Ghostwritten – Ronald Malfi

In the beginning of The Neverending Story movie, the bookseller tells Bastian that the books he reads are safe. The books you’ll encounter in the four novellas that comprise Ghostwritten are most certainly not safe.

The Skin of Her Teeth

Gloria’s client, Davis McElroy, has been adapting a bestseller into a screenplay. He’s usually reliable but he’s missed his deadline and it’s up to Gloria to salvage the deal. This book doesn’t like change.

“The simplest thing,” Finter said, “is to give it what it wants.”

The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride

Danny and Tommy Drake have been hired to deliver a package. There are specific rules they need to follow:

  • Don’t open the briefcase.
  • Don’t touch the contents of the briefcase.
  • Follow the route that has been mapped out by the client to get to the drop off location.
  • Ignore anyone who asks to see the book.

The rules are very important. This book is out of this world.

“How can a book be dangerous?”

“Because they contain all the powers of the universe.”

This Book Belongs to Olo

Olo is having a birthday. He will be ten years old. At his party there will be cake, games, prizes and surprises. This book has no words.

“Well, everybody knows how to play hide and seek, I think,” said the girl. “It’s just that, it’s kind of a baby game.”

“Not the way I play,” he said, then tugged the clown mask back down over his face.

The Story

Grady is determined to figure out what story Taryn was working on when she died. This book is Choose Your Own Adventure.

You have been approved to read the Story.

The four novellas have common themes but there are other connections to be found between them. Your attention to detail will be rewarded and I expect a reread will help me discover crossovers I missed the first time around.

It’s difficult for me to choose a favourite story but I definitely had a favourite character, chronically lonely but ever enthusiastic Olo. I’m always a sucker for books about books and here I was treated to four compelling reads. This may only be my second read by this author but Ghostwritten has confirmed my suspicions that I’ve been missing out on something special. I have lots of catching up to do.

Content warnings include death by suicide.

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

From the bestselling author of Come with Me, four standalone horror novellas set in a shared universe!

In The Skin of Her Teeth, a cursed novel drives people to their deaths. 

A delivery job turns deadly in The Dark Brothers’ Last Ride

This Book Belongs to Olo sees a child wielding dangerous control over an unusual pop-up book. 

A choose your own adventure game spirals into an uncanny reality in The Story

Full of creepy, page-turning suspense, these collected novellas are all about books, stories, and manuscripts. The written word has never had sharper teeth…

Cackle – Rachel Harrison

WELCOME TO ROWAN, AMERICA’S BEST-KEPT SECRET.

Annie is newly thirty and newly single when she moves to Rowan. Recently dumped by her long term boyfriend/best friend, Annie is on her own for the first time and she’s not a fan. When she’s not teaching “hormone-addled, angst-driven evil meat sticks”, she’s hitting the bottle.

It isn’t long before Annie meets Sophie, who’s beautiful and self-assured. The people of Rowan behave differently when Sophie is around, though. It’s almost as if they’re scared of her.

“Want me to curse them for you?”

“Sure,” I say.

“Done.”

Annie loves the attention and care that Sophie lavishes on her but it made me feel claustrophobic. The relationships in this book (Annie and Sam, Annie and Sophie) are all kinds of messed up. It’s no coincidence that the first movie Sophie watches with Annie is Gaslight.

I wanted Sophie’s wardrobe and wouldn’t have said no to her home cooking but wasn’t a fan of her. To be fair, she does want Bruce to win in Jaws so she can’t be all bad, but I don’t know if I can trust someone who hates unicorns. I’m all for having the confidence to be who you truly are but if claiming your power results in an entire township being terrified of you, then that cheapens it for me.

My favourite character, Ralph, had no lines but he made up for it in personality. I’m a sucker for spiders who can pull off wearing a top hat, especially when they also have a great smile.

Overall, this was a lighter read than I was expecting but that’s not to say there weren’t some memorable lines:

My insecurity returns like a villain in a sequel. The same but worse.

