The Forevers – Chris Whitaker

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

She was seventeen years old.

She would die in one month.

Mae has grown up knowing that she and her sister, Stella, won’t live long enough to become adults. Asteroid 8050XF11, A.K.A. Selena, is on a collision course with Earth.

So, what do you do when an Extinction Level Event is imminent? Some people put their faith in God and wait for a miracle. Others place their hope in science. If disaster movies have taught us anything, it’s that scientists will consistently fail until just before the credits roll. Then they’ll come up with a solution that’ll save the world. Surely they can do this in real life, too. 

There are the leavers, people “who said their goodbyes or those that simply tired of the wait and disappeared in search of more.” Then there are those who are living like there’s no tomorrow. They figure if you’re not going to live long enough for the consequences to catch up with you, then you might as well do whatever you want.

The countdown is on. There’s one month to go until God performs a miracle, science comes through with the biggest win in the history of the world or everyone dies.

Mae and many others in West spend much of their final month attending school and working. I doubt I would be doing either if I knew the end was nigh. Mae’s also trying to learn the truth behind the recent death of Abi, her former best friend.

Impending doom doesn’t negate the usual high school drama, with popular kids, bullies and outcasts all featured. Some of these kids have significant difficulties in their lives, though, even if you ignore the whole 70 mile wide asteroid that’s going to obliterate them in the very near future thing.

I liked Mae but adored Stella, her eight year old sister, who stole every scene she was in. With such heavy content, I was especially grateful for the comic relief that came in the form of Felix. He was all about sleeping when he’s dead and becoming visible to the love of his life, despite the fact that she already has a boyfriend.

A lot of characters were introduced but I didn’t form a connection with a number of them, due to their personality or because I didn’t get to know them well enough. There’s practically an entire alphabet of content warnings at the end of my review, with so many important issues touched on. However, individual circumstances didn’t always have enough page time for them to be explored in the depth I would have liked. 

For example, for most of the book Sally is pretty much only ever referred to in terms of her weight. She’s the fat girl. She‘s almost always consuming copious amounts of food whenever we see her. She’s fat shamed. A lot. When I finally learned something else about her, I wanted an entire book dedicated to her. There’s so much complexity and emotion there, and it felt like I only just scraped the surface of who she was.

The mystery of what happened to Abi faded into the background at times as the struggles of other characters were explored. There was a resolution, though, and many characters were given the opportunity to do what they needed to in order to finish their stories on their own terms.

Sometimes it took me a while to figure out which character was in a scene with Mae, especially when they’d only be referred to as ‘he’ for several paragraphs before they were named. Some scene changes felt jarring and for a while around the middle of the book I wasn’t even sure if I was enjoying it. 

But this was a compulsive read and Mae and Stella’s relationship kept me invested. An ugly cry snuck up on me at the end and I’m still thinking about several characters. I’m definitely interested in reading more books by this author and I absolutely adored Muhammad Nafay’s cover illustration. 

We made Forever for the creeps and the weirdos, the freaks and the outlaws.

Content warnings include abortion, addiction, alcoholism, bullying, death by suicide, domestic abuse, fat shaming, homophobia, mental health, overdose, physical abuse, self harm, sexual assault, slut shaming and suicidal ideation.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Thirty days until the end of the world. What would you do?

They knew the end was coming. They saw it ten years back, when it was far enough away in space and time and meaning.
The changes were gradual, and then sudden.

For Mae and her friends, it means navigating a life where action and consequence are no longer related. Where the popular are both trophies and targets. And where petty grudges turn deadlier with each passing day. So, did Abi Manton jump off the cliff or was she pushed? Her death is just the beginning of the end.

With teachers losing control of their students and themselves, and the end rushing toward all of them, it leaves everyone facing the answer to one, simple question…

What would you do if you could get away with anything?

My Heart is a Chainsaw – Stephen Graham Jones

A lot of people’s insides are about to start being on the outside.

Meet Jade Daniels, my new favourite outcast.

“Town reject, nice to meet you.”

