Book Haul – 13 to 19 December 2020

Hey book nerds!

It probably looks like I’ve barely opened a book this week, having only finished a picture book and gift book. I’ve been slowly working my way through Barack Obama’s A Promised Land and it’s a serious commitment. Between the 700+ pages and the detailed descriptions of all things political, it’s taking me a very long time to get through it. Hopefully I’ll have it finished by Christmas, all going well.

I finally managed to see Vienna Teng perform in concert this week. It was my second online concert and it was magic! I thought I’d never have the opportunity to see her play live and although I missed the atmosphere of sitting in a room with hundreds of other fans, it was so much better than I’d dared to hope it would be.

I’ve been to some concerts where it’s obvious how much finessing has been done to a singer’s voice to make it sound like it does on their CD. This wasn’t the case with Vienna: the stunning voice you hear on the CD is just as beautiful in concert.

I may be the only person in the world that does this but when I’m really looking forward to a concert a really weird thing happens. I think it’s the music touching me in a similar way watching the ocean or seeing a baby animal for the first time does, but while I feel the emotion of all of them, music alone makes me cry.

I’m barely even aware I’m doing it because it’s not an ugly, sobbing cry; it’s more a growing awareness that I have tears streaming down my face. While I’m usually all cried out by the end of the third song in most concerts, I cried for the entire first half of this one, as well as the final three or four songs. Pretty much whenever she played a song that I desperately wanted to see her play live. Yes, I’m a weirdo. I admit it.

I may have been somewhat dehydrated by the end but I had the most marvellous time. While there’s no way all of my favourite Vienna songs could have made it into the lineup (there are simply too many), almost every song she played was one of my favourites.

Meredith Peruzzi, the ASL interpreter you can see in the bottom right corner of my screenshots, did a brilliant job. She also seemed to be having a great time, looking like she was grooving along to the music.

The standout for me was Vienna’s new song. I’ve been hankering for some new Vienna music for years and it was incredible. I can’t do it justice by trying to explain it but I’ll give it a go anyway: she sang a song in two parts then layered the two into a single song. So it was like hearing three versions of the same song and the two parts being sung at once (technology helped here) shouldn’t have worked but it did. I really hope that when her next CD is released it includes all three versions of this song. It’s called We’ve Got You.

Vienna also did a cover of MILCK’s Somebody’s Beloved, which was one of the many songs I cried through.

Song of the Week: Level Up by Vienna Teng. I’d been listening to this song a lot in the week before the concert.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

Inspired by a terrifying true story from the author’s hometown, a heart-pounding novel of suspense about a small Minnesota community where nothing is as quiet – or as safe – as it seems.

Cassie McDowell’s life in 1980’s Minnesota seems perfectly wholesome. She lives on a farm, loves school, and has a crush on the nicest boy in class. Yes, there are her parents’ strange parties and their parade of deviant guests, but she’s grown accustomed to them.

All that changes when someone comes hunting in Lilydale.

One by one, local boys go missing. One by one, they return changed – violent, moody, and withdrawn. What happened to them becomes the stuff of shocking rumours. The accusations of who’s responsible grow just as wild, and dangerous town secrets start to surface. Then Cassie’s own sister undergoes the dark change. If she is to survive, Cassie must find her way in an adult world where every sin is justified, and only the truth is unforgivable.


An evil force pulses deep within Malpas Abbey, overflowing with maniacal glee …

Overlooking a dark hill, the gloomy Malpas Abbey has been avoided by locals for centuries. Its infamous history is marred with blood and terror. Only the foolish would dare enter such a place, where devilish hauntings have left a string of dead bodies in its wake.

Just as the building is about to be permanently closed, things take an unexpected turn. An American television crew shows up, hoping to investigate the source of the structure’s paranormal activity. Led by producer Matt McKay and paranormal expert Ted Gould, the hapless bunch enter the confines of the hellish residence only to discover that they are in way over their heads.

As the group tries to make sense of the strange occurrences, they soon realise that the cellar might be the key to unlocking the mystery. Inside lies a stone altar that emanates with the evil strength of the Devil himself, feeding upon the crew members’ worst nightmares. 