I embrace the next morning with all the enthusiasm of a goat entering Jurassic Park.

Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

NOW LEAVING ROWAN. KEEP OUR SECRET.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

All her life, Annie has played it nice and safe. After being unceremoniously dumped by her long-time boyfriend, Annie seeks a fresh start. She accepts a teaching job that moves her from Manhattan to a small village upstate. Her new home is picturesque and perfect. The people are all friendly and warm. Her new apartment is lovely too, minus the oddly persistent spider infestation.

Then Annie meets Sophie. Beautiful, charming, magnetic Sophie, who takes a special interest in Annie, who wants to be her friend. More importantly, she wants Annie to stop apologising and start living for herself. That’s how Sophie lives. Annie can’t help but gravitate toward the self-possessed Sophie, wanting to spend more and more time with her, despite the fact that the rest of the town seems… a little afraid of her. And, okay. Sophie’s appearance is uncanny and ageless, her mansion in the middle of the woods feels a little unearthly, and she does seem to wield a certain power… but she couldn’t be… could she?

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke And Other Misfortunes – Eric LaRocca

Julia Lloyd’s cover art might have been what brought me here in the first place but I was sucked in by each of the three stories included in this collection.

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

Over the course of three months, Agnes and Zoe exchanged a series of emails and instant messages. This redacted communication give you unprecedented access to their relationship, which continually ups the ante in its toxicity. It’s compelling and cringey and unsettling, and I couldn’t look away. And to think, this all happened because of an apple peeler.

“What have you done today to deserve your eyes?”

The Enchantment

Parents grieving the loss of their son become winter caretakers on an island. A knock at the door changes everything.

“I’m here to share a message”

You’ll Find It’s Like That All Over

Mr. Fowler finds something in his backyard that shouldn’t be there. His discovery leads him to his neighbour’s home, where the stakes are raised.

“But I bet you’d fancy another bet.”

I flew through this book. While I wish there were more stories included, I enjoyed all three. There’s a common theme of connection and some very memorable scenes of body horror.

The son’s manner of death in The Enchantment didn’t seem physically possible but, because it fit with one of the themes of the story, I wasn’t overly concerned about the question marks that popped up over my head when I read about it.

The story that’s going to stay with me the longest is Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke, especially the scene describing Agnes’ dinner. I definitely want to read more books by this author.

Content warnings include mention of child abuse, death by suicide, death of animals, homophobia, miscarriage, racism and suicidal ideation. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Three dark and disturbing horror stories from an astonishing new voice, including the viral-sensation tale of obsession, Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke. For fans of Kathe Koja, Clive Barker and Stephen Graham Jones.

A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s – a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires. 

A couple isolate themselves on a remote island in an attempt to recover from their teenage son’s death, when a mysterious young man knocks on their door during a storm…

And a man confronts his neighbour when he discovers a strange object in his back yard, only to be drawn into an ever-more dangerous game.

From Bram Stoker Award finalist Eric LaRocca, this is devastating, beautifully written horror from one of the genre’s most cutting-edge voices.

What have you done today to deserve your eyes?

Black Mouth – Ronald Malfi

Any day that includes me being able to say that I’ve found a new favourite author is a good day. Today is a good day!

I’m a tad embarrassed to admit that this is my first Ronald Malfi read. On the flip side, because I’m late to the party, I’ve got so many books to catch up on and new favourites to find. Did I mention today is a very good day?

Black Mouth is essentially a big melting pot of the types of characters and themes I will always want to read about. You’ve got your group of outcasts who experienced something scary, traumatic and potentially supernatural when they were kids. The ghosts of the past, possibly even the literal kind, haunt said kids well into adulthood. Adults who have been trying to outrun their childhood trauma can’t run anymore, and it just keeps getting better and better.

The things that happened down in the heart of Black Mouth that summer had been inexplicable, magical, and ultimately deadly things – things I still can’t fully comprehend or even care to dwell on.

There’s a carnival. Magic. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. A group of friends I want to join. And best of all? There’s Dennis, who is now one of my all time favourite characters. I adore Dennis!

