Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day – Seanan McGuire

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

The living are a mystery to me. I didn’t spend enough time as one of them.

Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day was my second ever Seanan McGuire read and it’s just become my first Seanan reread. It also has the distinction of being the only book on my very long list of favourites that, if you were to ask me its name when it wasn’t sitting right in front of me, chances are that I would fail miserably in my attempt to arrange the D’s in the correct order.

Our main character is Jenna, a ghost who volunteers for a suicide prevention hotline, and that right there is the book I didn’t know I needed to read until I learned of its existence.

Jenna’s sister, Patty, died by suicide in 1972. Jenna’s death, shortly after her sister’s, was accidental. Because Patty died when she was supposed to, she bypassed the ghost stage, moving straight on to whatever comes after death. Jenna died before her time so she will remain on earth as a ghost until when she should have died. Except time works differently for ghosts – they can both give and take time from the living.

The guilt Jenna feels over not seeing the signs that led to her sister’s death has resulted in her feeling like she needs to earn her death, only counting the minutes where she’s confident she’s made a positive impact on someone’s life.

I started earning the time I take, justifying it with my actions before I pull it into myself.

I would have been content if that was the entire story, but it’s not. There’s also witches, magic and mysteriously disappearing ghosts. Oh, and a bunch of “feline senior citizens” and cornfields, because this is a Seanan McGuire book, in case you’d forgotten.

If my tear ducts hadn’t suddenly taken a vacation, the dedication alone would have been enough to activate them.

For everyone who has been tempted to go, and has found the strength to stay. I will see you all tomorrow.

Suicide and suicidal ideation can be difficult enough topics to even broach, let alone do right with the sensitivity they deserve. I feel like Seanan has done a really good job here, in the phone call we get to listen in on, in the grief and guilt that Patty’s family experience and the responsibility Jenna feels for not anticipating and preventing her sister’s death.

I’ve paid off a fraction of my debt I owe to Patty, for not hearing the things she never said to me.

It took a little while for me to get my head around how ghost time works but by the time I figured it out, something had happened that has so far always happened when I’ve read a Seanan book: I believed. The characters and the rules that apply in the New York they’re living in felt real to me, and that’s part of Seanan’s magic as far as I’m concerned.

I was entirely satisfied with this story fitting inside a novella during my first read but I’ve gotten greedy since then. I wanted more ghosts, more witches, and more time with those I was introduced to. I could read entire books dedicated to the stories Sophie, Brenda and Delia have to tell.

My reread has raised some questions that my reader’s bliss hid from me during my first read. That was the read that essentially consisted of me marvelling at my good fortune, having so recently discovered a new favourite author.

Don’t get me wrong, though. The question marks above my head did not interfere with my enjoyment of this novella. I still love it to bits. Don’t be surprised if you see me reading it a third time.

Major Spoilers Ahead: Continue reading at your own risk.

It’s mentioned late in the story that

“Ghosts don’t just happen. Someone has to make them. That’s why we all died so early, and why so many of us had freak accidents.”

The person or people or witch or witches who make the ghosts are never revealed. Neither are their motives. Maybe it’s to make sure places are anchored or maybe it’s to make sure time can still be given and taken. The most likely reason to make new ghosts would be to trap them inside mirrors but Jenna has been living her life after death for over forty years mirror free. The not knowing for sure isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things but I would have liked to have at least met whoever it was that was making the ghosts so I could interrogate them myself.

The witch who imprisons almost every ghost in New York must have done a massive amount of research and spent more time than I can fathom collecting a mirror that would work on each individual ghost. It doesn’t say how many ghosts are spending this portion of their lives after death in New York but I’m almost positive that you couldn’t fit all of their mirrors in a supply room.

Content warnings include death by suicide (including the method used).

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When her sister Patty died, Jenna blamed herself. When Jenna died, she blamed herself for that, too. Unfortunately Jenna died too soon. Living or dead, every soul is promised a certain amount of time, and when Jenna passed she found a heavy debt of time in her record. Unwilling to simply steal that time from the living, Jenna earns every day she leeches with volunteer work at a suicide prevention hotline.

But something has come for the ghosts of New York, something beyond reason, beyond death, beyond hope; something that can bind ghosts to mirrors and make them do its bidding. Only Jenna stands in its way.

Wayward Children #6: Across the Green Grass Fields – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

“There’s no right way to be a girl.”

It’s Seanan McGuire. It’s Wayward Children. I will always be sure.

