. The physical and emotional repercussions years after the event. The various ways different people cope with the memories of trauma. Then there was the unexpected inclusion of some things I absolutely adore reading about but can’t speak about here, because spoilers.
So, why didn’t I devour this book and how did my intended ‘I’m going to shout about it from the rooftops’ become ‘I don’t even know what to say’?
“I’m tired of being celebrated for the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
For a good portion of this book I felt like the story was merely an introduction to the sequel, where stuff will happen. Sure, plenty of stuff happens here too, but there was so much time spent on world-building and catching everyone up on the events of the past ten to fifteen years that I was itching for more. I became frustrated by the descriptions of the buildings the characters were walking past or through; I wanted more action and by the time I got it I was pretty tired.
Sometimes Sloane wondered if the world had been worth saving.
I wanted to get to know our Chosen Ones. I did get to know Sloane, although if the book had been written in first person it probably would have helped me get inside her head more. From the blurb I learned that one Chosen One would not survive this book, and wouldn’t you know it? They’re the one I was most interested in getting to know.
Overall, the remaining Chosen Ones felt mostly two dimensional. I managed some low level frustration for the golden child. The social media star made me want to unfollow their entire character. Then there was the Chosen One that I honestly can’t tell you anything about; I’d need to reread the passages I highlighted to remind me.
The first part of the book really got my hopes up. I love reading about people so damaged by life that they’re trying their best to simply survive, and I’m always enthralled when people who have experienced trauma find ways to overcome it enough to thrive (not that all of our Chosen Ones are thriving). When the second part unexpectedly wandered into territory that I usually actively seek out, my response was more ‘um, they’re doing what now?’ than ‘woohoo!’
But was my experience of this book one big ‘are we there yet?’ No, and that’s part of the conflict I’m left with. I loved Mox. I loved Ziva. I even loved Sloane, despite how many porcupine spines dug into my skin as I tried to get closer to her. I loved the exploration of trauma impacts. I loved the self awareness of this book (yes, the Dark One is a terrible name). I loved the entire concept.
I’ve read so many five star reviews of this book and I envy them because that’s the book I hoped I’d be reading. I expect I will turn up for the sequel, although I will be careful to manage my expectations.
Content warnings include death by suicide, drug addiction, mental health, squishy murders where your insides become your outsides and torture.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for granting my wish to read this book.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
A decade ago near Chicago, five teenagers defeated the otherworldly enemy known as the Dark One, whose reign of terror brought widespread destruction and death. The seemingly un-extraordinary teens – Sloane, Matt, Ines, Albie, and Esther – had been brought together by a clandestine government agency because one of them was fated to be the “Chosen One,” prophesised to save the world. With the goal achieved, humankind celebrated the victors and began to mourn their lost loved ones.
Ten years later, though the champions remain celebrities, the world has moved forward and a whole, younger generation doesn’t seem to recall the days of endless fear. But Sloane remembers. It’s impossible for her to forget when the paparazzi haunt her every step just as the Dark One still haunts her dreams. Unlike everyone else, she hasn’t moved on; she’s adrift – no direction, no goals, no purpose. On the eve of the Ten Year Celebration of Peace, a new trauma hits the Chosen: the death of one of their own. And when they gather for the funeral at the enshrined site of their triumph, they discover to their horror that the Dark One’s reign never really ended.
I’m having a bit of a bad run at the moment, disappointed by books I’ve eagerly anticipated for a long time. This series has been on my radar for two and a half years. I purchased two books and was fortunate enough to obtain a copy of the third from NetGalley. I was really looking forward to a series binge but 20% into this book I was dragging my feet and asking, ‘Are we done yet?’
Fortunately the second half of the book picked up for me but I’m still not entirely convinced I want to spend more time with the main characters. Because I requested a review copy of the third book I will continue the series and am hoping to be blown away but right now I’m looking at all of the glowing reviews for this book and wondering what I missed.
