The Last One to Fall – Gabriella Lepore

“Sooner or later you’re going to get what’s coming to you.”

Introduce me to a group of dysfunctional teenagers that go somewhere and all but one return because someone’s no longer breathing and now everyone else is a suspect, and I’m a happy camper. Add some social issue soup to the mix and I’ll be hooked. It doesn’t matter how many books along these lines I read; I just keep coming back for more.

Savana and Jesse are neighbours who’ve known one another for years. They’re friends and there is absolutely some chemistry between them so when Jesse asked her to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse, the senior class’ summer break party spot, of course she was going to go.

She didn’t expect to see someone fall out of a fourth storey window when she got there. She definitely didn’t plan on getting caught up in a murder investigation. But here we are.

I have a horrible feeling this is just the beginning.

Supplementing the narrative, which is told by Savana and Jesse, are transcripts of an audio file, interviews and text messages, as well as an email and news article.

This was a quick, entertaining read. I guessed the who but not the why.

I don’t know what it is about books like these. They feel like a guilty pleasure. I don’t expect to stop reading them anytime soon, though.

“Don’t assume you know the whole story.”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, domestic abuse and sexualised violence.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Six friends. Five suspects. One murder.

Savana Caruso and Jesse Melo have known each other since they were kids, so when Jesse asks Savana to meet him at Cray’s Warehouse in the middle of the night, she doesn’t hesitate. But before Savana can find Jesse, she bears witness to a horrifying murder, standing helpless on the ground as a mysterious figure is pushed out of the fourth floor of the warehouse.

Six teens were there that night, and five of them are now potential suspects. With the police circling, Savana knows what will happen if the wrong person is charged, but someone is willing to do whatever it takes to keep the truth from coming to light.

Girls of Little Hope – Sam Beckbessinger & Dale Halvorsen


Best friends Donna, Rae and Kat skipped school on Wednesday afternoon to traipse through the woods. Two of them returned on Saturday. One is still missing.

Donna Ramirez is a wannabe rebel. Her mother, who left when Donna was 9, now has a new family. Donna has an older brother, Jay. She lives with her father, Hector, who is fluent in Dad jokes.

Donna doesn’t remember what happened in the woods.

Tammie-Rae (Rae) Hooper is a preppy church girl and star of the athletics team. She lives with her parents and her brother, Brandon. Her parents have a list of “Forbidden Demonic Things”. It’s a long list.

They love you so long as you stay their good girl.

Rae returned from the woods screaming.

Their sweat glands have been on overdrive since they returned and they’re mighty peckish.

“Remember what we promised each other?”

Wallflower nerd Katherine (Kat) Larkin recently began wearing oversized men’s flannel shirts. She’s smart and loves Nancy Drew books.

Kat is still missing.

The story is told by each of the girls as well as Marybeth Larkin, Kat’s mother. Through them, you meet some of Little Hope’s townsfolk, including town boogeyman, Ronnie Gaskins, who murdered his parents when he was a child.

I flew through this book. I wasn’t a fan of the amount of times I read about how much weight one character had gained and the size of another’s breasts but there was a lot to love. The 90’s pop culture nostalgia. The mystery of what happened to the girls during the missing time. The squishy body horror. The newspaper articles and zine pages. Snooping in Kat’s diary. The fact that I was hooked the entire time.

If they didn’t live in a small town, Donna, Rae and Kat may not have ever become friends. If it wasn’t for newspaper club, they probably would have remained acquaintances. They reminded me of the intensity of teenage friendships: the shared experiences and the bonds that feel unbreakable.

I’m a teensy bit obsessed with the prayer to Scully, “our lady of The X-Files”.

Favourite no context quote:

“I will be the Batman of toilets.”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, attempted suicide, domestic abuse, self harm and sexualised violence.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Three girls went into the woods. Only two came back, covered in blood and with no memory of what happened. Or did they?

Being fifteen is tough, tougher when you live in a boring-ass small town like Little Hope, California (population 8,302) in 1996. Donna, Rae and Kat keep each other sane with the fervour of teen girl friendships, zine-making and some amateur sleuthing into the town’s most enduring mysteries: a lost gold mine, and why little Ronnie Gaskins burned his parents alive a decade ago.

Their hunt will lead them to a hidden cave from which only two of them return alive. Donna the troublemaker can’t remember anything. Rae seems to be trying to escape her memories of what happened, while her close-minded religious family presses her for answers. And Kat? Sweet, wannabe writer Kat who rebelled against her mom’s beauty pageant dreams by getting fat? She’s missing. Dead. Or terribly traumatised, out there in the woods, alone.