With the ominous cloud hanging over them, they realise that there’s much more at stake than a disruption in filming. The only hope for survival rests on Ted, Matt and his crew’s ability to find their way out of the darkness, before the house devours them, capturing all the gory details on camera …


NetGalley

A speedy squirrel and a sleepy sloth try to get the job done in this funny, heartwarming tale of two lovable, but unlikely, friends.

Though Sloth and Squirrel are good friends, they have different ways of doing things – and different speeds of doing them. So, when Squirrel gets them jobs as pickle packers to earn money for a new bike, things don’t go according to plan. It seems that the contrasting skill sets of a fast-as-lightening squirrel and a slow-as-molasses sloth can make for a mess of an outcome, and before long, the friends are shown the pickle factory’s door, along with the 677 1/2 jars of pickles they packed incorrectly! Now the pair are bicycle-less, with only pickles to show for themselves. Or so they think – until the resourceful pair come up with an ingenious plan!

This delightful story from Cathy Ballou Mealey is a celebration of friendships of all kinds and a testament to ingenuity and hard work. Packed with funny details that aren’t in the text, Kelly Collier’s engaging illustrations are full of personality and silly, emotionally expressive humour. Together they create a hilarious picture book that’s perfect for a fun and lively read-aloud. At the same time, the positive themes in the book highlight a growth mindset and character education lessons on teamwork, perseverance and initiative.

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion – Ton Mak

It’s a well established fact that I’m an introvert. Besides my lived experience, I have also found multiple books that could have been written about me.

I found myself on almost every page of Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World. If my introversion was ever in doubt (it wasn’t), the perfect score I achieved on Jenn Granneman’s signs I might be an introvert in her book, The Secret Lives of Introverts, was a big ‘I told you so’ to any naysayers out there.

If you’re a kindred introvert, you’ll probably get some validation and a reminder that you’re fine just the way you are from this book. If you’ve already read books that talk about introversion on any detail, it’s unlikely you’ll find any new information in this book.

This gift book has cute illustrations. However, I found the colours jarring. I read this book on an iPad; maybe the colours would look better on a different screen. It’s also possible, because I’m mindful that I read an advanced copy, the colour scheme could change prior to publication.

Thank you to NetGalley and Chronicle Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion is a delightful illustrated gift book that celebrates the wonderful qualities of introverts through the everyday adventures of a turtle.

Being an introvert comes with numerous advantages and the occasional woe, and no animal knows that better than the humble turtle hiding in its shell. This book celebrates introverts and their many wonderful, often-underrated qualities. 

Perfect for introverts and extroverts who are secretly introverts. And for those who likes turtles.

Book Haul – 15 to 21 November 2020

It was my Mum’s birthday this week and the book I preordered for her, which was released six days before her birthday, hasn’t been posted yet. Thanks, 2020! I told her it looks as though she’ll be getting it for Christmas instead, but this is me we’re talking about. I’m likely to give it to her straight out of the letterbox, whatever date it arrives.

I ended up having a non-fiction week, covering some heavy topics. After tackling domestic abuse and sexual assault, I made it to the Holocaust. So it’s fairly likely you’ll be seeing some children’s book reviews from me next week.

There have been so many gorgeous beach days this week so I went for as many walks as possible. Strangely enough, on three beach walks in the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen Santa. While they’re probably work Christmas parties I’m seeing, with Santa and a bunch of adults hanging out near the sand dunes, I’m not ruling out any possibilities. If you’d like to give me your wish list, I’ll be sure to pass it along. 😜

Our ravens brought their baby to meet me for the first time and it was so cute! I’ve seen our magpies’ baby in a tree across the road but it hasn’t made it into our yard yet. Our noisy miner babies are all feeding themselves now, although they still squark to be fed whenever an adult is nearby. I haven’t seen any kookaburra, currawong or butcher bird babies this season but they may just be fashionably late.

Word of the Week: Komorebi, “the Japanese expression for the sunlight as it filters through the trees, is made up of the kanji characters for tree (木), shine through (漏れ), and sun (日).” (quote and image from Culture Trip)

Bookish Highlight of the Week: For the third week in a row, Jess Hill’s See What You Made Me Do was my bookish highlight. I finally finished it and can say with confidence that it’s the best book about domestic abuse I’ve ever read. I also found out this week that there’s going to be a related three part SBS documentary airing in Australia in 2021. Although I know for sure it’s going to be brutal watching, with heartbreaking stories and likely some ugly crying from me, I am really looking forward to it. Anyway, I promise to find a new bookish highlight next week but you should really read Jess’ book.