Seven victims. Three boxes each. Twenty-one. Twenty-one boxes over nearly five years. He had toyed with them. Never left a clue behind. Only the boxes. A ghost.
Porter and his team have been tasked with finding the Four Monkey Killer. When a body is found, along with the killer’s latest box, it’s a race against the clock to find the latest victim.
She knew of the Four Monkey Killer. Everyone in Chicago did, possibly everyone in the entire world. Not just that he was a serial killer, but the way he first tortured his victims before killing them, mailing body parts back to their families.
There are multiple chapters from the perspectives of Porter, Clair (one of the other detectives), the latest victim and the killer but I only noticed two distinct voices, the pretentious serial killer
Sometimes I ramble
(You sure do, Mr 4MK) and everyone else. Porter, Clair and the latest victim all sounded alike to me. I didn’t connect with any of the characters and I’d be hard pressed to tell you much about anyone’s personality.
I liked the idea of a serial killer using the concept of the four monkeys to choose their victims.
The four monkeys comes from the Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko, Japan, where a carving of three apes resides above the entrance. The first covering his ears, the second covering his eyes, and the third covering his mouth, they depict the proverb “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.” The fourth monkey represents “Do no evil.”
[Huh! I just noticed the picture I found of the Shrine have the second and third monkeys in a different order. Go figure!]
Some of the scenes described in the killer’s diary were a bit too far fetched for me. I know there are as many different types of dysfunction as there are dysfunctional families, so who knows? Maybe somewhere out there is a family who closely resembles this one. I hope I never meet them!
Because it was so outrageous I found their topsy turvy moral compass funny at times. Do not swear, do not say bad things about other people, do not steal, and treat women with dignity and respect were some of the rules, yet at the same time it was completely acceptable to torture and murder people.
There were some fairly gory scenes in this book, and rats. Many, many rats. These didn’t worry me but they may put off some readers.
While I didn’t hate this book (it definitely did get better in the second half for me) I don’t think I’m going to remember much of it. Actually, while I was writing this review not even 24 hours after finishing the book it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember what happened in the end. Sure, I remembered a couple of key events in the final few chapters but I had to go back and check the last couple of pages. That’s really unusual for me.
I would encourage you to read some ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ reviews as well before deciding if this is the book for you or not. So many people absolutely love it. I wish I was one of them.
Content warnings include child pornography, domestic violence, murder of people and animals, and torture.
Rating: 3 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
For over five years, the Four Monkey Killer has terrorized the residents of Chicago. When his body is found, the police quickly realise he was on his way to deliver one final message, one which proves he has taken another victim who may still be alive.
As the lead investigator on the 4MK task force, Detective Sam Porter knows even in death, the killer is far from finished. When he discovers a personal diary in the jacket pocket of the body, Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath, unraveling a twisted history in hopes of finding one last girl, all while struggling with personal demons of his own.
With only a handful of clues, the elusive killer’s identity remains a mystery. Time is running out and the Four Monkey Killer taunts from beyond the grave in this masterfully written fast-paced thriller.
Do you know how difficult it is to whisper an ugly cry? I do. There I was at 3:30am, relaxed and enjoying the insight and surprising humour of this book, caught up in a ‘just one more chapter’ loop. Then, out of nowhere, I was ugly crying as quietly as possible so I didn’t wake up the sensible people in my home, those who actually sleep when it’s considered an acceptable time to do so. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly ‘out of nowhere’; I knew it was coming at some stage with that particular patient but I wasn’t expecting it right then.
That wasn’t the only time I cried during this book (there may have been another four tissue grabs and some very dignified sniffling involved) and it wasn’t the only time my tears caught me off guard (who knew I’d cry about the patient I initially loved to sneer at!) but it did remind me of some of the reasons why I never formally used my psychology degree.