As the police circle and Kat’s frantic mother Marybeth starts doing some investigating of her own, Rae and Donna will have to return to the cave where they discover a secret so shattering that no-one who encounters it will ever be the same.

The Prophet and the Idiot – Jonas Jonasson

Translator – Rachel Willson-Broyles

So, let’s talk about the elephant in the room … the last word in the title. It’s offensive. It’s awful. I hate it.

If I hadn’t told someone that yes, I was absolutely going to read a Jonas Jonasson book, my journey with this book would have ended as soon as I read that word. Because more than a year has passed since I made my bookish commitment, I moved on to reading the blurb and it intrigued me. It’s a shame, really, because I expect a lot of people won’t make it past the title.

If you do manage to put blinders on every time you come across that word, this is actually a fun read. The characters are quirky, there’s a road trip in an RV with a super fancy kitchen and there are wrongs to put right because the world is ending.

Everything felt right.

At which point nothing went as planned. It rarely does.

Johan, who the offensive word refers to, believes that’s what he is because his brother has called him that his entire life. Johan is not book smart but he’s a genius when it comes to combining ingredients in unique and apparently delectable way. I would very much like to sample his mango bread. Johan has also memorised a bunch of American movies.

Petra is convinced the sky is falling. Literally. And very soon. She has the calculations to prove it.

‘Who’s going to what now?’

‘The atmosphere. It will fall flat to the ground and the temperature will drop to 273.15 degrees below freezing. In a split second.’



‘Indoors as well?’

Besides being a doomsday prophet, Petra is also a very big fan of flowcharts.

At 75, retired manufacturess Agnes’ hair is more violet than it used to be. Her alter ego, ‘Travelling Eklund’, has seen much more of the world than she has, although that’s about to change.

This is a book with grappa decisions, an endangered bird and unfinished cheese business. A bunch of famous people have parts to play, including Obrama, which, even though it very much looks like it, is not a typo.

Our road trip takes us to multiple countries and the impact of this found family is felt worldwide, even as they paint themselves into so many corners you begin to wonder how they can ever get out of them.

Ultimately, this book encourages you to live your life while you have the chance because you never know when a prophet’s calculations are going to be correct.

‘Isn’t now the time to embrace the world? With what little time you have left.’

Although I still hate the title, I enjoyed spending time with this unlikely trio.

Content warnings include bullying and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and 4th Estate, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Sweden, late summer of 2011. Self-taught astrophysicist Petra has calculated that the atmosphere will collapse on the 21st of September that year, around 21.20 to be more precise, bringing about the end of times.

Armed with this terrible knowledge, Petra meets Johan and Agnes, a widow of 75 who has made bank living a double life on social media as a young influencer. Together, the trio race through Europe as they plan to make the most out of the time they have left, in more ways than one.

But of course, things rarely go to plan, even the end of the world…

Silenced – Ann Claycomb

Four women who work for the same company have experienced sexualised violence by the CEO. This is a man who will use all of his considerable power to silence the women he assaults.

He’s counting on us not telling anyone because we’re afraid they won’t believe us.

Jo, Abony, Ranjani and Maia have all tried to find ways to be heard but each has been constricted, by fairy tales of all things. These are definitely not the Disney sanitised versions with songs and adorable talking animals.

This is a difficult but important read. It highlights the many ways people who have experienced sexualised violence can be silenced by not only the perpetrator but also the systems we expect to help victims of these crimes.

“If you weren’t so scared that people would believe women, why have you tried so hard to silence us?”

It also clearly explores trauma responses and how the impacts can vary from person to person and across time. These can include the inability to say the words and the shrinking of your world.

There are scenes that describe the violations the women have experienced. While they’re not especially graphic, they don’t allow any doubt about what each woman has experienced so please tread carefully if you are likely find this content difficult to read.

Content warnings include addiction, dementia and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may want to skip this one.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Four women. Four enchantments. One man. But he is no handsome prince, and this is no sugar-sweet fairy tale. Jo, Abony, Ranjani, and Maia all have something in common: they have each been cursed by the CEO of their workplace after he abused his power to prey on them. He wants them silent and uses his sinister dark magic to keep them quiet about what he did. But Jo, Abony, Ranjani and Maia are not fairy-tale princesses waiting to be rescued. They are fierce, angry women with a bond forged in pain, and they’re about to discover that they have power of their own.