Recent Reads:


Book Mail

Despite its humble origins, there is no more challenging or physically dangerous teen sport in the world than cheerleading. Cheerleaders are seriously injured and even killed at a higher rate than other high school sports. Their stunts are performed in skimpy uniforms without the benefit of proper safety equipment … and yet they love them, glittery eyeshadow, spirit bows, and all.

And then there are the Fighting Pumpkins, who take that injury rate as a challenge. Students of Johnson’s Crossing High School, they answer to a higher calling than the pyramid and the basket toss, pursuing the pep rally that is rising up against mysteries and monsters, kicking gods with the pointed toes of professional athletes chasing a collegiate career.

Meet Jude, half-vampire squad leader; Laurie, who can compel anyone to do as she asks; Heather, occasionally recreationally dead; Marti, strong enough to provide a foundation for any stunt; Colleen, who knows the rule book so well she may as well have written it; and Steph, who may or may not be the goddess of the harvest. The rest of the squad is ready to support them, and braced for the chaos of the big game, which may have a big body count. Prepare to jump high, yell loud, and look pretty with the Fighting Pumpkins, those glorious girls in the orange and green, whose high kicks could still be enough to save the world.

And if they’re not, it isn’t going to be for lack of trying.

Dying with Her Cheer Pants On includes three stories appearing for the first time anywhere: “Tryouts,” “Trial by Fire,” and “Compete Me.”


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

I didn’t buy any Kindle books this week. How is that even possible?! Oh, wait. Does it count if you had to buy the Kindle version of your book mail so you don’t accidentally hurt your signed, limited edition copy? Because if it does, I may have bought one Kindle book this week.

NetGalley

A Turtle’s Guide to Introversion is a delightful illustrated gift book that celebrates the wonderful qualities of introverts through the everyday adventures of a turtle.

Being an introvert comes with numerous advantages and the occasional woe, and no animal knows that better than the humble turtle hiding in its shell. This book celebrates introverts and their many wonderful, often-underrated qualities. 

Perfect for introverts and extroverts who are secretly introverts. And for those who likes turtles.


Book Haul – 25 to 31 October 2020

Halloween has been a subdued celebration this year. Although Halloween isn’t as big a deal in Australia as it is in America (I had to explain what trick-or-treating was to some neighbours when I was a kid) we have participated every year. Until now.

My heart broke a little when I had to tell a sweet young girl and her father that we weren’t participating this year. You just keep finding new ways to suck, COVID! To be fair, the father and daughter were entirely fine with it and I made sure to tell them to come back next year but I’m feeling a bit like I suck right now.

I plan to make myself feel better by introducing Mum to Halloween 4 tonight.

In happier news, my blog is now 6 months old! It’s been a weird year (to say the least) but starting this blog, after years of thinking about it, has been one of the highlights of 2020 for me. I love being able to share my bookish thoughts with you.

The rain that was promised this week actually showed up and it was amazing! One of my favourite things is a rain/coffee/book combo. I didn’t get as much reading done as I’d hoped (curse you, paperwork!) but it was still a good week.

I saw the duck family again and the ducklings looked like they’d grown, even though I only saw them for the first time about a week ago. I also managed to get a couple of walks on the beach in between the rain.

Word of the Week: quixotic. “Extremely idealistic; unrealistic and impractical.” (from lexico.com)

Bookish Highlight of the Week: It’s my mother’s birthday in a couple of weeks and one of our traditions is book buying. While I get her age appropriate books as well, I always try to find a picture book she’d like. She now owns pretty much all of the Grug and Clifford books. This year a new book in a series she loves is getting released just before her birthday – The Grinny Granny Donkey. Bonus points for the donkey. She loves donkeys, ducks and sloths. I’m crossing my fingers that my preorder arrives in time. If not, I’ll have one of her Christmas presents sorted!

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

A smart, imaginative, and evocative novel of love, betrayal, revenge, and redemption, told with razor-sharp wit and affection, in which a young woman discovers the greatest superpower – for good or ill – is a properly executed spreadsheet.