Jade’s exterior is basically armour covered in spikes but beneath the surface there’s, well, more sharp, stabby things. But beneath that is someone I want to be friends with. She even reminded me a little of me, the weirdo who word vomits about their obsession to everyone in the vicinity, not that anyone asked.

Despite having an encyclopaedic knowledge of slasher films, Jade lives knowing that she can never be a final girl herself. She’s simply not pure enough. This doesn’t stop Jade from desperately wanting a slasher to turn her hometown red, though.

Real final girls only want the horror to be over. They don’t stay up late praying to Craven and Carpenter to send one of their savage angels down, just for a weekend maybe. Just for one night. Just for one dance, please? One last dance?

Finally, she sees the signs that her dream may, in fact, be coming true. Although her current slasher theory may very well be right, Jade has a reputation in this town, so for the longest time she might as well be Cassandra. After all, who’s going to take the “weird horror chick” seriously?

It’s been four weeks since I finished this book and I’m still thinking about Jade on a daily basis. I want to tell you all of the things I loved about her but I loved everything about Jade, from her resilience to her ‘stay away from me’ vibe to her enthusiasm about all things horror. Jade is over the top in the best possible way.

She’s gonna be there front-row, shoving popcorn in, maybe wearing a clear poncho and goggles against all the blood.

It took me about a chapter to get used to the writing style but, even as I was adjusting, I felt a great big hook pulling me along for the ride. I looked forward to Jade’s Slasher 101 essays, which made me want to sit down and have an extended discussion with her (and her creator).

To put it in conclusion, sir, final girls are the vessel we keep all our hope in. Bad guys don’t just die by themselves, I mean. Sometimes they need help in the form of a furie running at them, her mouth open in scream, her eyes white hot, her heart forever pure.

With one of the most bingeworthy list of movies ever included in a single novel, I’m convinced a movie night with the author needs to be on my bucket list.

“Want to go to a horror movie with me?”

This is my first Stephen Graham Jones read but this is only the beginning for me. I can’t wait to catch up on everything I’ve missed.

Content warnings include alcoholism, attempted suicide, self harm, and sexual assault.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jade is one class away from graduating high-school, but that’s one class she keeps failing local history. Dragged down by her past, her father and being an outsider, she’s composing her epic essay series to save her high-school diploma.

Jade’s topic? The unifying theory of slasher films. In her rapidly gentrifying rural lake town, Jade sees the pattern in recent events that only her encyclopaedic knowledge of horror cinema could have prepared her for. And with the arrival of the Final Girl, Letha Mondragon, she’s convinced an irreversible sequence of events has been set into motion.

As tourists start to go missing, and the tension grows between her community and the celebrity newcomers building their mansions the other side of the Indian Lake, Jade prepares for the killer to rise. She dives deep into the town’s history, the tragic deaths that occurred at camp years ago, the missing tourists no one is even sure exist, and the murders starting to happen, searching for the answer.

As the small and peaceful town heads towards catastrophe, it all must come to a head on 4th July, when the town all gathers on the water, where luxury yachts compete with canoes and inflatables, and the final showdown between rich and poor, past and present, townsfolk and celebrities slasher and Final Girl.

A Dark History of Chocolate – Emma Kay

You know chocolate accompanied me on my journey through this book, don’t you? You might think that makes this book an outlier. You’d be so wrong. Professional chocoholic here! So much so that if you’re missing some chocolate, it’s fair to assume I‘m responsible.

What this book did give me was a new excuse for my binge reading, chocolate binge combo: immersive reading. You can’t read a book about chocolate without eating some. That would be like watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory while eating cabbage soup.

I enjoyed learning about chocolate’s dark history, with the obvious exception of the information concerning slavery. In this book, you’ll learn about chocolate’s role in history, from crime to the arts.

Pirates raided ships with cacao on board. Jeffrey Dahmer worked in a chocolate factory. Chocolate is a final meal choice for many death row inmates.

Poisoned chocolate remains one of the most common methods of murder throughout history.

Chocolate was on the menu both the day the Hindenburg crashed and the Titanic sunk.

Chocolate is practically everywhere, it seems. It’s even accompanied astronauts into space.