In this sharply written, bitingly relevant modern fable, the magic is dark and damaging, and the women are determined to rescue themselves.

Willodeen – Katherine Applegate

Illustrations – Charles Santoso

“Nature, Willodeen, knows more than we do, and she probably always will.”

Willodeen has experienced so much more than her share of loss in her short life. She’s a loner who’s much more comfortable in nature than she is around people.

I didn’t understand my own feelings most days. I couldn’t begin to figure out why other people did the things they did.

When Willodeen grudgingly allows Connor into her life, she finds not only a friend but an ally. Together they are magic in the way that only kindred spirits are.

Along the way, Willodeen learns to trust, and finds her voice and courage. She is the most beautiful reminder that one person truly can make a difference.

Willodeen is an absolute sweetheart, Connor is adorable and I want to adopt Duuzuu and Quinby. I loved this book even more than I hoped I would. There was sadness and some tears but my takeaway is hope.

Willodeen left me feeling like I do whenever I finish a Kate DiCamillo book, all warm and fuzzy, and wishing I could hug all of my new friends who live in its pages.

I read my first Katherine Applegate book in the 90’s; it had one of the most profound impacts on me of all the books I read as a kid. It seems I’ve got a lot to catch up on.

Charles Santoso’s illustrations are gorgeous. My favourite shows Duuzuu and Quinby reuniting.

Illustration of Duuzuu and Quinby reuniting

I need to plant some blue willows so I can encourage some hummingbears to visit me.

“There’s magic in all of us,” Birdie said. “Just a bit. You’re born with it, like fingers and toes and fuzzy baby hair. Some of us make use of it. And some of us don’t.”

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The earth is old and we are not, and that is all you must remember…

Eleven-year-old Willodeen adores creatures of all kinds, but her favourites are the most unlovable beasts in the land: strange beasts known as ‘screechers’. The villagers of Perchance call them pests, even monsters, but Willodeen believes the animals serve a vital role in the complicated web of nature.

Lately, though, nature has seemed angry indeed. Perchance has been cursed with fires and mudslides, droughts and fevers, and even the annual migration of hummingbears, a source of local pride and income, has dwindled. For as long as anyone can remember, the tiny animals have overwintered in shimmering bubble nests perched atop blue willow trees, drawing tourists from far and wide. This year, however, not a single hummingbear has returned to Perchance, and no one knows why.

When a handmade birthday gift brings unexpected magic to Willodeen and her new friend, Connor, she’s determined to speak up for the animals she loves, and perhaps even uncover the answer to the mystery of the missing hummingbears.

A timely and timeless tale about our fragile earth, and one girl’s fierce determination to make a difference.

Strange Animals – Tom Jackson

This book combines two of my favourite things, photography and fun facts. Because I’ve devoured so many books with fascinating, adorable and weird animals over the years, there wasn’t a lot of information that was new to me here. It was still an entertaining read, though, and I loved the photos.

It’s always hard to choose my favourite facts. This time around I’ve picked two from each section: Asia, Africa, Australasia, North America, Central & South America, Europe and Oceans. They’re a combination of my favourite animals, photos and facts.

A tarsier’s eye is bigger than its brain.

At around 35cm (14 inches) from snout to tail, the tokay is the world’s largest gecko.

Photo of a torkay

A naked mole-rat queen “controls her workers using chemicals in her urine.”

The African fat-tailed gecko uses the fat stored in its tail when food becomes scarce.

Photo of an African fat-tailed gecko

The duck-billed platypus detects electrical currents produced by its prey with its bill.

Echidnas are related to the platypus. “It too lays eggs, and the pointed snout is sensitive to electricity given out by insect prey.”

Photo of an echidna

The thorn bug is a treehopper. “It sits on a twig and jabs its pointed mouthpart into plants.”

The rubber boa ties itself in a knot when it’s threatened.

Photo of a rubber boa

The pink river dolphin is born grey. When its skin rubs against objects, it becomes pinker.

The axolotl was named after the Aztec god of fire and lightning.

Photo of an axolotl

The wisent (European bison) is Europe’s largest wild land animal.

The Atlantic puffin’s diet consists solely of fish.

Photo of an Atlantic puffin

The Christmas tree worm grows on coral reefs around the world.

The Pacific hagfish have a “spiral of teeth that they twist into corpses to drill out a cylinder of flesh.”

Photo of a Pacific hagfish

NB: The images I’ve included in my review are screenshots of the eARC. The colours may look different in the book.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Amber Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

How does a mudskipper fish manage to “walk” on land? Why is the Hoatzin also known as ‘The Stinkbird’? And once the female Pipa toad has laid her eggs, where does she put them?

