Murder Book – Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell

I’ve spent so much time watching, reading and listening to all things true crime and I’ve wondered at times if my interest is too weird, too morbid or too much. I love that Hilary shares my obsession.

In this graphic memoir, Hilary traces her true crime obsession, from members of her family whose obsessions sparked her own to the movies, books, TV shows and podcasts that kept the flame burning.

David Fincher’s Zodiac had a huge impact on Hilary, in part because she lived so close to some of the crime scenes. True crime even got her back into reading as an adult, first with Robert Graysmith’s Zodiac and then anything by Ann Rule.

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Hilary considers why the majority of people who watch, read and otherwise devour true crime are women. She also tracks how the types of true crime that have been written about have changed throughout the decades.

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Although this is a memoir, Hilary also explores some crimes that hold special significance to her, including the murder of Anne Marie Fahey and the murders committed by Ted Bundy. I never expected to see true crime explored in a graphic novel, but it worked.

The victims of crime are often practically invisible in their own stories but there was a focus on them here. I especially appreciated learning what their interests were. For example, Betty Lou Jensen liked art, school, studying and fashion.

I know I like to joke, but in all seriousness, a large part of the reason I love true crime is the hope of justice for the victims.

Of course, all of this talk about what started Hilary’s obsession got me thinking about my own. I think I can blame my Nan for planting the seed. Her father was the superintendent of ambulances in our state when she was growing up and he had plenty of medical books showing graphic injuries in the home. My Nan grew up reading these gruesome accounts. I grew up listening in awe as Nan regaled me with the stories in those books, always describing the accompanying pictures in detail.

When I was sixteen, the older sister of one of my childhood friends was murdered. She grew up around the corner from me and I had sleepovers at their house when I was a kid. The police officer who lived down the road from me told me more about the crime and subsequent investigation than they probably should have. Obviously I followed the case as it went to trial and the media appearances by her family over the years.

My obsession really took off at university, though. My favourite assessment was when my psychology class was given a murder scenario. Our task was to profile the murderer. I loved trying to get inside the mind of the perpetrator.

This assessment led me to John Douglas books, which only fuelled my obsession. I wanted to be a criminal profiler years before Criminal Minds premiered. Naturally, I was obsessed with that show (especially with Reid).

It’s only been recently that I’ve come across someone who shares my love of true crime and I personally blame them for my latest true crime obsession: Crime Junkie.

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Within a few short months, I’ve devoured dozens of episodes. I always knew but now I’ve had it drilled into me that it’s never a mannequin. I now answer “And I’m Brit” at the beginning of each episode. “Be weird. Be rude. Stay alive.” has become a new mantra.

If you’re a true crime junkie, you will find a kindred spirit in Hilary. If you know someone who loves true crime but you just don’t get the fascination, this graphic novel may help you understand what it’s all about.

There’s a lot more text in this graphic novel than most I have previously read. I had difficulty figuring out which order I should be reading panels on some pages but the majority of them were easy to follow. I enjoyed the artwork.

There’s humour, like this all too accurate description of movies that are ‘based on true stories’.

It’s the DRAMATIC, SEXY version of a REALLY HORRIBLE situation that you would never find sexy if it happened to YOU!

It’s relatable. Hilary’s ability to love true crime, Disney, horror movies and Peanuts simultaneously mirrors my own strangely contradictory loves.

It’s a graphic novel I definitely want to reread.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A humorous graphic investigation of the author’s obsession with true crime, the murders that have most captivated her throughout her life, and a love letter to her fellow true-crime fanatics.

Why is it so much fun to read about death and dismemberment? In Murder Book, lifelong true-crime obsessive and New Yorker cartoonist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell tries to puzzle out the answer. An unconventional graphic exploration of a lifetime of Ann Rule super-fandom, amateur armchair sleuthing, and a deep dive into the high-profile murders that have fascinated the author for decades, this is a funny, thoughtful, and highly personal blend of memoir, cultural criticism, and true crime with a focus on the often-overlooked victims of notorious killers.