Reason #1: Although I don’t cry a lot about my own stuff, I am a champion crier when it comes to pretty much anything else. Movies. TV shows. Songs. Books. When you cry about your stuff. When I think about your stuff and consider how brave, resilient, [insert any number of adjectives here] you were, are or are going to be. Who wants to come to therapy and feel like they need to console their therapist about their reaction to their patient’s problems?!
Reason #2: There would be certain types of people and life experiences where I just know I couldn’t remain impartial. ‘Oh, so you’re a child molester? Allow me to introduce you to another patient of mine, the one that keeps getting imprisoned for assault. I’m sure you’ll get along just fine.’
Reason #3: The goodbyes. See Reason #1.
Full disclosure: I started reading this book while my own therapist was on leave. Besides confirming my decision to not actually be a therapist (you’re so welcome, all of the people whose lives would have crossed my path in this way. I hope you found a Wendell instead!) I also got a glimpse of what it’s like behind the scenes for therapists, something I’ve always been interested in, something that’s difficult to obtain because of that pesky ‘confidentiality’ thing.
I’m not ashamed to say that I have my very own Wendell, who is awesome by the way. None of us get out of life unscathed and I think pretty much everyone could benefit from therapy at some point in their lives. One of the perks this book offers is a therapeutic ‘try before you buy’; if you’ve been considering therapy but are hesitant to schedule that initial appointment, then reading this book will give you some idea of what to expect – from the therapist, from the experience, and how it looks when it’s done right.
Sitting-with-you-in-your-pain is one of the rare experiences that people get in the protected space of a therapy room, but it’s very hard to give or get outside of it
I enjoyed Lori’s down to earth approach, her compassion and ability to bring truth to a situation, while still making me smile along the way. She humanises our experience of pain and even when she’s talking about her own therapy, her insight and openness had me smiling in recognition much more frequently than the narrative made me cry. Of her own therapy:
Yes, I’m seeking objectivity, but only because I’m convinced that objectivity will rule in my favor.
Of her therapist:
He looks at me meaningfully, like he just said something incredibly important and profound, but I kind of want to punch him.
A quote I love:
defenses serve a useful purpose. They shield people from injury … until they no longer need them. It’s in this ellipsis that therapists work.
People often mistake numbness for nothingness, but numbness isn’t the absence of feelings; it’s a response to being overwhelmed by too many feelings.
Oh, and I have to share this one too:
When the present falls apart, so does the future we had associated with it. And having the future taken away is the mother of all plot twists. But if we spend the present trying to fix the past or control the future, we remain stuck in place, in perpetual regret.
I highlighted so many passages in this book that each time I started another binge read it felt like I was experiencing my very own mini therapy session. I saw myself in Lori and in her patients, even the initial ‘love to sneer at’ one, probably because I saw something of myself in them as well. I saw my own therapist in Wendell and felt probably too much pride in having found myself such an amazing ‘Wendell’ to help me navigate my presenting problem as well as the real issues behind the facade.
From the presenting problem to the “doorknob disclosures”, “what-aboutery” and self-sabotage, all the way to the “termination” (seriously, can therapists collectively find a less aggressive way to label someone’s graduation from therapy?), I ‘just one more chaptered’ my way through this book.
Although at times I felt voyeuristic, have some outstanding questions about Lori’s patients I’m not entitled to know but still want to (Would you please tell me John’s real name or at least the name of the TV show you kept referencing so I can binge watch it?) and had at least one ugly cry headache as a result of reading this book, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to pretty much anyone.
Much like the way Lori talks about who therapy can’t help, I think the only people who wouldn’t benefit in some way by reading this book are those “who aren’t curious about themselves.” I’ll leave you with what’s currently my favourite quote:
There’s no hierarchy of pain. Suffering shouldn’t be ranked, because pain is not a contest.