There was the seemingly ingenious marketing idea of having chocolate rain down from planes, which may have worked better if the ‘bombs’ didn’t result in people below being badly bruised.

Chocolate laced with methamphetamine was marketed to “German homemakers, along with the strap line ‘Hildebrand chocolates are always a delight’. Two to three chocolates a day were recommended to make housework more fun!”

I was sometimes amused and often flabbergasted by the conditions chocolate has been used to ‘treat’ over the years, from headaches, fevers and infections to asthma, heart conditions and burns. It’s also been used as a slimming aid and to “Cleanseth the Teeth”.

Chocolate has even been ‘prescribed’ as a love potion. Handy hint: don’t eat love potion chocolate. You don’t want to know the other ingredients it may contain.

Scattered throughout the book are a bunch of recipes, from Chocolate Creams to the more dubious Chocolate Coated Candied Garlic.

Content warnings include mention of abortion, addiction, alcoholism, attempted suicide, death by suicide, domestic abuse, human trafficking, immolation, mental health, sexual assault, slavery and torture. People with emetophobia may have trouble with a passage in the third chapter.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Pen & Sword History, an imprint of Pen & Sword Books, for granting my wish to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A Dark History of Chocolate looks at our long relationship with this ancient ‘food of the Gods’. The book examines the impact of the cocoa bean trade on the economies of Britain and the rest of Europe, as well as its influence on health, cultural and social trends over the centuries. Renowned food historian Emma Kay takes a look behind the façade of chocolate – first as a hot drink and then as a sweet – delving into the murky and mysterious aspects of its phenomenal global growth, from a much-prized hot beverage in pre-Colombian Central America to becoming an integral part of the cultural fabric of modern life.

From the seductive corridors of Versailles, serial killers, witchcraft, medicine and war to its manufacturers, the street sellers, criminal gangs, explorers and the arts, chocolate has played a significant role in some of the world’s deadliest and gruesome histories.

If you thought chocolate was all Easter bunnies, romance and gratuity, then you only know half the story. This most ancient of foods has a heritage rooted in exploitation, temptation and mystery.

With the power to be both life-giving and ruinous.

The Good Luck Girls – Charlotte Nicole Davis

Aster, Clementine, Mallow, Tansy and Violet are Good Luck Girls, something that sounds fortuitous until you know what that term truly means. With the exception of Violet, they were taken from their families to Green Creek welcome house with the promise of a better life.

Favors, the welcome house version of branding, are such a contradiction: aesthetically beautiful, yet representative of such pain and suffering.

Good Luck Girls begin working as daybreak girls. On their sixteenth birthday, daybreak girls become sundown girls, through a rite of passage called their Lucky Night.

When Clementine accidentally kills a brag on her Lucky Night, her sister, Aster, is determined to protect her. Now five Good Luck Girls are on the run, pursued by both the living and the dead. Their only hope is to find the Lady Ghost, but as far as anyone knows she’s only a bedtime story.

This book could have broken me, given the darkness of what the girls have experienced, if it wasn’t for the girls themselves. Initially I thought Clementine was going to be the star of this show but Aster and Violet were the two I bonded with the most.

Slightly older than the others, Aster and Violet have experienced trauma the other girls haven’t. I loved them for their strength and courage, despite the odds stacked against them. Given what they’d been through, it would be easy for the darkness to overwhelm them but they refuse to give up, holding onto whatever scraps of hope they can carry.

Although it’s not specifically named here, the girls clearly exhibit signs of PTSD. What I loved, if you can say you love anything where PTSD is concerned, were the nuances. The trauma was expressed differently amongst the girls, with each utilising their individual strengths to survive, both physically and emotionally. There was an authenticity to their portrayal, from the dissociation and flashbacks to the difficulties trusting others and themselves.

The character that caused me the most conflict was Zee. I so wanted to trust him but, like Aster, I wasn’t sure if it was safe to do so. I ended up spending most of the book silently pleading with him to be worthy of the girls’ trust.

It felt as though Aster and Lei from Girls of Paper and Fire were kindred spirits. The raveners reminded me of Dementors, but as a physical embodiment of PTSD. The names of the girls brought to mind Lex and the other girls I met in What Unbreakable Looks Like. This book stands on its own two feet, though.