The answers? The mudskipper can “walk” using its pectoral fins, the Hoatzin has a unique digestive system which gives the bird a manure-like odour, and the female Pipa Toad embeds its eggs on its back where they develop to adult stage.

Illustrated throughout with outstanding colour photographs, Strange Animals presents the most unusual aspects of 100 of the most unusual species. The selection spans a broad spectrum of wildlife, from the tallest land living mammal, the giraffe, to the light, laughing chorus of Australian kookaburra birds, from the intelligence of the Bottlenose dolphin to octopuses that change colour when they dream to the slow pace of the three-toed sloth.

Arranged geographically, the photographs are accompanied by fascinating captions, which explain the quirky characteristics of each entry. Including egg-laying mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, cannibalistic insects and other invertebrates, Strange Animals is a compelling introduction to some of nature’s most curious beasts.

Such Sharp Teeth – Rachel Harrison

It’s a miracle and it’s a curse, the secrets our bodies keep.

When Rory agreed to temporarily move back to her hometown to support her pregnant twin, Scarlett, irrevocable changes to her life (and body) weren’t what she had in mind. After running into Ian, who’s been in love with her forever, at a bar, she has an accident on her way home.

It wasn’t a bear that attacked Rory that night under the watchful gaze of the full moon. It turns out werewolves aren’t as fictional as we’ve all been led to believe.

“Yep. Werewolf,” I say. “A real thing apparently. Who knew?”

While Rory was justifiably concerned about Bambi’s welfare after the accident, it’s not Rory’s car Bambi needs to worry about; it’s her appetite.

The body horror is strong with this one, with the transformation process a particularly visceral experience. The close encounters with a smorgasbord of meats will mean you’re likely to either crave a big juicy steak while reading or reconsider your carnivore status entirely. Or, if you’re like me, your stomach will be turning even as you wish you had a cheeseburger in front of you waiting to be devoured.

Having a female werewolf central to the story doesn’t just make for an entertaining read. It also paves the way for themes of power and control, rage, how we live after trauma and the reclamation of bodily autonomy when your body has been used by another as an object and it doesn’t feel like you inhabit it anymore. Rory’s struggles with what her life looks like now and with her family and past are explored while she works her way through the deli section of the local supermarket.

In all the fairy tales, the wolf is big and bad and dangerous. A predator. Devious and evil. Something to be feared. But fairy tales are bullshit. Maybe wolves just get a bad edit.

There are worse things to be. I know because I’ve faced those monsters.

Content warnings include mention of domestic abuse, grooming, physical abuse and sexual assault. If you have emetophobia, do an about-face now. This is not the book for you.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Rory Morris isn’t thrilled to be moving back to her hometown. There are bad memories there. But her twin sister, Scarlett, is pregnant and needs support, so Rory returns to the place she thought she’d put in her rearview. After a night out at a bar where she runs into Ian, an old almost-flame, she hits a large animal with her car. And when she gets out to investigate, she’s attacked.

Rory survives, miraculously, but life begins to look and feel different. She’s unnaturally strong, with an aversion to silver – and suddenly the moon has her in its thrall. She’s changing into someone else – something else. But does that mean she’s putting those close to her in danger? Or is embracing the wildness inside her the key to acceptance?

This darkly comedic love story is a brilliantly layered portrait of trauma, rage and vulnerability.

The Dead God’s Heart #1: Spring’s Arcana – Lilith Saintcrow

“This, then, is the way to the Dead God’s Heart”

When her mother’s health began to deteriorate, Nat’s plan to move out and go to college came unstuck. Now, her mother is dying and has given Nat cryptic instructions to save her. Accompanied by a thief on a road trip to retrieve a stolen object, Nat is about to discover that there’s a lot her mother never told her about the world. Or herself.

This is a highly descriptive read, which may appeal to some readers. There are some books where I soak up every detail offered to me. Here, though, it resulted in a read that often felt dragged out. While I loved the concept, I never became invested in the characters or Nat’s quest.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

American Gods vs. Baba Yaga in this Russian-inspired contemporary fantasy Spring’s Arcana, by New York Times bestseller Lilith Saintcrow.

Nat Drozdova is desperate to save a life. Doctors can do little for her cancer-ridden mother, who insists there is only one cure – and that Nat must visit a skyscraper in Manhattan to get it.