At ten, Regan has already seen what can happen to girls when they’re different. She’s determined to fit in; “strange was something to be feared and avoided above all else in the vicious political landscape of the playground”.

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In the Hooflands, Regan comes across all manner of hooved beings including centaurs, unicorns and kelpies. There she is told that it’s her destiny to save this world, even though she doesn’t believe in destiny. She finds acceptance and love with her found family, giving her the freedom to be who she is, rather than having to constrain herself to fit inside the box of other people’s expectations.

This series has the diversity that other series can only dream of and I was absolutely thrilled to learn that Regan is intersex. I trust Seanan to write with the sensitivity her characters deserve and I really felt like I got a sense of what it was like for Regan when she learned her parents had kept this a secret for so long. I wanted to give her parents a bear hug for the way they explained this to her and for their love of their daughter in general.

“There was nothing wrong with you then, and there’s nothing wrong with you now. You are the way nature intended you to be. Horse-crazy and not very interested in math and too fond of cauliflower for any ten-year-old girl.”

Every Heart a Doorway is my favourite book and I always dread having to wait an entire year to get my next Wayward Children fix. I initially wasn’t quite as excited about this book, though, mostly because I’ve been chomping at the bit to read so many Waywards’ stories since the first book and this one was going to introduce me to someone brand new. Then there’s the fact that I bypassed the young girl horse phase entirely and was worried that may cause me to fail to connect with Regan.

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I loved Regan, though, and Chicory, the friend she always deserved. But it was Gristle and Zephyr who stole my heart and I only wish they had been given more page time because they (particularly Gristle) were brilliant!

Unlike previous books in this series I didn’t really feel the urgency of Regan’s quest and there was a time during the middle of her story it seemed like I was treading water, waiting for the inevitable. However, the writing was still gorgeous and I hope Regan finds her way into a future quest, through the continuation of her story or by finding herself at Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children.

“Feel up to an adventure, human Regan?”

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I am already anxiously waiting for Where the Drowned Girls Go.

Content warnings include bullying and intersexphobia.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

“Welcome to the Hooflands. We’re happy to have you, even if you being here means something’s coming.”

Regan loves, and is loved, though her school-friend situation has become complicated, of late.

When she suddenly finds herself thrust through a doorway that asks her to “Be Sure” before swallowing her whole, Regan must learn to live in a world filled with centaurs, kelpies, and other magical equines – a world that expects its human visitors to step up and be heroes.

But after embracing her time with the herd, Regan discovers that not all forms of heroism are equal, and not all quests are as they seem…

One Size Eats All #2: Rattus New Yorkus – Hunter Shea

“City rats are tough bastards.”

This is a B-grade movie I need to see! Mankind’s infinite wisdom strikes again. This time we’re taking on New York’s rat population, up close and personal with “hand-to-paw combat”.

Dr Randolph “Ratticus” Finch has developed a new rodenticide, Degenesis, that promises results. There are results, just not the ones he was hoping for. These rats are smarter and more aggressive, they’re multiplying quickly and they’re hungry. Exterminators Bennie and Chris Jackson are going to be working overtime on this one.

They were enormous and mangy and looked like the embodiment of animal savagery and disease.

I always have so much fun with Hunter Shea’s books. Although I really enjoyed watching the rats wreak havoc from a safe distance, a couple of the elements I look forward to in Shea’s stories weren’t quite as prominent in this one.

The action was pretty much non stop but my horror book bloodlust wasn’t entirely sated. The rats gnawed their way through the pages but I wasn’t sustained by graphic insides that are now your outsides details like I was in Misfits and Slash. There also wasn’t the time for me to become invested in any specific character’s survival. I was actually on the rats’ side and wanted them to prevail, although I did have my swattin’ pole on hand, just in case.

I’m keen to experience all of the bloody fun that Shea’s novels promise and definitely want to see the mayhem unfold in the other One Size Eats All novellas.