I was immersed in this world. The threat of the raveners and vengeants were ever-present. The divide between fairbloods and dustbloods was clear. The danger was unrelenting. But hope shone through as brightly as a covered favor.

This is a real underdog story, where you have the opportunity to cheer on a group of girls who have been so downtrodden that you can’t help but become invested in their journey. You want them to win. You need them to win. Because any other outcome would hurt too much.

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, human trafficking, mental health, racism, sexual assault, slavery, suicidal ideation and torture.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Hot Key Books, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, for the opportunity to read this book. I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Aster. Violet. Tansy. Mallow. Clementine.

Sold as children. Branded by cursed markings. Trapped in a life they never would have chosen.

When Aster’s sister Clementine accidentally murders a man, the girls risk a dangerous escape and harrowing journey to find freedom, justice, and revenge – in a country that wants them to have none of those things. Pursued by the land’s most vicious and powerful forces – both living and dead – their only hope lies in a bedtime story passed from one girl to another, a story that only the youngest or most desperate would ever believe.

It’s going to take more than luck for them all to survive. 

Everything Harder Than Everyone Else – Jenny Valentish

“There’s still a part of me that wants to be validated through doing things that other people don’t.”

Charlie Engle, an ultrarunner

In this book, Jenny Valentish introduces you to people who push themselves beyond what most people are capable of or even want to do. She interviewed endurance athletes, performance artists, a rogue scientist, bodybuilders, those who participate in BDSM, martial artists, porn stars, wrestlers and fighters.

Sometimes fascinating, sometimes sad and sometimes disgust inducing, their stories took me into their worlds. They attempted to give me some understanding of why people do things like running in heat that can melt your shoes, attempt to overcome your “notions of disgust by eating what many would consider to be inedible” or putting your body in situations where extreme physical pain is to be expected, not avoided.

Some flog their reward pathways like dopamine jockeys; some careen towards injury because of an unwillingness to slow their pace; some goad themselves on to ever-greater heights or more depraved depths; some explore new frontiers of physical pain as a form of self-flagellation; some have knitted their identity so tightly to their pursuit that they risk tumbling into an abyss if it’s taken away.

In some instances, trauma seems to have provided both the impetus to attempt the activity in the first place and the ability to endure, when body and mind are both screaming at you to stop. A need to prove something, to yourself or other people, is a motivating factor for other people. Others simply went for a run one day and discovered they loved it.

The final chapter also addresses what can happen when you have worked so hard to reach a goal and finally achieve it, leaving in its wake a void as you wonder where you go from here. I found the discussion around having your identity so closely linked with an activity or job and how difficult it can be to find your bearings when that is taken from you unexpectedly particularly relatable.

One word that I absolutely adored, which I haven’t specifically come across before, was ikagai. It’s a Japanese concept that is all about your reason for being; what gives your life meaning, worth or purpose.

Some people might read a book like this and be inspired to take up running or wrestling, but that’s not me. Although I marvel at the people who are able to push their bodies so hard, you’re definitely not likely to see me running anywhere anytime soon. Unless, of course, someone’s chasing me, and even then I’ll be stopping as soon as it’s safe to do so.

While I read some books because they mirror my life in some way, I read books like this so I can get a glimpse of what things like bodybuilding are like without having to actually do it myself.

Content warnings include mention of addiction, alcoholism, bullying, child abuse, death by suicide, domestic abuse, eating disorders, mental health, self harm, sexual assault and suicidal ideation.

If you’re squeamish, don’t want to read about the variety of animals people have eaten or what they have done to their bodies for ‘art’, or don’t want to experience someone making a mockery of COVID, maybe don’t read the second chapter.

There is also a doctor, who prescribes performance and image enhancing drugs, that I found extremely problematic. They’re speaking to the author about their blood test results here. “In fact, my immune system is so good, he says, that the coronavirus won’t stick; at which point I wonder if the phrase ‘with a pinch of salt’ ought to apply to everything.” You think COVID doesn’t have serious impacts on previously healthy people? Seriously, doctor?