I loved this book so much! The characters, the location, the atmosphere, the way the past bled into the present, even the surprise misty eyed moment. I loved it all!

I can’t wait to read more books by this author.

As usual, I sent test emails to the email addresses listed for two characters in this book. As usual, they were undeliverable. Yes, I’m going to keep sending random emails to book characters until one finally responds.

“Do you want to see a magic trick?”

Content warnings include abuse of animals, alcoholism, bullying, child abuse, death by suicide (including method used), domestic abuse, sexual assault and a suicide attempt. Readers with emetophobia, beware. There are also a bunch of cringeworthy slurs that I won’t be repeating here; although I hated reading the words, it made complete sense that those characters would be saying them.

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

For nearly two decades, Jamie Warren has been running from darkness. He’s haunted by a traumatic childhood and the guilt at having disappeared from his disabled brother’s life. But then a series of unusual events reunites him with his estranged brother and their childhood friends, and none of them can deny the sense of fate that has seemingly drawn them back together.

Nor can they deny the memories of that summer, so long ago – the strange magic taught to them by an even stranger man, and the terrible act that has followed them all into adulthood. In the light of new danger, they must confront their past by facing their futures, and hunting down a man who may very well be a monster. 

The Pallbearers Club – Paul Tremblay

I’ve loved the Paul Tremblay books I’ve previously read and the blurb for this one had me intrigued, so it’s safe to say this was a highly anticipated read for me. It’s clear from the reviews I’ve read prior to its publication that this is going to be a divisive read and I’m sad to say that on this occasion I’m not on the side of the divide that I was hoping I would be. 

Art Barbara (not his real name) and Mercy Brown (this may or may not be her real name but it’s up to you to decide) meet at a funeral. Art, who needed an extracurricular activity for his college applications, created the Pallbearers Club. Mercy, a stranger of indeterminate age, joins and the two become friends people who spend time with one another … I don’t know how to describe their relationship. 

It’s all kind of odd. Art thinks Mercy is a vampire and proceeds to write a memoir where he attributes various occurrences in his life to said vampirism. Mercy reads the manuscript of Art’s memoir, calls it fiction and then annotates it. 

Art uses foreshadowing like it’s going out of fashion, makes nouns into verbs (I’m good with that) and writes sentences that last an entire paragraph. 

A chapter in which, frankly, I don’t know the best way to somewhat briefly yet dramatically convey and/or describe the passing of twenty years, of the invisible years, and after considerable consideration I land upon using deftly placed flashbacks (to be presented as unrealistic interview dialogue) despite knowing said flashbacks are frowned upon (with, admittedly, good reason most of the time) by the academia writing syndicate as well as by those who can afford to pay for the privilege of being taught prescriptive writing advice, but fuck it, a memoir Novel! is all flashback anyway, so we’ll all just have to deal, and there’s a messed-up and scary piece of furniture that should’ve been a clue. 

I’d encourage you to read some 5 star reviews because there are readers who loved this book as much as I wish I did. Even though this one didn’t work for me, I’m keen to read the rest of this author’s books. 

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

1988, and puberty has hit Art Barbara hard – he’s a painfully socially awkward teenager, underweight, acne-ridden, and bent crooked by scoliosis. Worse, he has no extra credits to get him into college. So Art starts the Pallbearers’ Club, dedicated to mourning the homeless and lonely – the people with no one else to bury them. It might be a small club, unpopular and morbid, but it introduces Art to Mercy Brown, who is into bands, local history, folklore and digging up the dead.

Decades later, Art is writing his memoir to try and make sense of it all, because nothing about Mercy is simple. It’s all a matter of trust, right? Their friendship twists and coils around the pair of them, captured in Polaroid snapshots and sweaty gigs and the freaky, inexplicable flashes of nightmare that lurk in a folded jacket at night.