Red Screen – Stephen King

“Sit down,” Lennie says quietly. “You’ll want to hear this.”

Detective Wilson is already having a bad day when he begins his interview with murder suspect, Lennie. Lennie doesn’t deny being the killer but his explanation sounds like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

“It’s the perfect disguise. We’re the perfect disguise.”

This short story was so predictable but I still enjoyed it. The cover image definitely should have been red.

It’s a Humble Bundle exclusive, with all of the proceeds supporting American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), so you’re reading for a good cause.

I haven’t seen Invasion of the Body Snatchers since I was a kid. It might be time to revisit it, if only to count the amount of times people make this face.

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Content warnings include death by suicide.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In this unsettling short story, a cop interrogates a deranged plumber who just murdered his wife, only to discover something far more insidious.

We’ve teamed up with legendary author Stephen King for a once in a lifetime opportunity. Presenting, Red Screen, a never before published work, exclusively available through Humble Bundle. Pay what you want, and support the ACLU.

Beneath the Trees: The Autumn of Mister Grumpf – Dav

Translator – Mike Kennedy

All Mister Grumpf wants to do is clear his doorstep of leaves. His neighbours keep interrupting him, though. They all want help, either with preparations for winter or when things go wrong.

Mister Grumpf, despite his grumpiness, is there for his neighbours, helping them with their problems while his own continue to pile up.

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There’s minimal text in this picture book but the illustrations clearly tell the story. The animals are all expressive, especially Mister Grumpf. I especially liked the glimpses inside the characters’ homes and the autumn colours.

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This book reminded me of Steve Smallman’s Kind Mr Bear, where an elderly bear is always there to help his neighbours until he becomes ill and needs help himself.

I’m planning on continuing this series through the seasons.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley, Magnetic Press and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this picture book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Winter is fast approaching and all the animals in the forest are in full preparation: storing food and provisions, dining on the last worms with the neighbors, etc… All the animals but one: grumpy badger Mr Grumpf just can’t finish sweeping the dead leaves off his doorstep with everyone coming by to disturb him! Grumpf!

This new series paints a tender and colourful portrait of everyday Life, showing that behind every flaw or weakness can lie charm and strength. Readers will recognise their own neighbours, friends, and family members in the endearing animal characters within this forest community. In this first volume, we meet a very busy badger, who may admittedly be a little slow, but who never refuses to lend a paw to help his neighbours. In time, his generosity will be rewarded!

The stories in this four-book series take place in the same forest over the course of four seasons. Each can be read independently, exploring the complexity and richness of relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. As both writer and illustrator, the author doesn’t rely on text to convey emotions, oscillating between a clever dose of dialogue and wordless passages to makes these stories accessible to young readers starting as young as 5 years old.

Presenting a graphic universe somewhere between Michel Plessix’s adaptations of The Wind in the Willows and the cartoons of Walt Disney (in particular those created by Don Bluth, such as The Rescuers and Robin Hood), Dav gently conveys each season through a changing palette of colours and rounded designs.

The Rooks #1: Wish You Weren’t Here – Gabby Hutchinson Crouch

‘A lot of really bad things have happened in Coldbay. A lot-lot.’

Brenda, a clairvoyant, is married to Richard, who has his own stuff going on. They have two adult children. Darryl, also clairvoyant, loves his husband, Janusz. Charity, the human Ghostbuster trap, loves carbs. Janusz, who was once upon a time a client of the Rooks, loves spreadsheets as much as he loves his husband. Together the Rooks run a ghost hunting business.

Clients contacted the Rooks because their kids were talking backwards or their cutlery kept flying at them or their walls were bleeding and they really quite wanted it to stop.

The Rooks’ newest client is Coldbay Island’s local priest. They might have to do a little overtime on this job and that’s going to seriously mess with Janusz’s spreadsheet.