Amid a snow-locked city, inside a sleek glass-walled office, Nat makes her plea and is whisked into a terrifying new world. For the skyscraper holds a hungry winter goddess who has the power to cure her mother…if Nat finds a stolen object of great power.

Now Nat must travel with a razor-wielding assassin across an American continent brimming with terror, wonder, and hungry divinities with every reason to consume a young woman. For her ailing mother is indeed suffering no ordinary illness, and Nat Drozdova is no ordinary girl. Blood calls to blood, magic to magic, and a daughter may indeed save what she loves…

…if it doesn’t consume her first.

This is the way to the Dead God’s Heart.

The Salt Grows Heavy – Cassandra Khaw

“And you shall know her by the trail of dead.”

This is the story of a toothy mermaid and her plague doctor. If you need to know more than that before deciding this is absolutely the book for you, then maybe this is not the book for you. For everyone else, it’s just as dark and weird and strangely beautiful as you’re hoping it will be.

It’s body horror. It’s a love story. It’s hunger. It’s not giving up on one another. It’s a story you should know as little about as possible before you prise open the pages and devour the viscera for yourself.

The writing is gorgeous. Although this read has its own style, it reminded me of Seanan McGuire’s books when she’s writing as Mira Grant. A number of reviewers have already described it as lyrical and I can’t think of a better word to capture the experience of this book. However, I’m certain the author could come up with ten alternatives.

For someone who simply loves words, this novella was practically a playground for me. I stumbled across so many words that were new to me so part of the joy of this read was learning what they all meant. A couple of my new favourites are intaglio and cicatrice.

“Could you assemble a new life from nothing but debris?”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this novella. I can’t wait to read it again!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After the murder of her husband and the fall of his empire, a mermaid and her plague doctor companion escape into the wilderness. Deep in the woods, they stumble across a village where children hunt each other for sport, sacrificing one of their own at the behest of three surgeons they call “the saints.” These saints play god with their magic, harvesting the best bits of the children for themselves and piecing the sacrifices back together again.

To save the children from their fates, the plague doctor must confront their past, and the mermaid must embrace the darkest parts of her true nature.

The Wild – Claudia Martin

Five countries hold 70 per cent of the world’s last remaining wilderness: Russia, Australia, Brazil, Canada and the United States, much of the last country’s wild land lying in Alaska.

This book’s whirlwind trip around the world was fodder for my travel wish list. Divided into sections by geography – Europe, Asia, Africa, Oceania & Antarctica, North & South America – the photography highlights various landscapes across the seasons. The isolation and serenity made this the perfect coffee table book for me.

Although I almost always love photography books, because there are so many to choose from, I like to get a feel for what to expect before deciding if they’re for me or not. With that in mind, I’ve chosen my current favourite photo from each section.


Legend says that dragons throwing rocks at one another created the distinctive landscape of the Drakolimni of Tymfi, found in Vikos-Aoös National Park, Greece.


The combusting sulphur in the Ijen stratovolcano complex in East Java, Indonesia, causes Api Biru, Blue Fire.


African teak is a deciduous hardwood tree with explosive pods able to spread seeds over several metres.

This teak forest is in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.


The world’s largest population of dugongs make their home at Shark Bay, Western Australia.


This gorgeous winter scene comes to you from the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska.

While this book features some breathtaking landscapes, it also includes photos of animals. My favourite is this American alligator, a species that can reach 4.8m (15.7 feet) in length, chilling out at Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia, USA.


NB: The images I’ve included in my review are screenshots of the eARC. The colours may look different in the book.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Amber Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Illustrated with beautiful colour photographs, The Wild leads the reader to the planet’s least cultivated places, from jungles to tundras. Take a step into the wild!

We live in an increasingly urbanised world, but there are still many magnificent stretches of wilderness unaltered by humankind. From the most remote mountains and valleys in Alaska to the southern tip of Chile and Argentina, from Europe’s primeval forest on the Polish-Belarusian border to Norway’s fjords, and from the Namib Desert to Kamchatka in far-eastern Russia to canyons in Kurdistan and rainforests in Cambodia, The Wild celebrates the beauty of uncultivated landscapes all around the globe.

Arranged by continent, the book roams across landscapes and climates, from Antarctica’s dry valleys to African burning deserts, from European marshlands to Arabian rugged peaks and on to Tanzania’s craters, Indonesia’s volcanoes, and New Zealand’s bubbling mud pools. Each entry is supported with fascinating captions explaining the geology, geography, flora, and fauna. In doing so, the book reveals some of the world’s most naturally bizarre places.