Because Art is writing his memoir to make sense of it all, but Mercy is reading it too. Mercy thinks Art’s novel – because this isn’t a memoir – needs some work, and she’s more than happy to set the record straight. What if Art didn’t get everything right? Come on, Art, you can’t tell just one side of the story… 

Seamlessly blurring the lines between fiction and memory, the supernatural and the mundane, The Pallbearers Club is an immersive, suspenseful portrait of an unforgettable and unsettling friendship.

Nettle & Bone – T. Kingfisher

Once upon a time, there were three princesses. The youngest of these, who’s “almost a nun and barely a princess”, is on a quest. 

Accompanying her are a dust-wife, a former knight who’s also a diplomat and a fairy godmother. Rounding out this ragtag bunch are a chicken with a demon, a highly motivated chick and quite possibly the best dog ever. 

Their mission? Kill the prince. Don’t worry; he definitely deserves it. 

“It’s a fool’s errand and we’ll probably all die” 

I’m always keen to spread the word about books I love but every so often a read comes along that tips me over into book evangelism. This is one of those books. I want everyone to adore it as much as I did. 

If you encounter me in the wild in the foreseeable future, I’m going to be recommending you read it and if you don’t love it as much as I did, you may notice me looking at you a little strangely. This will be my silently judging you for not getting it look.

How can you not love a book that brings the intrigue, the weird and the need to know everything in the first two sentences? 

The trees were full of crows and the woods were full of madmen. The pit was full of bones and her hands were full of wires. 

This book has everything I need in my life right now. The lengths you will go to for family, even the ones that don’t particularly like you. A found family who shouldn’t gel so well, but they do. A reminder that you can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. Making the impossible possible. A quest that’s born from a need for justice. Bonedog.

Bonedog is one of my favourite characters of all time. I either need to permanently borrow him from Marra or beg ask her really nicely if she would pretty please make a sibling for him and allow me to hang out with Bonedog II forever.

Content warnings include domestic abuse and miscarriage.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for introducing me to Bonedog and the rest of my new found family.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After years of seeing her sisters suffer at the hands of an abusive prince, Marra – the shy, convent-raised, third-born daughter – has finally realised that no one is coming to their rescue. No one, except for Marra herself.

Seeking help from a powerful gravewitch, Marra is offered the tools to kill a prince – if she can complete three impossible tasks. But, as is the way in tales of princes, witches, and daughters, the impossible is only the beginning.

On her quest, Marra is joined by the gravewitch, a reluctant fairy godmother, a strapping former knight, and a chicken possessed by a demon. Together, the five of them intend to be the hand that closes around the throat of the prince and frees Marra’s family and their kingdom from its tyrannous ruler at last.

The Tangleroot Palace – Marjorie Liu

While I’d already well and truly fallen in love with Monstress, I hadn’t read anything else by this author. After being wowed by this collection, I will now be working to rectify this egregious mistake.

Sympathy for the Bones

Clora works with bone needles and thread. She doesn’t make mistakes. 

Fear of a hoodoo woman was natural. Fear was how it had to be. 

The Briar and the Rose

In this retelling of Sleeping Beauty, we meet the Duelist who, on Sundays, is called Briar. While six days a week are devoted to violence, the seventh contains love. 

The Duelist had learned, long ago, that oppression could be defeated only through study; like a sword, the mind must always be tended to if it was to aim true. 

The Light and the Fury

Superheroes, war and crystal skulls. 

“Can you be what they need?”
“No,” she said quietly. “But I can try.” 

The Last Dignity of Man

His mother named him Alexander Lutheran. Wasn’t it inevitable that he would aspire to become Lex Luthor? 

And he has lived up to that name, in more ways than one. 

Where the Heart Lives

This story takes place in the Dirk & Steele universe, well before the events of the first book in the series. Although I tend to stay as far away from romance novels as possible, I’m intrigued enough to want to dive into the first book. 

“We all have our homes,” she said quietly. “The ability to choose yours is not a gift to take for granted.” 

After the Blood

Amish vampires! A sequel to the novella, The Robber Bride, which I now need to read. 