Content warnings include mention of suicidal ideation, addiction, mental health, grief, chronic illness and a whole pile of other reasons people seek therapy in the first place.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
One day, Lori Gottlieb is a therapist who helps patients in her Los Angeles practice. The next, a crisis causes her world to come crashing down. Enter Wendell, the quirky but seasoned therapist in whose office she suddenly lands. With his balding head, cardigan, and khakis, he seems to have come straight from Therapist Central Casting. Yet he will turn out to be anything but.
As Gottlieb explores the inner chambers of her patients’ lives – a self-absorbed Hollywood producer, a young newlywed diagnosed with a terminal illness, a senior citizen threatening to end her life on her birthday if nothing gets better, and a twenty-something who can’t stop hooking up with the wrong guys – she finds that the questions they are struggling with are the very ones she is now bringing to Wendell.
He was different, so people thought anything they did to him was okay.
This was one of the strangest books I’ve ever loved.
Swine Hill is a haunted town, where the dead outnumber the living. Downtown is overrun by ghosts and the main employer is the Pig City meat packing plant.
Most of the people Jane went to school with escaped as soon as they could to start over, but she’s stuck in a dead end job in this dying town. She can’t imagine leaving her parents, younger brother or the ghost girl who’s been attached to her since she was a child.
Nothing will ever be the same for the living or the dead of Swine Hill when newcomers start working at Pig City.
This was a dark book, with so much loss, grief and violence experienced by the living and the dead, yet there’s also a thread of light that runs through it (quite literally at times), of hope and love. The best and worst of what it means to be human are represented here.
While I found each haunting interesting and consistently wanted to know more, I connected intellectually, not emotionally, with the majority of the characters. The person I really connected with was a pig boy called Dennis, who was more human than most of the characters who were born that way. His innocence, enthusiasm and ability to see beauty wherever he looked made me adore him. The world would be a much better place if we could all see it through Dennis’ eyes.
Besides the awesomeness that is Dennis, there’s also a girl who cannot lose, a mad scientist who makes the impossible out of junk, a woman who burns and a boy who freezes, a robot in love, an alien, alternate realities, and let’s not forget the rest of the pig people. There’s so much going on in this layered story that it shouldn’t work but somehow it did. I have no doubt that people a lot smarter than I am will write very eloquently about things I didn’t dig deep enough to even realise were there but this book made me think. A lot.
I thought about what it means to be human and how you don’t need to have a ghost to be haunted. I considered the impacts unfulfilled dreams have, not only on our own lives but also on our relationships with others and the wider community who are missing out on what we could be bringing into the world.
I was frustrated by my inability to come up with a genius plan to eradicate the fear of the other. I thought about how ghosts linger in our present and wondered whether it’s possible to ever truly escape the past. I reevaluated my ideas of responsibility and how it intersects with blame.
I thought about love, forgiveness and what I have to be thankful for. I wanted to dance. I wondered if I’ll ever be able to look at bacon the same way again.
I’m struggling to work out who I’d recommend this book to. I expect a lot of people are going to read this book and think, ‘What the hell am I reading?!’ but that’s not necessarily going to be a bad thing. I thought it (several times) but couldn’t put it down, even when I wanted to after a couple of scenes of fairly graphic violence.
Content warnings include racism, xenophobia, accidental death of a child, death of animals, violence, poverty, slavery, police brutality and murder.
I was left with a few unanswered questions but I don’t feel the frustration I usually would; instead I’m enjoying pondering the possibilities for myself. I spent most of the book wondering how this story could wind up in a way that I’d be okay with and, while I would never have guessed the ending, I’m satisfied.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and John Joseph Adams Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, for the opportunity to read this book. I’m intrigued to see what this author comes up with next.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
Swine Hill was full of the dead. Their ghosts were thickest near the abandoned downtown, where so many of the town’s hopes had died generation by generation. They lingered in the places that mattered to them, and people avoided those streets, locked those doors, stopped going into those rooms … They could hurt you. Worse, they could change you.