“I think panic is an appropriate response to what we just saw.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Lyrical Underground, an imprint of Kensington Books, for the opportunity to read this novella.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

THEY’RE BIGGER

Deep in the sewers of New York City, the rat population is growing. Dr. Randolph Finch is determined to break the cycle. His new rodenticide, Degenesis, doesn’t kill rats. It sterilises them from reproducing. But nothing adapts faster than a New York rat …

THEY’RE SMARTER

City exterminators and soon-to-be divorced Chris and Benita Jackson think they know how these rats think. They know how rats breed. And they fear that Degenesis has only made these rats stronger. More aggressive. More intelligent. And more ravenous than ever …

TONIGHT’S DINNER SPECIAL: US

After a noticeable surge in rat den activity, the Jacksons witness something strange. Without warning, the rats disappear – only to reassemble in a massive lair beneath Grand Central Station. Millions upon millions of them. Working together. Operating as a hive mind. Feasting on the flesh of the homeless below – and planning their all-out attack on the unsuspecting humans above

Armageddon House – Michael Griffin

Welcome to a day in the life of Mark, Jenna, Greyson and Polly. Although, perhaps it’s night. It’s kind of hard to tell when you’re entirely cut off from the outside world.

Everything they could possibly need is provided for them. There’s more than enough food to last a lifetime and alcohol is plentiful. They can laze around the pool, exercise in the gym or explore countless rooms. It sounds like paradise but is it really a prison?

“We all forget things, more and more every day.”

Their memories of before are hazy (there was a before, wasn’t there?) and there’s no one to answer any of their questions about why they’re … wherever they are. They don’t know how long they’ve been [insert your best guess here] or how long this experiment test captivity refuge whatever it is will last.

With only a daily routine standing between them and their paranoia-fuelled tension, this utopia (if that indeed is what this is) could be coming to an end.

It wasn’t long before the cogs in my head began to whir. I was intrigued by this world that was appearing in my imagination and looked closely for new clues that could help me solve the puzzle.

“We should’ve been told.”

I have this (probably not normal) fascination with stories that drop characters into strange scenarios that they don’t understand – yet. Cube is one of my all time favourite movies, even though I am convinced I would have died there, as well as in the first room of Escape Room.

While I love watching characters piecing together the clues that will increase their probability of survival, I’m even more interested in the psychological fallout. Seeing how different people respond when they’re plonked in the same fishbowl, and wondering how I would react in similar circumstances, is something I can’t get enough of. The characters’ various coping mechanisms and the group dynamics sucked me into this story almost as much as the mystery of What The Hell?!

Fear is corrosive.

If you’re looking for a nice, neat story, with all of the answers waiting for you on the final page, wrapped up in a pretty bow, this is not the story for you. I suspected going into the bunker (if that’s what it is) that I was unlikely to have all of my questions answered and I was semi prepared for the frustration that comes with the unknown.

While my frustration level is higher than I expected, my need to know for sure has diminished greatly. If the author ever provides all of the answers to every question ever, do I want to know? Hell, yes! Did I have fun coming up with my own increasingly outlandish explanations, some of which I’m still pondering? Absolutely!

Mostly for my entertainment, but also for yours if you’re interested, I present to you just some of the many question marks that hovered over my head as I read …

Is there actually an outside world? Are there other people either inside or outside?

Are they underground at all? Are they even on Earth?

Are they billionaire preppers who purchased their survival in an apocalypse? Was there an apocalypse? Was it aliens?

Are they unknowingly participating in a social experiment that’s being broadcast across the world? Is one of the characters a mole?

Do the other three people exist or are they the hallucinations of one person who’s been isolated for too long?

Is this AI or virtual reality?

If any of them do find a way out, what kind of world will they be walking into?

I absolutely love Vince Haig’s cover design. Is that a face I see?

Two final thoughts:

  1. I doubt I’d ever get the TV to work in this place.
  2. The cleaning scene is still messing with my mind.

Thank you so much to Undertow Publications for the opportunity to read this novella.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Utopia. Four people living together deep underground in a subterranean facility. All their needs provided for. Food, water, medicine. A swimming pool; a gym; a bar. Except none of them can recall exactly how they came to be there, or what they are supposed to do. Dystopia. Where are the others? There must have been others. It’s a huge facility, after all. It must be some sort of experiment. They’re test subjects. How long have they been there? When will they get out? How come there has been no outside contact? Utopia or dystopia. As the questions mount, so does the tension. Who will escape Armageddon House?

The Roo – Alan Baxter

Spoilers Ahead!

You can blame a news article, Australian Town Terrorised By Muscular Kangaroo Attacking People and Eating Gardens, and Twitter for the existence of this book. Most of the people who egged the author on are now fictionally deceased, slaughtered by Skippy. Meanwhile, I’m waiting as patiently as humanly possible for The Asylum to film this story for me. I love The Asylum!