Anna does boring things for terrible people because even criminals need office help and she needs a job. Working for a monster lurking beneath the surface of the world isn’t glamorous. But is it really worse than working for an oil conglomerate or an insurance company? In this economy?
As a temp, she’s just a cog in the machine. But when she finally gets a promising assignment, everything goes very wrong, and an encounter with the so-called “hero” leaves her badly injured. And, to her horror, compared to the other bodies strewn about, she’s the lucky one.

So, of course, then she gets laid off.

With no money and no mobility, with only her anger and internet research acumen, she discovers her suffering at the hands of a hero is far from unique. When people start listening to the story that her data tells, she realises she might not be as powerless as she thinks.

Because the key to everything is data: knowing how to collate it, how to manipulate it, and how to weaponise it. By tallying up the human cost these caped forces of nature wreak upon the world, she discovers that the line between good and evil is mostly marketing. And with social media and viral videos, she can control that appearance.

It’s not too long before she’s employed once more, this time by one of the worst villains on earth. As she becomes an increasingly valuable lieutenant, she might just save the world.

A sharp, witty, modern debut, Hench explores the individual cost of justice through a fascinating mix of Millennial office politics, heroism measured through data science, body horror, and a profound misunderstanding of quantum mechanics.


Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her – and who won’t make it out of the woods?

It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her … or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together.

When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca – before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends – and their cameras – following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side. 


Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighbourhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she – and her book club – are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.


How far would you go to find The One?

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

That’s the promise made by Match Your DNA. A decade ago, the company announced that they had found the gene that pairs each of us with our soul mate. Since then, millions of people around the world have been matched. But the discovery has its downsides: test results have led to the breakup of countless relationships and upended the traditional ideas of dating, romance and love.

Now five very different people have received the notification that they’ve been “Matched.” They’re each about to meet their one true love. But “happily ever after” isn’t guaranteed for everyone. Because even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking than others …


NetGalley

Five strangers guard our secrets.

Only four can be trusted …

In the 21st century, information is king. But computers can be hacked and files can be broken into – so a unique government initiative has been born. Five ordinary people have been selected to become Minders – the latest weapon in thwarting cyberterrorism. Transformed by a revolutionary medical procedure, the country’s most classified information has been taken offline and turned into genetic code implanted inside their heads. 

Together, the five know every secret – the truth behind every government lie, conspiracy theory and cover up. In return, they’re given the chance to leave their problems behind and a blank slate to start their lives anew.

But not everyone should be trusted, especially when they each have secrets of their own they’ll do anything to protect …


How will you help your friend if she doesn’t want to be saved?

In a tranquil neighbourhood of Tokyo, seven teenagers wake to find the mirrors in their bedrooms are shining.

At a single touch, they are pulled from their lonely lives into a wondrous castle filled with watchful portraits, winding stairways and twinkling chandeliers. Hidden within the walls is a key which will grant one wish, and a set of clues with which to find it. But there’s a catch: they must leave the premises by five o’clock or suffer a fatal end.

And so they begin to unlock each other’s stories: how a boy is showered with more gadgets than love; how another suffers a painful and unexplained rejection, and how a girl lives in fear of her predatory stepfather.

As time passes, the devastating truth emerges: only those brave enough to share their stories will be saved.

At the heart of this tender, playful tale is a powerful message about the importance of reaching out. Above all, it shows how with one kind act you can change your life for the better, and more importantly, you can change the lives of others.


Obama Biden Mysteries #1: Hope Never Dies – Andrew Shaffer

This book has been on my TBR pile for a very long time. I finally figured that with the election so close, it was the time to bite the bullet. After all, we all need some hope right now.

So, Obama and Biden as amateur sleuths. I thought this would be a bit of a giggle wrapped up in a whodunnit. While I didn’t mind the story, the laughs I’d been looking forward to didn’t show up. Sure, it had its moments but maybe my hopes were set too high.

I loved the concept. I loved the cover. I loved the image of Biden surviving being thrown out of a speeding train by hanging on with his fingertips. I wanted more scenes like that.

I can’t claim to be an expert on how Obama or Biden speak or act. However, so many times as I was reading I was thinking that there was no way they would have said or done whatever their character had just said or done. Yes, I know this book is fiction and not to be taken seriously.