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Jenny Valentish wrote a memoir about addiction, she noticed that people who treated drug-taking like an Olympic sport would often hurl themselves into a pursuit such as marathon running upon getting sober. What stayed constant was the need to push their boundaries.

Everything Harder Than Everyone Else follows people doing the things that most couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t. Their insights lead Jenny on a compulsive, sometimes reckless journey through psychology, endurance and the power of obsession, revealing what we can learn about the human condition.

There’s the neuroscientist violating his brain to override his disgust response. The athlete using childhood adversity as grist for the mill. The wrestler turning restlessness into curated ultraviolence. The designer who hangs from hooks in her flesh to get out of her head. The performance artist seeking erasure by manipulating his body. The BDSM dominant helping people flirt with death to feel more alive. The bare-knuckle boxer whose gnarliest opponent was once her ego. And the porn-star-turned-fighter for whom sex and violence are two sides of the same coin.

Darkly funny and vividly penetrating, Everything Harder Than Everyone Else explores our deeper selves and asks: what are your limits? 

Me Mam. Me Dad. Me. – Malcolm Duffy

It’s always been just Danny and his Mam, Kim. When Kim begins dating Callum, everything seems fine. Callum’s nice to Danny and Kim. But things quickly change. Soon, Callum begins hitting Danny’s Mam, as well as verbally and emotionally abusing her.

Never quite knew what would come out of his mouth. Or what he’d do next.

Danny discovers that what’s happening is called domestic violence and when he reads about it online he becomes scared that Callum will eventually kill his Mam. Danny doesn’t know what to do so he asks his friends what they’d do if someone was hitting their Mam. Almost all of them say they’d tell their Dad, who’d sort it out.

Danny has never met his Dad and doesn’t know anything about him, not even his name. He’s determined to find him, though. Danny will do anything to try to protect his Mam.

Danny speaks Geordie. It didn’t take me as long as I expected it would to get used to his voice, although there are some words he used that I still don’t know the meaning of. Danny is thirteen at the beginning of this book and fifteen at the end. A lot of the time it felt like he was younger.

This book tackles a difficult topic but, for the most part, it was done well. Danny initially doesn’t have words to describe what’s happening at home but once he does he learns about domestic violence. The helplessness of a child in that situation was explored well, with Danny desperate to help his Mam but at the same time he’s powerless to intervene.

I didn’t really buy the resolution of this story. There were a number of scenarios I would have found more likely than what actually happened but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

Content warnings include bullying, domestic violence and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Zephyr, an imprint of Head of Zeus, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Humorous and heartbreaking debut novel with the fresh, funny, honest voice of a 14-year-old Geordie lad recounting the trials and tribulations of family life and finding first love. 

Danny’s mam has a new boyfriend. Initially, all is good – Callum seems nice enough, and Danny can’t deny he’s got a cool set up; big house, fast car, massive TV, and Mam seems to really like him. 

But cracks begin to show, and they’re not the sort that can be easily repaired. As Danny witnesses Mam suffer and Callum spiral out of control he goes in search of his dad. 

The Dad he’s never met. 

Set in Newcastle and Edinburgh, this supremely readable coming-of-age drama tackles domestic violence head on, but finds humour and hope in the most unlikely of­ places. 

The Right Amount of Panic – F. Vera-Gray

I’ve never thought that much about the amount of time and energy I’ve spent trying to keep myself safe, and that lies at the heart of this book. As women, we grow up internalising the messages we are given about how to be a ‘good girl’, what it means to be a girl and what our place is in the world. Along the way, we make adjustments to how we look, behave and take up space.

We make sure our friends text us when they get home so we know they’re safe. We don’t walk alone on certain streets at night. We are hyperaware of who might be following us. We get our keys out early and hold them as though they are weapons. We do these and so many other things that this book calls ‘safety work’ to try to prevent sexual violence and we’ve done it for so long that we don’t even really think about it anymore.

Safety work refers to the range of modifications, adaptations, decisions that women take often habitually in order to maintain a sense of safety in public spaces.