I was interested in reading this book mostly as a bit of a joke but also because I thought it would be pretty un-Australian of me not to, and strewth! It was a bloody good yarn! (Emphasis on the bloody!) That’s 4.5 blood soaked stars from me!

When this novella begins, Morgan Creek, a small outback town, has 400 people but won’t for much longer if Skippy, who’s gone to the dark side, has any say in the matter.

The roo’s mouth opened with a soft grunt. Its eyes glowed fiery orange. John startled, realised it wasn’t reflected streetlight, but the beast’s eyes had seemed to ignite with a kind of internal flame, bathing its face in a glow like a campfire. It grunted again, guttural.

I started making notes of all of the characters’ names and snippets of information about each of them, then quickly realised the futility of this. After all, so few were destined to survive to tell the tale.

With so many bone crunching, blood spattered, insides are now your outsides kills in this story it was difficult to choose a favourite. However I was quite partial to the visual that accompanied reading that someone’s “head burst like a ripe fruit.” While Morgan Creek remains drought affected at the end of the story its red dirt has certainly copped a drenching of the blood of its recently sliced and diced.

I was fairly certain this wasn’t the first time Skippy had gone dark and in my wanderings I found Waterborne, a Zombie Kangaroo Short Film. I hope this makes you chuckle too.

The Death Toll: 28 (26 of those can be directly attributed to the rampaging roo). This doesn’t include the people only mentioned as missing. If I didn’t witness the kill myself or stumble over the remains, I haven’t counted it.

[Because I made notes of who died as I read I’m including the list here but this is only for my benefit. Please don’t ruin it for yourself by opening this spoiler if you haven’t read the book yet! RIP: John, Jake, Kylie, Stu, Carl, Cindy, Brennan, Scott, Charlie, Michael, Matt, the two unnamed Hightower boys, Laurel, Laurel’s husband, SD, Shane, Amanda, Cassie, Rich, Mindi, three unnamed patrons at the bar, Sharon and Bill, who all died by roo. Also Gomzi, who was accidentally shot when SD died, and Pauline, who was also shot. On purpose.]

The Roo is not all splattery fun though. Real issues affecting Australians are also addressed, from the devastation that accompanies drought to domestic violence and death by suicide.

If you’re not a native Aussie you may find some of our slang incomprehensible. I had actually expected to find more slang than I did but for those of you who can’t tell the difference between ‘yeah nah’ and ‘nah yeah’, there’s a handy glossary at the end of the book.

Once Upon a Nitpick: A fair few typos have managed to sidestep the proofreading process, especially near the beginning. One character’s surname also changes between chapters 2 and 4.

Content warnings include alcoholism, bucketloads of swearing, death by suicide, domestic violence (particularly physical abuse) and racism (challenged).

There’s definitely room for a sequel. Hopefully coming soon to a Kindle near you …
🇦🇺 Drop Bears: Not So Cuddly After All
🇦🇺 Wombat and the Cubes of Doom
🇦🇺 Stone the Crows vs. The Flamin’ Galahs

P.S. Not directly related to this book but I found this by accident when I was thinking about other Aussie icons that could feature in a sequel (there definitely needs to be a sequel) … Someone has made a horror movie about drop bears and I cannot wait to see it!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Something is wrong in the small outback town of Morgan Creek.

A farmer goes missing after a blue in the pub. A teenage couple fail to show up for work. When Patrick and Sheila McDonough investigate, they discover the missing persons list is growing. Before they realise what’s happening, the residents of the remote town find themselves in a fight for their lives against a foe they would never have suspected.

And the dry red earth will run with blood.

Wayward Children #5: Come Tumbling Down – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

Spoilers Ahead!

“Once a wayward child, always a wayward child.”

I’ve been waiting as patiently as possible for my next quest –

No quests.

Right. So I’ve been counting the days until I was finally able to spend more quality time with my fellow Waywards and today we went to the Moors! Who’s ‘we’? I travelled with the girl with the “perpetual sugar buzz”, the “Goblin Prince in Waiting”, the girl “with the ocean in her hair”, a mad scientist, the boy with the bone flute and the girl “with the lightning-powered heart”.

Travelling by lightning hasn’t been this much fun since I hitched a ride in a Delorean!

Having completed my most anticipated read of 2020 less than a fortnight into the year I now feel like I’ve wandered into a bittersweet limbo. I’m absolutely elated that, after a year of anticipation, my expectations (which were skyscraper looking down on clouds high) didn’t overshadow my enjoyment.