I probably wouldn’t have picked up this book to begin with if it wasn’t for the promise of some Obama and Biden fun. It was an enjoyable read but I won’t be diving straight into the sequel.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s been several months since the 2016 presidential election, and “Uncle Joe” Biden is puttering around his house, grouting the tile in his master bathroom, feeling lost and adrift in an America that doesn’t make sense anymore.

But when his favourite Amtrak conductor dies in a suspicious accident, Joe feels a familiar desire to serve – and he leap into the role of amateur sleuth, with a little help from his old friend President Barack Obama (code name: Renegade). Together they’ll plumb the darkest depths of Delaware, traveling from cheap motels to biker bars and beyond, as they uncover the sinister forces advancing America’s opioid epidemic.

Devil Sharks – Chris Jameson

Alex and his wife, Sami, are on their way to paradise for a reunion with Alex’s friends from university. Harry, who Alex has a complicated history with, has invited them to spend a week on board his 100 foot luxury sailing yacht. All expenses paid!

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. The ocean is crystal clear, the weather is gorgeous and the alcohol is flowing. Except it’s not all smooth sailing aboard the Kid Galahad. They’re hundreds of miles from civilisation, sharks are circling and a not so merry band of pirates have made their acquaintance. What could go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. It isn’t very long before their laughter turns to screams and the only thing flowing freely is blood.

Something bumped his thigh, nudged him hard, and then he felt razor teeth clamp down and rip his flesh, felt himself dragged and twisted, and he screamed as he went under for a second time.

Some of my favourite movies are B grade delights where humans find themselves knocked off the top of the food chain. It turns out that reading about especially bitey sharks is just as much bloody fun, although I definitely want to see this book made into a movie.

There is some time spent in the beginning setting up who’s who but it quickly all goes to hell. With a body count in the double digits, the tension is fairly consistent for over half of the book.

I initially took note of everyone’s occupation and personality so I could try to figure out who had the best odds of making it through the book with their flesh intact. It didn’t really seem to matter though as most of the characters are now in the process of being digested.

My only disappointment was the pirates. They had so much potential, but once they’d successfully ramped up the danger level for our group of friends they essentially disappeared. It was easy to forget they were even part of the story when the final battle for survival was taking place. The sharks well and truly made up for them though.

“What do you know about sharks?”

Alex cocked his head. “Mainly that I don’t want to be in the water with them.”

These sharks are relentless so there’s little chance your favourite character will survive. The person I most wanted to survive died and the person whose gruesome death I was looking forward to the most survived.

While this is my first Chris Jameson shark read, it will not be the last. Shark Island and Shark Beach are going to be bloodying up my imagination in the near future.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A pleasure cruise in Paradise leads a group of friends to a shark-infested Hell in Chris Jameson’s Devil Sharks …

When Alex Simmons is invited to a college reunion in the Hawaiian islands aboard the private yacht of his old pal Harry Curtis, he is not sure what to expect. The two men had a falling-out years ago over the suicide of one of their friends. Could this be Harry’s way of making amends? Or is something more sinister in store?

The crew sets sail and arrives at Orchid Atoll, the site of a deserted former Coast Guard station. But they are far from alone. Out here, three hundred miles from civilisation, Alex and his friends are about to encounter two very different brands of evil – one human, the other with fins – unlike anything they could have possibly imagined. They have entered a place where there’s no law, no mercy … and no way out.

Book Haul – 18 to 24 October 2020

I had some gorgeous walks on the beach this week. Just in time, too, because it started raining today and, if we’re to believe the weather forecast, it’s not likely to stop for about a week. This could be the perfect week for some binge reading!

On the way home from the beach one day, Mum and I dropped by the lake and saw a family of ducks. The five ducklings were almost half the size of their parents and they were so cute! My mother absolutely adores ducks so we watched them for at least 20 minutes. Not that I was complaining.

We stayed as still as possible and the parents must have decided we weren’t a threat; the entire family ended up feeding within 6 feet of where we were standing.

I’m not sure how this started but Mum and I only ever call ducks making noise, quacking or any other noise, ‘ducking’. These ducks were ducking so much and Mum wasn’t the only one in love with this little family.

Word of the Week: Catharsis. “Catharsis is a Greek word meaning “cleansing.”  In literature, it is used for the cleansing of emotions of the characters. It can also be any other radical change that leads to emotional rejuvenation of a person.” (from Literary Devices)

Bookish Highlight of the Week: The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn was an unexpected delight. I read a library copy and then immediately bought my own copy. It was such a sad but sweet story.