We know we’re in a Catch-22: if we are successful in our safety work and nothing happens then we’re seen to be overreacting and paranoid but if we are victimised then we’re blamed for not doing enough to protect ourselves. It seems there’s no right amount of panic, hence the title of this book.

We are scared because we’ve been made responsible for preventing rape at the same time as being told it’s inevitable.

The author examines the choices and changes we make to “maintain a sense of safety in public space”, categorised as actions relating to moving, clothing and being. As well as drawing on previous research, they conducted their own study.

Fifty women in the United Kingdom of different ages and backgrounds participated, speaking to the author about their experiences of men in public. They then recorded what they experienced from unknown men over a two week to two month period before meeting with the author again to reflect on the “work of being a woman in public”. Much of the book consists of quotes from these interviews.

I found this book interesting, albeit quite repetitive. Some potential solutions are offered.

Although the author addresses stereotypes related to gender, race, class, age and disability, I noted that the majority of the women included in her study were white (43), heterosexual (37) women.

Content warnings include domestic violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Have you ever thought about how much energy goes into avoiding sexual violence? The work that goes into feeling safe goes largely unnoticed by the women doing it and by the wider world, and yet women and girls are the first to be blamed the inevitable times when it fails. We need to change the story on rape prevention and ‘well-meaning’ safety advice, because this makes it harder for women and girls to speak out, and hides the amount of work they are already doing trying to decipher ‘the right amount of panic’. With real-life accounts of women’s experiences, and based on the author’s original research on the impact of sexual harassment in public, this book challenges victim-blaming and highlights the need to show women as capable, powerful and skilful in their everyday resistance to harassment and sexual violence.

Father-Daughter Incest – Judith Lewis Herman

I didn’t originally plan on reading this book. I was actually wanting to read Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, which I’ve heard spoken of as one of the go to books about trauma. I’m not sure if this is a geographical problem or not but when I went to buy a Kindle copy of that book I discovered it didn’t exist. I then decided to see what else Herman had written and came across this book, which was available on Kindle. Thinking there’d probably be significant overlap between the two I decided to dive right in. Without having read Trauma and Recovery yet I can’t say for sure but I’m guessing they’re quite different books.

Although I’ve read quite a few fiction and non-fiction books about sexual assault, I haven’t read a great deal specifically about incest. I often feel as though the gears move almost imperceptibly slowly where sexual assault is concerned, from the attitudes that surround it to practical help for survivors and reforms to the legal system.

I usually read recently published books that explore sexual assault so to encounter things I take for granted as revolutionary ideas was a whole new experience. At once a history lesson and confirmation of how important early studies into taboo subjects are in shining light into the darkness, this might not have been the book I was expecting to read but I still took a lot away from it.

Much of the information I came across in this book, which was groundbreaking when it was first published in 1981, read to me as either common sense or confirmation of information I’ve already come across. I found that encouraging because it proved we are actually making progress, even though it doesn’t always feel that way.

This book came about as a result of two women, Lisa Hirschman and the author, speaking in 1975 about the patients they’d both encountered who had disclosed a history that included incest. Both women contributed to the research but it was Judith Lewis Herman who eventually wrote this book.

Since nothing satisfactory seemed to have been written about father-daughter incest, we were finally driven to write about it ourselves.

This book is divided into three parts:

  1. Using “survey data, clinical material, anthropological literature, popular literature, and pornography”, the author takes a look at the history of how society has dealt with incest. Spoiler: not well at all. From Freud lying about his own findings to pretty much anyone who could have have a positive influence on the lives of survivors instead discrediting, disbelieving and downright pathologising them, it’s a wonder survivors have had the courage to speak at all.

I know I don’t want to hear it. I have no idea what to do with these cases. And I don’t think I’m unusual.

Quote from a therapist
  1. The author and Hirschman conducted their own clinical study, interviewing forty survivors of incest and twenty women whose “fathers had been seductive but not overtly incestuous”. Yes, I cringed every time I read the word ‘seductive’ in this context.

Consumed with inner rage, they nevertheless rarely caused trouble to anyone but themselves. In their own flesh, they bore repeated punishment for the crimes committed against them in childhood.