I’m proud of myself for savouring the experience, appreciating every sentence rather than bingeing the entire book in one sitting. I’m sad that I can never read this book for the first time ever again. I want to gush to anyone who will listen to me about every sentence I highlighted, every character, plot point, what I hope will happen next, what I fear will happen next … but spoilers.

“But I warn you, this isn’t a tale for the faint of heart. It is a story of murder, and betrayal, and sisterly love turned sour.”

I will tell you though, although this was not her story, Sumi was the standout wayward for me in this book. She somehow kept managing to snag the best lines and I don’t know which one of us this says more about but I understood every piece of Nonsense she uttered. I love that she gets to the heart of the issue and asks the truly important questions, like

“Why is the village of scary fish-people where you get your chocolate biscuits?”

One of the first things I tell anyone about me is that Every Heart a Doorway is my all time favourite book. I don’t care that I’m an adult; I will be searching for my door for the rest of my life and if you are also seeking admittance to your door, regardless of how different our true worlds look, I will consider you a kindred spirit.

Usually when I read a new addition to a beloved series there’s an anxiety that accompanies me. I’ve often found that the shine of the first book can be smudged when follow up books don’t meet my expectations. I’m aware that the pedestals I place books I love on can be difficult to reach and that’s part of the problem. So you’d think I’d be especially nervous whenever I begin a new Wayward Children book but I have absolute faith that my hopes, no matter how seemingly unrealistic they are, are safe with Seanan and she’s never let me down.

“New things are the best kind of magic there is.”

I don’t want this series to ever end. I want to visit every world. I want to secure a room at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children while I wait for my own door to open. So far, none of the worlds I’ve visited with my fellow waywards have been my own, although I’ve caught glimpses of it in several. I fully expect that one day Seanan will write about my world and while I’m reading that story my book will magically transform into my very own door. I’m sure!

If you haven’t already read the first four books of this series, please remedy that ASAP before reading this one. Then you can join me as I begin the interminable wait for January 2021.

If you’ve read the first four books and are seeking a recap, check out the brilliance that is Seanan Twitter. If you haven’t read them, beware! Spoilers!

Also, if you want a more extensive catch up, read this. Beware! Much bigger spoilers!

As usual I couldn’t wait to get to the next Rovina Cai illustration. I was only going to include my favourite one here but I can’t decide so here they all are! I’m hiding them as spoilers in case you don’t want to see them before you get to that part of the story yourself.

Since I highlighted so much of this book that I probably should have just gone ahead and highlighted it all, it’s practically impossible to choose a favourite sentence. This is the one that spoke the loudest to me when I reread all of my highlights:

“No one should have to sit and suffer and pretend to be someone they’re not because it’s easier, or because no one wants to help them fix it.”

If anyone needs me I’ll be reading the sixth book in the series.

[But it’s not released yet.]

“Hey! Don’t you go getting logical rules on my illogical life plans”

[I’m serious. You must wait for another excruciatingly long year before you are allowed to continue this journey.]

“This is the awful sprinkles on the sundae of doom.”

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Jack left Eleanor West’s School for Wayward Children she was carrying the body of her deliciously deranged sister – whom she had recently murdered in a fit of righteous justice – back to their home on the Moors.

But death in their adopted world isn’t always as permanent as it is here, and when Jack is herself carried back into the school, it becomes clear that something has happened to her. Something terrible. Something of which only the maddest of scientists could conceive. Something only her friends are equipped to help her overcome.

Eleanor West’s “No Quests” rule is about to be broken.

Again.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House – Mira Grant

I fell in love with Julie Dillon’s cover illustration at first sight. It’s so delightfully ominous and between the house that should be mine and the promise of tentacled creepiness I was sold. I may have already been sold by the fact that my all time favourite author wrote it but even if I hadn’t, that illustration would have clinched the deal. Having said that, this is the first Seanan/Mira book I’ve read where I didn’t fall in love at first page and I feel like I’ve somehow failed as a reader.

Spindrift House has had a great deal of time to decide what it wants to be, and what it wants to be is unforgiving.

On a hillside in Port Mercy, Maine, “A Healthy Place for Families”, you will find Spindrift House. It was built some time in the 1800’s and while local legends disagree on many of the details, everyone agrees it was built by someone who wasn’t a local, someone who died soon afterwards by falling from its widow’s walk.