‘Here we are, and it’s positively crawling with ghosts.’

I enjoyed this book and will be continuing the series. However, fair or not, I couldn’t help comparing it to the Darkwood series, which I absolutely adored.

I loved all of the characters in Darkwood but I mostly just loved Janusz in this book. There was some humour in this book but, unlike Darkwood, my face doesn’t hurt from smiling almost the entire time I was reading. There was no Bin Night equivalent on Coldbay Island.

I would happily pass the Darkwood series along to a child. I wouldn’t do that with this book, if only because of the swearing.

I originally hoped for a sneaky Darkwood crossover, maybe with Trevor or perhaps a character more appropriate for this story like Patience. Until I saw Charity in action. Then I was glad Patience stayed in Myrsina.

Maybe it’s because I’m almost two months into lockdown here in Australia but a lot of what I’m reading at the moment reminds me of other things I’ve read or movies I’ve seen.

Something that happened to Janusz reminded me of one of my favourite scenes in Roald Dahl’s The Witches. The Rooks’ website’s “No spectral problem too big or too small” brought to mind Venkman’s “No job is too big, no fee is too big”. When the Rooks faced up against this book’s Big Bad, I couldn’t help thinking they could potentially solve all of their problems if they sourced some of the pink slime from Ghostbusters II, smeared it all over whatever the English equivalent of the Statue of Liberty is and sing happy songs to it.

There’s plenty of action in this book. The Rook family quickly became real to me and I’m keen to find out how individual family members are going to deal with the information that came to light while they were at Coldbay Island. This story doesn’t officially end on a cliffhanger but there are plenty of threads to tie together during the rest of the series.

Content warnings include alcoholism and mention of death by suicide, immolation and miscarriage.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Farrago, an imprint of Duckworth Books, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Rook family run a little business: ghost hunting. And things has picked up recently. Something’s wrong. It’s been getting noticeably worse since, ooh, 2016?

Bad spirits are abroad, and right now they’re particularly around Coldbay Island, which isn’t even abroad, it’s only 20 miles from Skegness. The Rooks’ ‘quick call out’ to the island picks loose a thread that begins to unravel the whole place, and the world beyond.

Is this the apocalypse? This might be the apocalypse. Who knew it would kick off in an off-season seaside resort off the Lincolnshire coast? I’ll tell you who knew – Linda. She’s been feeling increasingly uneasy about the whole of the East Midlands since the 90s.

Capturing Snowflakes – Kenneth Libbrecht & Rachel Wing

A snowflake appears when water vapor in the air converts directly into ice without first becoming liquid water. As more vapor condenses onto a nascent snow crystal, it grows and develops, and that is when its ornate patterning emerges.

We’re all familiar with stellar dendrites, six sided snowflakes, but there are many other different shapes, including diamond-dust crystals (hexagonal prisms), columns, needles and triangles.

It’s true that no two snowflakes are alike. The difference shapes form as a result of variations in temperature and humidity, along with the path they take through the clouds. The higher the humidity, the more complex the design. Some snowflakes are even asymmetrical.

Snowflakes are being manufactured in the atmosphere at an astounding rate – from snowfall data, we calculate around a million billion crystals each second.

This book showcases some gorgeous snowflakes, both those generated naturally and designer snowflakes, those created under laboratory conditions. You will discover how snowflakes are formed and what conditions create which types of snowflakes. You will learn how to preserve a snowflake in resin, how to make paper snowflakes and how to photograph them.

It takes fifteen minutes to an hour to grow a good-sized snowflake. In this time about one hundred thousand nearby droplets will have evaporated away to supply the water vapor to make just one snowflake.

I’ve never seen snow but if I ever get the chance you can bet I’ll be bringing this book with me so I can identify the different shapes and photograph the experience.

My favourite photograph was taken by Jackie Novak. While I loved the details of many of the other photographs, the composition of this one stood out.