  1. Dealing with the “social responses to discovered incest”, this section explores crisis intervention, family treatment and prosecution. This section also talks about prevention.

As long as fathers rule but do not nurture, as long as mothers nurture but do not rule, the conditions favoring the development of father-daughter incest will prevail.

The studies referred to throughout the book are mostly from the 1970’s and those discussed in the afterward, which was written in 2000, were predominantly published in the 1990’s. I’d be interested, now that another twenty years have passed, to find out what else has been learned, confirmed or disproven.

Although I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re still moving in the direction of more openness and less stigma for survivors of incest, I’m also very much aware that this topic remains taboo. It was telling for me when I compared the Goodreads statistics of this book and Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.

At the time of writing this review, Trauma and Recovery has almost 11,000 ratings and over 450 reviews. This book, in contrast, has just over 100 ratings and about a dozen reviews. I wonder if so few people have read this book, which was first released about a decade prior to Trauma and Recovery, or if many readers have chosen not to add this book to their Goodreads shelves, not wanting to admit they read a book about this topic…

The abuses have gone on for too long. Too many survivors have disclosed their secrets. It is too late now to go back to silence.

Content warnings include mention of abortion, addition, alcoholism, death by suicide, domestic abuse, foster care, mental health, neglect, physical abuse, self harm and sexual assault.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Through an intensive clinical study of forty incest victims and numerous interviews with professionals in mental health, child protection, and law enforcement, Judith Herman develops a composite picture of the incestuous family. In a new afterword, Herman offers a lucid and thorough overview of the knowledge that has developed about incest and other forms of sexual abuse since this book was first published.

Reviewing the extensive research literature that demonstrates the validity of incest survivors’ sometimes repressed and recovered memories, she convincingly challenges the rhetoric and methods of the backlash movement against incest survivors, and the concerted attempt to deny the events they find the courage to describe.

Ellery Hathaway #4: Every Waking Hour – Joanna Schaffhausen

“Not again,” she said. “This can’t be happening again.”

Ellery and Reed aren’t actively looking for their next case. They’re spending time with Tula, Reed’s seven year old daughter, when they learn that twelve year old Chloe Lockhart has gone missing. Ellery knows only too well what Chloe may be experiencing, having barely survived a serial killer when she was a child.

There’s no shortage of leads to track down, with multiple potential suspects. It turns out that this is not the first time the Lockhart family have lost a child and they may not be the only ones who are keeping secrets.

“Where there’s one secret, you’ll find others. There’s something hiding in the middle of that family, something they’re not telling us.”

Meanwhile, Ellery’s home is much more crowded than it usually is. Ellery’s not comfortable with this development although Bump, her basset hound, is delighted by all of the extra humans who are on call for snuggles and treats.

Sarit, Reed’s ex-wife, expressed some of my feelings about Ellery and Reed’s relationship but I have to admit they’re growing on me. It’s weird though, because they seem to make complete sense and no sense at the same time. They likely never would have crossed paths if it wasn’t for Coben, the serial killer who had Ellery in his closet, and no matter how much they want it to be otherwise, he’s always going to be associated with the two of them.

He couldn’t climb into the darkness with her. But he could stand in the light and extend his hand and wait patiently to see if she would join him.

The characters are really well developed in this series. I feel like I know both of our leads, understanding their motivations and fears. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a series that tackles the long term effects of sexual assault in such an authentic way. I don’t think I will ever get the image of nails in a closet out of my mind.

Ellery has physical and psychological scars from her abduction and these continue to impact on her life. She is resilient and brave and strong, despite her experiences and maybe even because of them. I see her as a survivor role model. Her struggles only make her more realistic to me.

I was delighted to find a couple of X-Files taglines in conversations.

You could read this book as a standalone but to fully understand the nuances of the main characters and their journey together you really need to start at the beginning. This will also show you just how much Ellery has grown since we first met her.

The fifth book, which I’m really hoping is not the last, promises something I’ve been eagerly awaiting: the chance to peer inside the mind of Coben, the Big Bad of the series. Although I absolutely despise him, I’m intrigued by the possibility of finding out what makes him tick.