There’s a mystery about Spindrift House that needs to be solved and the Answer Squad (this book’s Mystery Incorporated equivalent, minus Scooby-Doo and Scooby Snacks) are certain they’re up for the task. The Answer Squad are:

Harlowe– “cryptography fanatic, mystery freak, beloved nerd”. Harlowe, the brains of the Squad, is a girl with a tragic past. She’s in love with Addison and is the foster sister of Kevin.

Kevin – foster brother of Harlowe. Kevin lives on a family farm with his mother, he has an older brother and adores his pet chickens. He doesn’t date.

Addison – best friend of Harlowe and Andy’s twin. She snores and shares the role of “being the beauty and being the bruiser” with Andy.

Andy – Addison’s twin. He’s the quiet one and has anxiety.

The difficulty with being a recognized member of a teen detective club is that “teen” was always a limited-time offer.

Harlowe doesn’t want to lose her found family and hopes that solving the mystery of Spindrift House will keep the Squad together.

Once we reached Spindrift House, nothing would be simple, or predictable. We were counting on it. The word for a simple, predictable mystery is “solved.”

This is a Mira Grant novella. There’s no such thing as simple.

And you may want to stop reading now because I’m about to go off on a really weird tangent but for some reason I can’t help myself. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

So, I’m not one to shy away from telling anyone who will listen about Seanan McGuire. Every Heart a Doorway was life changing for me and secured her place as my favourite author of all time. While I still have many, many of her books to read I’ve figured out that, while written by the same literary extraordinaire and having definite similarities, Seanan and Mira books have different flavours. It’s like they’re both caramel but Mira books are salted caramel, or perhaps because of the sciency bits, they’re more like NaCh caramel.

While this book was labelled salted caramel it felt more like caramel with some geometry, so maybe caramel of a specific shape, one without straight lines. While I love all caramel I was expecting one type and although there were traces of it, I also found more of the type I wasn’t expecting. Why did I use that analogy?! Now, not only have I confused myself, I’m hungry too.

“Some mysteries aren’t meant to be solved.”

Anyway, while I enjoyed this read I’m not desperate to reread it, and that’s a first for me with Seanan/Mira. I didn’t connect with these characters, the ending felt rushed and I feel like I somehow messed up an incantation or something, because I didn’t feel the magic I’ve experienced while reading literally every other book of hers so far.

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and stillbirth.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nature abhors a straight line. The natural world is a place of curves and softened edges, of gentle mists and welcoming spirals. Nature remembers deviation; nature does not forgive.

For Harlowe Upton-Jones, life has never been a straight line. Shipped off to live with her paternal grandparents after a mysterious cult killed her mother and father, she has grown up chasing the question behind the curve, becoming part of a tight-knit teen detective agency. But “teen” is a limited time offer, and when her friends start looking for adult professions, it’s up to Harlowe to find them one last case so that they can go out in a blaze of glory.

Welcome to Spindrift House.

The stories and legends surrounding the decrepit property are countless and contradictory, but one thing is clear: there are people willing to pay a great deal to determine the legal ownership of the house. When Harlowe and her friends agree to investigate the mystery behind the manor, they do so on the assumption that they’ll be going down in history as the ones who determined who built Spindrift House – and why. The house has secrets. They have the skills. They have a plan. They have everything they need to solve the mystery.

Everything they need except for time. Because Spindrift House keeps its secrets for a reason, and it has no intention of letting them go.

Nature abhors a straight line.

Here’s where the story bends. 

More Walls Broken – Tim Powers

“Divergent reality, quantum mechanics! Ghost raising!”

Vitrielli was working on transmigration of souls before he died. Ainsworth and Blaine need information from him. Cobb just wants tenure and got roped into this late night expedition to the cemetery. They had planned to summon Vitrielli’s ghost and take him back to the lab in a thermos to question him but naturally things didn’t turn out as expected.

“His memory is what we want. What he took away with him.”

I’m all for parallel universes and ghosts, and I loved that chocolate was one of the items required to attract ghosts in this novella (who isn’t attracted by chocolate?!), but ultimately the hype I created in my own mind let me down.

I wished for this novella on NetGalley (which was always going to be a long shot) and then patiently waited for its release, hoping I’d be able to buy the ebook. In the meantime I read an excerpt which hyped me up even more. I kept trying to find ways to buy the ebook but because I live outside of America that wasn’t an option. (Oh, the joys of loving books and not living in the bookish promised land!) I finally asked my library to buy it for me and they did! I love my library! But after months of anticipation I think my expectations became unrealistically high.