Jane is haunted. Since she was a child, she has carried a ghost girl that feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane what they are thinking and feeling, even when she doesn’t want to know. Henry, Jane’s brother, is ridden by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is possessed by a lonely spirit that burns anyone she touches. In Swine Hill, a place of defeat and depletion, there are more dead than living.
When new arrivals begin scoring precious jobs at the last factory in town, both the living and the dead are furious. This insult on the end of a long economic decline sparks a conflagration. Buffeted by rage on all sides, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them.
As soon as I read the blurb for Waste of Space I knew I was in for a fun time and couldn’t wait to start reading. I started smiling within the first few pages and I’m not sure I stopped until after I realised the book was over. Although my smiles at the beginning related to the absurdity of the situation the characters were unwittingly getting themselves into, the last smile was due to the satisfaction that came from imagining the beauty and perfection of that final image.
Reality shows are such guilty pleasures. I’ve felt squeamish during Survivor‘s food challenges, eaten chocolate while watching The Biggest Loser, experienced the horror akin to watching a car crash unfold every time something disgusting is found during a Hoarders episode and revelled in feeling boringly normal each time a new My Strange Addiction unfolds on my TV.
I love that Gina Damico took a satirical spin on reality shows. I’m not usually a fan of books that feature transcripts as I generally find them quite incohesive but was pleasantly surprised with how well my attention was maintained throughout the transitions between transcripts of video footage and phone calls, and the intern’s commentary.
I haven’t read one of Gina Damico’s books before but found her writing to be very visual. With the descriptions of the people, locations and situations I could easily watch mini movies in my mind of all of the action. If The Asylum were to take it on I could see this book being made into a really fun B grade comedy/drama/action movie. I’d definitely watch it!
Waste of Space took me longer to read than I’d expected because I kept stopping to go find someone to read a funny passage to, such as the explanation of what went wrong in the season four finale of Alaskan Sex Igloo. I loved the concepts of the other reality shows described in this book as well, including America’s Next Top Murderer and The Real Housewives of Atlantis. I had to try to suppress a giggle when reading about these because I’m sure if they were real I’d be settling in to binge watch them as we speak.
That said though, beneath all of the fun and some silliness there were some deeper truths to be found about conquering your fears, not judging a person solely by the image they portray on the surface, facing the painful events in your past and the impact they continue to have on you, and the value of trusted friends.
I was intrigued by both Nico and Titania from when I first met them and looked forward to seeing how their characters unfolded throughout the book. Watching their characters interact with their fellow Spaceronauts and each other was entertaining and I liked discovering the defining moments in their pasts that eventually led them on board the Laika. As much as I liked both Nico and Titania, my favourite character ended up being Kaoru, the girl who consistently told it like it was … albeit in Japanese which none of the other Spaceronauts understood.
What I wanted to eat while reading this book:
Bacon (sorry, Colonel Bacon!).
If I were to nitpick:
I was a bit annoyed by some crude scenes that I didn’t think were necessary and added nothing to the plot or character development.
I kept waiting for the disclaimer saying this book was sponsored by IKEA.
What I’ll be doing once I finish writing this review:
Researching Gina Damico’s other books to add to my ever growing to be read pile and working out which one I want to read first.
I know I’m going to want to reread Waste of Space and highlight all of the passages that made me laugh so I can easily find them again when I feel the need to randomly quote them.
Thank you so much to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Book Group for the opportunity to read this book.
Rating: 5 out of 5.
Once Upon a Blurb
Cram ten hormonal teens into a spaceship and blast off: that’s the premise for the ill-conceived reality show Waste of Space. The kids who are cast know everything about drama—and nothing about the fact that the production is fake. Hidden in a desert warehouse, their spaceship replica is equipped with state-of-the-art special effects dreamed up by the scientists partnering with the shady cable network airing the show. And it’s a hit! Millions of viewers are transfixed. But then, suddenly, all communication is severed. Trapped and paranoid, the kids must figure out what to do when this reality show loses its grip on reality.