Content warnings include death by suicide, drug addiction and sexual assault.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After surviving a serial killer’s abduction as a young teenager, Ellery Hathaway is finally attempting a normal life. She has a new job as a rookie Boston detective and a fledgling relationship with Reed Markham, the FBI agent who rescued her years ago. But when a twelve-year-old girl disappears on Ellery’s watch, the troubling case opens deep wounds that never fully healed.

Chloe Lockhart walked away from a busy street fair and vanished into the crowd. Maybe she was fleeing the suffocating surveillance her parents put on her from the time she was born, or maybe the evil from her parents’ past finally caught up to her. For Chloe, as Ellery learns, is not the first child Teresa Lockhart has lost.

Ellery knows what it’s like to have the past stalk you, to hold your breath around every corner. Sending one kidnapped girl to find another could be Chloe’s only hope or an unmitigated disaster that dooms them both. Ellery must untangle the labyrinth of secrets inside the Lockhart household – secrets that have already murdered one child. Each second that ticks by reminds her of her own lost hours, how close she came to death, and how near it still remains.

The Book of the Baku – R.L. Boyle

Spoilers Ahead! (in content warnings)

There’s only so much horror and pain any living creature can take before it loses its mind.

Sean, unable to speak due to a trauma in his past, is going to live with his grandfather. He knows Grandad used to be a writer but that’s about the extent of his knowledge as they only met two months ago. It is at Grandad’s that Sean learns of the existence of the Baku. He’s going to wish he hadn’t.

While the Baku, a creature otherwise known as the ‘dream eater’, is not a new concept (its mythology spans centuries), the author has brought it to life in an imaginative way, imbuing it with a whole new level of creepy. I can see the appeal of what appears to be an easy way of getting rid of your nightmares but this is definitely not the incarnation of the Baku you want to feed.

For there’s a darkness deep in me,

That feeds on pain and misery.

Give it to me, relinquish dread,

And fall asleep in peace instead.

I felt Sean’s pain throughout the book, both physical and the pain of grief. His underdog status and innate likeability had me empathising with him even more. I wanted this kid to be okay and I hoped everything would work out in his relationship with his Grandad, who I absolutely adored from the get to.

Towards the middle of the book I began to wonder if the story was going to start feeling too repetitive but new elements and additional information about Sean’s past alleviated my concerns. There’s a growing dread as the days progress at The Paddock, something that may even be enhanced by the use of repetition, as you anticipate what’s next for the main characters. The horror is amplified by Sean’s inability to communicate what he’s experiencing to anyone.

It is as though each unspoken sentence dries to create a thicker barrier for those behind it and now his voice is blocked behind an impenetrable concrete wall.

I loved the inclusion of the rowan tree in Grandad’s garden. Given the themes that were explored in the book, the choice of this specific type of tree felt especially significant. Although I want to say more about this tree I won’t because spoilers. However, I will recommend you read about its mythology and symbolism once you’ve read the book so you can see for yourself how brilliantly it all lines up. I particularly like the explanations given here and here.

Content warnings include alcoholism, bullying, death by suicide, death of animals, domestic abuse, drug addiction, gun violence, mental health, physical abuse, sexual assault (off page), slavery, suicidal ideation and verbal abuse, including slurs about a physical disability (no, I didn’t like this at all but the horrible words used were consistent with what I knew of the characters who said them).

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

A Monster Calls meets The Shining in this haunting YA dark fantasy about a monster that breaks free from a story into the real world.

Sean hasn’t been able to speak a word since he was put into care, and is sent to live with his grandad, a retired author whom he has never met before. Suddenly living an affluent life, nothing like the world of the estate he grew up in, where gangs run the streets and violence is around every corner, Sean spends his time drawing, sculpting and reading his grandad’s stories. 

But his grandad has secrets of his own in his past. As he retreats to the shed, half-buried in his treasured garden, Sean finds one of his stories about ‘The Baku’, a creature that eats the fears of children. 

Plagued by nightmares, with darkness spreading through the house, Sean must finally face the truth if he’s to have a chance to free himself and his grandfather from the grip of the Baku.