Only so long a man could keep secrets while living under his family’s roof. 

Tangleroot Palace

When Sally’s father arranges for her to be married to the Black Knight of the Poisoned Cookies (not his real name), she decides to turn to the Tangleroot forest for help. It’s not like she’s got anything to lose.

Bonus points to the raven in the tree next door that believes in book-life symmetry, waiting to caw until the exact moment the raven in the story did. 

“Most people, when they have questions, ask other people. They do not go running headfirst into a place of night terrors and magic.” 

It is rare for me to love a short story collection more than I love the idea of it but this one exceeded my expectations.

The Light and the Fury was the only story I wasn’t immediately captivated by. The rest, I adored, but none more so than The Last Dignity of Man

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide, death of animals, miscarriage and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to fall in love with this collection.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

New York Times bestseller and Hugo, British Fantasy, Romantic Times, and Eisner award-winning author of the graphic novel Monstress, Marjorie Liu leads you deep into the heart of the tangled woods. In her long-awaited debut collection of dark, lush, and spellbinding short fiction, you will find unexpected detours, dangerous magic, and even more dangerous women.

Briar, bodyguard for a body-stealing sorceress, discovers her love for Rose, whose true soul emerges only once a week. An apprentice witch seeks her freedom through betrayal, the bones of the innocent, and a meticulously plotted spell. In a world powered by crystal skulls, a warrior returns to save China from invasion by her jealous ex. A princess runs away from an arranged marriage, finding family in a strange troupe of travelling actors at the border of the kingdom’s deep, dark woods.

Concluding with a gorgeous full-length novella, Marjorie Liu’s first short fiction collection is an unflinching sojourn into her thorny tales of love, revenge, and new beginnings.

Dark Stars – John F.D. Taff (editor)

Horror is something like black taffy these days, enough elasticity to stretch across any room (even the word “room” feels a little confining while discussing the modern state of horror: Is it a room actually? Could be something else), and you’ll find that elasticity here in the pages of this book. 

The Attentionist by Caroline Kepnes

Reg and Maeve really want Tony to call. Naturally, he’ll have a friend so the sisters will be able to go on a double date. 

The phrase you learn in school is fight or flight. As if those are the only choices. As if we’re all so quick to throw a punch or make a run for it. Some of us are slow. We just need a minute to think. 

A Life in Nightmares by Ramsey Campbell

When past and present, reality and nightmares collide. 

“I don’t know why I should dream about the past” 

Papa Eye by Priya Sharma

When Ravi goes to the island, they see life and death in a whole new light. 

“We’ve been struggling with how to explain it. Now you can see for yourself.” 

Volcano by Livia Llewellyn

A new job, a new colleague, a pervasive darkness. 

It still bothers me that I can’t remember last night. 

All the Things He Called Memories by Stephen Graham Jones 

When you’re quarantining with your partner, a research scientist, who wants to discuss your greatest fear. You know, besides the pandemic. 

“Because our minds are puzzle boxes,” Marcy said, obviously. “You can twist them this way, that way, and, if you’re really lucky, maybe once in a while you unlock one of them.” 

Trinity River’s Blues by Chesya Burke 

Jazz, a murder of crows and a woman who sees dead people. 

“This here … this is longing. Its power manifested. You don’t understand who you are and so you let your fears and insecurities control you.” 

The Familiar’s Assistant by Alma Katsu

Eric has spent weeks tracking him down. Now he’s standing at the vampire’s door. 

You can’t accept a monster in your life and think that you’re safe. That you’ll be able to control him. 

Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream by John F.D. Taff 

Peter just wants to drive his son to their new home. The weather has other ideas. So does Peter’s dead wife. 

Because, as I’ve learned, separation doesn’t diminish the love a child has for their parent.
Nor does death. 

The Sanguintalist by Gemma Files

The blood speaks to Lala. 

Tell me now. Show me, if you can’t form the words. Let me see it.
Let me see it all. 

Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman

This all started in detention fifteen years ago. It ends now. 

REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE 

Challawa by Usman T. Malik

Karisma returns to Pakistan with her husband. While she’s there, she plans to do some research. 

“Challawa. A mercurial creature that shimmers and is gone. A mirage that evaporates when you get close to it.” 

Enough For Hunger and Enough For Hate by John Langan

Michelle is trying to track down her brother’s killer. And his body. 

“There was nothing I wanted more than to spend every waking second with her.” 

Usually when I pick up an anthology, it’s because there’s one particular author’s story I need to read. This time around, that author was Stephen Graham Jones. 

With anthologies, I always find the stories are a bit of a mixed bag. I love this because there’s usually something for everyone. I also dread this because I know it’s just as likely I’ll encounter stories that I’m not so keen on.

My horror preference is the “would you like more blood with that?” variety. I actively seek out reads where I have the overwhelming urge to look over my shoulder and question whether it’s safe to turn out the lights, as well as my decision to eat before reading. I’m not as comfy with ambiguity so some reads here didn’t work as well for me. 

I enjoyed many of the stories but they didn’t elicit fear in me. The most horrified I felt was when I realised I’d finished more than one story with no way of explaining what it was about because I had no idea.

One of my favourite things about anthologies is the opportunity to find authors whose books have somehow flown under my radar. While I loved the story I came here for, I was also introduced to two authors whose books I definitely need to investigate in the near future: Priya Sharma and Usman T. Malik.

Content warnings include addiction, death by suicide, domestic abuse, miscarriage and sexual assault. Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology, Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, this collection contains 12 original novelettes showcasing today’s top horror talent. Dark Stars features all-new stories from award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices like Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Usman T. Malik, Caroline Kepnes, and Alma Katsu, with seasoned author John F.D. Taff at the helm. An afterword from original Dark Forces contributor Ramsey Campbell is a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection.

Within these pages you’ll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harbouring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You’ll encounter terrible monsters – both human and supernatural – and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown – possibly unknowable – threats.

It’s all in here because it’s all out there, now, in horror.

The Shadow Glass – Josh Winning

‘In a forgotten time, in a forgotten world, deep within a forgotten chamber few have ever seen, the Shadow Glass sees all.’ 

Bob Corman’s 1986 feature debut, The Shadow Glass, was a flop at the box office. The “puppet-animated fantasy adventure” has since gained a cult following but Bob’s son, who was one of The Shadow Glass’ first super-fans, wants nothing to do with it. 

Jack’s childhood, once a magical place brimming with imagination and joy, darkened when his father morphed from his hero to someone he barely recognised as his obsession with Iri (pronounced eerie) and its inhabitants consumed him.

Returning to his childhood home after his father’s death, Jack discovers the characters, born in his father’s imagination, are very much alive. And they need Jack’s help.

Now erplings Bobson, a Melia, fanboy Toby and the Guild must join forces with kettu Zavanna and Brol if they have any hope of saving Iri from imminent destruction. 

‘Are you friend or food?’ 

The Shadow Glass is a love letter to the 80’s films that infused themselves into my very core and it’s about fandom: the obsessive, possessive fans that make it creepy (‘why else do you think they call us fanatics?’) and those whose love and dedication keep franchises alive. It’s about family, the ones we’re born into and the ones we form along the way. Above all, this is a hero’s journey. 

‘What is a hero but a normal person overcoming their own failings to defeat the demons of their soul?’ 

I primarily identify as a book nerd so it’s a rare week that passes without me needing to book evangelise the most recent treasure I’ve discovered. This book, though… I haven’t had this much fun reading since Dan Hanks’ Swashbucklers.

Both books major in 80’s nostalgia. Swashbucklers was the Ghostbusters/Goonies mashup I didn’t know I needed. The Shadow Glass had me reminiscing about borrowing and reborrowing The Dark Crystal and The NeverEnding Story from my local video store.