Recent Reads:


Kindle Black Hole of Good Intentions

The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land’s greatest honour … and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. 

In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. 

When Alu’s ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honour. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. 

But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is – a death sentence.

Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life – and heart – are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything … including herself.


Lonely orphan Wonder Quinn lives in the attic of Direleafe Hall with only a gloomy crow for company. Every year she hopes to make a true friend and every year her heart breaks when she doesn’t.

But when a spirited new student, Mabel Clattersham, befriends her in class, Wonder’s dreams seem to be coming true. As the girls grow closer, Wonder discovers her friend has a list of strange wishes: Throw a pie, leap into the sky, break someone’s heart …

What is Mabel’s big secret? Can Wonder protect her heart from being broken all over again?

The Heartsong of Wonder Quinn is an enchanting tale celebrating friendship, bravery and the importance of staying true to yourself.


The Haunting of Tram Car 015 returns to the alternate Cairo of Clark’s short fiction, where humans live and work alongside otherworldly beings; the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities handles the issues that can arise between the magical and the mundane. Senior Agent Hamed al-Nasr shows his new partner Agent Onsi the ropes of investigation when they are called to subdue a dangerous, possessed tram car. What starts off as a simple matter of exorcism, however, becomes more complicated as the origins of the demon inside are revealed. 


NetGalley

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.


Convenience Store Woman – Sayaka Murata

Translator – Ginny Tapley Takemori

“Irasshaimasé!”

I’m very late for my shift at the Smile Mart but I’m so glad to have finally walked through its doors. There have been eight managers and countless workers serving customers since it first opened eighteen years ago, but Keiko has been there from day one.

I really liked Keiko who, at thirty-six, has never fit into society’s mould. People have wanted to fix her since she was a child. But at the Smile Mart she feels like she fits perfectly.

While I suspect we’re all like this to a certain degree, Keiko’s speech and the way she dresses are an amalgam of the people she spends time with, morphing over time as new people enter her life and others fade away. Keiko doesn’t know how to be normal so it’s a good thing the Smile Mart manual clearly outlines how she is supposed to ‘human’ at work.

When I first started here, there was a detailed manual that taught me how to be a store worker, and I still don’t have a clue how to be a normal person outside that manual.

Over the course of this quick read the rhythm of the convenience store became almost meditative. It got to a point where it almost felt wrong to be reading about any of the hours Keiko wasn’t spending inside the “shining white aquarium” because she was so comfortable there.

I love Keiko’s unfiltered honesty:

When I first saw my nephew through the glass window at the hospital, he looked like an alien creature. But now he’d grown into something more humanlike, complete with hair.

As someone who’s managed to accidentally subvert some of society’s adulting norms, I relate to the relief embodied in the following sentence:

Good, I pulled off being a “person”.

Quite frankly, that’s probably my favourite sentence of the entire book.

And I’m sure I’m not the first reader to think back on an early scene and fantasise about hitting Shiraha with a shovel.

Anyone who’s worked in retail will know Keiko’s coworkers and customers all too well. I worked in retail for seven years and so many of my coworkers and customers came to mind when I met Keiko’s.

Reading Convenience Store Woman actually had me wondering how my four years as Photolab Lady, in the days when negatives still existed and what you’d actually captured on film was one of life’s mysteries until you got it developed, would translate into a story. The stories I could tell about the photos I saw – some funny, some sweet, some heartbreaking, some creepy as hell …

I was really looking forward to this read and it was even better than I’d hoped. I definitely need more books by this author.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Portobello Books, an imprint of Granta Publications, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Convenience Store Woman is the heartwarming and surprising story of thirty-six-year-old Tokyo resident Keiko Furukura. Keiko has never fit in, neither in her family, nor in school, but when at the age of eighteen she begins working at the Hiiromachi branch of “Smile Mart,” she finds peace and purpose in her life.