I enjoyed this story. Really, I did. It flowed well. It was written well. It left me half satisfied by the ending and half wanting more, which I quite enjoy in a story. I’d just hoped for something more groundbreaking and less predictable. I was waiting for all hell to break loose and, while the ramifications of this trio’s experiment with the afterlife were interesting, the story was a lot more contained than I had hoped.

Content warning for death by suicide.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As this ingenious new novella, More Walls Broken, begins, a trio of academics have just entered a deserted California cemetery late at night, bringing with them a number of arcane devices aimed at achieving an equally arcane purpose. What follows is the sort of dizzying, mind-expanding entertainment that only the always reliable, always astonishing Tim Powers could have written.

These three men, professors in the “Consciousness Research” department at Cal Tech University, have come together to perform a seemingly impossible task. Their goal: to open a door between the world of the living and the world of the dead, and to capture the ghost of the recently deceased scientist Armand Vitrielli. For their own desperate reasons, they hope to avail themselves of the secrets Vitrielli left behind at the time of his death. Their experiment, naturally, fails to come off exactly as planned.

A door between the worlds does, in fact, open, letting in something – someone – completely unexpected, and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate throughout the narrative.

Intricate, intelligent, and always thoroughly absorbing, More Walls Broken mixes fantasy and quantum physics in utterly unique fashion. The result is a brilliantly imagined account of multiple realities and unintended consequences that is pure dazzle, pure storytelling, pure – and unmistakable – Tim Powers. In book after book, story after story, Powers has set the standard for literate imaginative fiction. With this essential, beautifully realised novella, he has done it once again.

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

BE SURE.

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

Alas, that this is not a fairy tale.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

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

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

Kingdom of Needle and Bone – Mira Grant

The difference between hero and villain was so frequently in the paperwork that most people never thought to file.

I love this book and I need MORE! Part of me adored that ending and another part of me, the greedy reader part of me, needs to know what happens next! In detail!

This was my very first Mira Grant Seanan read and I’m in awe over how much I loved it. I accidentally found Every Heart a Doorway on my library shelf in October 2016 and it became, over the course of one day, my all time favourite book. However, I’d hesitated to try a Mira book as I had this bizarre notion that they may not be for me. Well, to that I now say, ‘Pish posh! And bring me another!’

Seanan’s characters become real to me in such a short space of time. I become fully immersed in their world and the only reason I didn’t finish this book within a day was because life vaguely imitated art. Nope, I don’t have Morris’s disease but I did have a lovely time with food poisoning.

The outbreak was beyond control long before anyone realized it was happening.

Julie Dillon’s dust jacket illustration is absolutely jaw dropping and made me need this book before I even read the blurb. It’s just so delightfully creepy and mysterious and sinister.

I would advise with this book that you read the blurb but not much else. I want everyone to experience this book as I did, not knowing how everything was going to unfold until it did so with each page turn. The only thing I would mention is that if you’re strongly against the use of vaccinations then there’s a fair chance this isn’t a book you want to add to your TBR pile.

No matter how much she wanted it, this was one nightmare she would never wake from.

I am the proud owner of copy 35 of 1250 signed numbered hardcover copies. ❤️

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

We live in an age of wonders.

Modern medicine has conquered or contained many of the diseases that used to carry children away before their time, reducing mortality and improving health. Vaccination and treatment are widely available, not held in reserve for the chosen few. There are still monsters left to fight, but the old ones, the simple ones, trouble us no more.

Or so we thought. For with the reduction in danger comes the erosion of memory, as pandemics fade from memory into story into fairy tale. Those old diseases can’t have been so bad, people say, or we wouldn’t be here to talk about them. They don’t matter. They’re never coming back.

How wrong we could be.

It begins with a fever. By the time the spots appear, it’s too late: Morris’s disease is loose on the world, and the bodies of the dead begin to pile high in the streets. When its terrible side consequences for the survivors become clear, something must be done, or the dying will never stop. For Dr. Isabella Gauley, whose niece was the first confirmed victim, the route forward is neither clear nor strictly ethical, but it may be the only way to save a world already in crisis. It may be the only way to atone for her part in everything that’s happened.

She will never be forgiven, not by herself, and not by anyone else. But she can, perhaps, do the right thing.

We live in an age of monsters.