There’s no shortage of action in this book and the characters became so real to me it felt like I was fighting alongside them. I don’t know how it’s possible to feel nostalgia for a movie I’ve never seen and doesn’t exist (yet) but here we are. What’s going to stay with me the most, though, is this book’s heart. 

I related to Bobson as he navigated his complicated family legacy, while figuring out who he is and what he stands for. I was fangirling alongside Toby as his passion for Iri made him practically glow from within. Occasionally I empathised with Cutter, as his pain distorted something that was once pure.

There’s so much to lub about this book. I lub the erplings. I lub kettu. I lub lubs. I even lub Kunin Yillda.

It’s fairly common for me to finish a book and immediately want to see the movie adaptation of it, whether it currently exists or not. I need a movie of this book but I also need Bob Corman’s original 1986 movie in my life. 

‘It’s real and scary and it’s not safe.’ 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to fall in lub with Iri.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jack Corman is failing at life. Jobless, jaded and facing the threat of eviction, he’s also reeling from the death of his father, one-time film director Bob Corman. Back in the eighties, Bob poured his heart and soul into the creation of his 1986 puppet fantasy The Shadow Glass, but the film flopped on release and Bob was never the same again.

In the wake of Bob’s death, Jack returns to his decaying childhood home, where he is confronted with the impossible – the puppet heroes from The Shadow Glass are alive, and they need his help. Tipped into a desperate quest to save the world from the more nefarious of his father’s creations, Jack teams up with an excitable fanboy and a spiky studio exec to navigate the labyrinth of his father’s legacy and ignite a Shadow Glass resurgence that could, finally, do Bob proud.

The Phantom of the Opera – Cavan Scott (Adapter)

Illustrations – José María Beroy

This graphic novel is an adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, itself based on Gaston Leroux’s novel. While I would have loved to have been able to indulge in a scene by scene replication of the entire musical, that would have been a much larger volume. The scenes that were adapted still clearly told the story that I know so well, and I sang along (in my head, of course, so I didn’t frighten the neighbours) with all of the song excerpts. 

The illustrations were gorgeous, evoking the feel of the scenes, from the bright, colourful masquerade to the leaching of colour when the Phantom appears in Christine’s mirror. 

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I spent much of the 90’s obsessed with this musical, having travelled to Melbourne for the best school excursion ever. I’d never imagined that a musical could be so immersive; we gasped and pointed each time we saw the Phantom appear off stage and I’m not embarrassed to admit that I really thought that chandelier was going to hurt someone. 

It was even more exhilarating the second time I witnessed the chandelier fall, in Sydney many years later, as our seats were directly beneath its arc. I also got to watch the conductor do their thing and all of the musicians warming up prior to the performance. It was like being able to sneak a peek behind the scenes and it was breathtaking.

My Nan and I listened to the double cassette tape (back in the 90’s here) so many times I’m surprised we didn’t destroy it; we’d get up and dance, with much abandon but little rhythm, around the room each time a new song began. We became so familiar with the entire musical that we’d recite it to each other as it was playing.

While not many of my childhood belongings followed me into adulthood, I still have two Phantom keyrings, the coffee mug where the Phantom’s face glows when you add hot water (it still works!) and the program I bought in Melbourne in the 90’s. I also have all of the piano sheet music and yes, I do intend to finally get around to mastering at least one of the songs one day.

I’m always going to be biased where the Phantom is concerned but I absolutely adored this adaptation. It made me wish I could walk out the door and straight into a performance of the musical. Since that’s not currently possible, I’m going to do the next best thing … reread this graphic novel and indulge in some nostalgia.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Comics for the opportunity to fall in love with this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

From the original libretto of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s world-famous, multi-award-winning musical that has been playing continuously around the world for over 33 years comes this fully authorised graphic novel adaptation.

In 1881 the cast and crew of a new production, Hannibal, are terrorised by the Phantom of the Opera, a mysterious, hideously disfigured man who lives beneath the Paris Opera House. Hopelessly in love and obsessed with one of the chorus singers, the Phantom will stop at nothing to make her the star of the show, even if that means murder.