In the store, unlike anywhere else, she understands the rules of social interaction – many are laid out line by line in the store’s manual – and she does her best to copy the dress, mannerisms, and speech of her colleagues, playing the part of a “normal” person excellently, more or less. Managers come and go, but Keiko stays at the store for eighteen years. It’s almost hard to tell where the store ends and she begins. Keiko is very happy, but the people close to her, from her family to her coworkers, increasingly pressure her to find a husband, and to start a proper career, prompting her to take desperate action …

A brilliant depiction of an unusual psyche and a world hidden from view, Convenience Store Woman is an ironic and sharp-eyed look at contemporary work culture and the pressures to conform, as well as a charming and completely fresh portrait of an unforgettable heroine.

It’s OK Not to Be OK – Tina Rae

Illustrations – Jessica Smith

This is a good introduction to mental health for young readers. It provides basic information about some of the more common mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and eating disorders. There are also sections on bullying and discrimination.

While encouraging readers to seek help from a trusted adult if they are struggling, there are also plenty of ideas to boost their own mental health. These include self care, diet, exercise, managing stress, challenging negative thoughts and mindfulness.

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Tips for parents and caregivers and lists of resources (apps, websites and helplines) are included at the end of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s OK Not to Be OK acknowledges and explores common mental health disorders such as depression, eating disorders and anxiety. Get the low down on these issues, why they happen and discover ways of looking after mental health in our fast-moving world.

This book will help children and young people develop the resilience to cope with whatever life throws at them and grow into well-rounded, healthy adults.

Halloween Carnival Volume 5 – Brian James Freeman (editor)

I’ve been dragging my feet on this anthology series for years now. I was so excited to sink my teeth into some Halloween scares but they consistently disappointed me so I gave up. Now it’s Halloween month again and with one volume to go, I decided to dive back in and hope for the best.

Devil’s Night by Richard Chizmar – 🎃🎃🎃🎃

The newspapers reported the story of what happened that night but that’s not the whole story.

Halloween may be a night for make-believe ghosts and goblins, but you’d better be sure to turn on all the lights and lock your doors on Devil’s Night. Because that’s when the real monsters lurk …

The Last Dare by Lisa Tuttle – 🎃🎃🎃

The tower house is still there, all these years later. Going inside was the last dare between childhood best friends.

“Tell us the story about the tower house”

The Halloween Bleed by Norman Prentiss – 🎃🎃🎃

An interview with a difference.

“What if Halloween … bleeds into other days? It doesn’t matter when the story is written, or when you read it. What matters is that it has an effect on you. It casts its spell.”

Swing by Kevin Quigley – 🎃🎃🎃

Death follows love. Every time.

Most thought she was dancing because she was free, but I knew the real Jessica. She danced because she was trapped.

Pork Pie Hat by Peter Straub – 🎃🎃🎃

Hat, a story from his childhood and all that jazz.

“Most people will tell you growing up means you stop believing in Halloween things – I’m telling you the reverse. You start to grow up when you understand that the stuff that scares you is part of the air you breathe.”

While the stories included in this anthology were okay, I didn’t get the Halloween horror vibe I was looking for. I didn’t find any of the stories scary at all. I’m glad I finally made it through to the end of this series and there were some decent stories along the way, but overall I remain disappointed.

Content warnings include death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hydra, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Richard Chizmar, Lisa Tuttle, Norman Prentiss, Kevin Quigley, and Peter Straub unmask monsters hiding in plain sight in an anthology of heart-pounding short fiction assembled by horror author and editor Brian James Freeman.

DEVIL’S NIGHT by Richard Chizmar
You’ve read about what happened that night. What you don’t know is the true extent of the damage. The papers got it wrong – and the truth is so much worse than you thought.

THE LAST DARE by Lisa Tuttle
Elaine hasn’t been back to her hometown in years. The house she lived in is gone. The tower house isn’t – nor are the stories of the fate that befalls whoever dares to go there.

THE HALLOWEEN BLEED by Norman Prentiss
People think there’s some sort of mystical power that allows enchantments and witchcraft to come to life on Halloween night. But real magic obeys no calendar – and true evil strikes whenever it’s least expected.

SWING by Kevin Quigley
In Hollywood, everyone lives forever. At least that’s what I used to think … before Jessica. But no one seems to live long when they’re around me.

PORK PIE HAT by Peter Straub
When it comes to jazz, there are players, and there are legends. “Hat” was a legend. His real name didn’t even matter. Still, he had his secrets – secrets best left buried in the past.