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Fun fact: Ken was the snowflake consultant for Frozen, so you won’t see any four or eight sided snowflakes there.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Voyageur Press, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group – Cool Springs Press, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As much a work of art as a testament to science, this revised, hardcover edition of the best-selling The Art of the Snowflake (now Capturing Snowflakes) includes a laser-cut silver snowflake ornament in its cover and showcases 430+ images of snowflakes captured by the photo-microscope of the world’s leading expert on the subject, Kenneth Libbrecht, a professor of physics at Caltech who also served as a science consultant for Disney’s Frozen movies. 

The snow may seem unvaried to the naked eye, but the microscope reveals an amazing menagerie of beautiful crystalline forms. Building on the pioneering work of Wilson Bentley (1865-1931), Libbrecht has developed techniques for capturing images of snow crystals in unprecedented detail. While wondering at the hundreds of exquisite snowflake portraits, find: 

The science behind snowflakes, including how they form on a molecular level and the complex process that guarantees each one’s uniqueness

Field notes from Libbrecht’s photographic expeditions to the frozen north

The taxonomy of snowflakes and examples of each type: simple plates and prisms, columns and needles, capped columns, sectored plates, stellar plates, stellar dendrites, triangular crystals, double plates, split plates, split stars, and even rare twelve-branched snowflakes

Quotations about the wonder of snowflakes and nature from Aristotle, Henry David Thoreau, John Muir, and more.

This book is a breathtaking look at the works of art that melt in an instant.

When Things Get Dark – Ellen Datlow (editor)

This anthology features short stories from some of my favourite writers, including Seanan McGuire. It also introduced me to some writers whose work I hadn’t read before. All are paying tribute to Shirley Jackson.

Like any collection of short stories, there were some I absolutely loved. My favourites in this anthology were those by M. Rickert, Elizabeth Hand, Seanan McGuire, Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman and Kelly Link.

Although the other stories were well written, I often failed to connect with either the main character or the plot. Some I enjoyed, until I realised I’d run out of story before the thing I felt was missing showed up. I don’t expect to love every story in an anthology, though.

Usually when I review anthologies, I’ll include a short quote and a sentence to describe each story: what it’s about, its theme, or what I loved or didn’t love about it. I started doing that here but then abandoned the idea. There were some stories that I couldn’t explain in a sentence without spoiling them for you.

There were others that I couldn’t explain because, quite honestly, I need someone to explain them to me. Perhaps a reread will help me find the missing puzzle pieces. Maybe what I perceived as deliberate ambiguity was actually the literary equivalent of a joke’s punchline going over my head. I may read the review of someone smarter than myself and when they explain it, the lightbulb will finally turn on above my head.

So, instead of giving you an explanation and a quote, I’m only providing a quote here.

Funeral Birds by M. Rickert

The truth was she rarely went to the funerals. Delores was special.

For Sale By Owner by Elizabeth Hand

“That’s trespassing.”

“Only if we get caught,” I replied.

In the Deep Woods; The Light is Different There by Seanan McGuire

She moved here for a haunting, and even if the house refuses to be haunted, she fully intends to be.

A Hundred Miles and a Mile by Carmen Maria Machado

It’s strange, the knowing-not-knowing. It twitches like something that won’t die.

Quiet Dead Things by Cassandra Khaw

“We’re going to die for what happened.”

Something Like Living Creatures by John Langan

“You saw something!” Samantha said.

“Did you?” Kayla said.

“Yes,” Jenna said.

Money of the Dead by Karen Heuler

On one side, life; on the other, death. It was almost, sometimes, as if they could see across the divide, or hear a furtive, melancholy whistle.

Hag by Benjamin Percy

“Without you, the island starves.”

Take Me, I Am Free by Joyce Carol Oates

“Just sit here. Don’t squirm. I’ll be watching from the front window.”

A Trip to Paris by Richard Kadrey

Why won’t you stay dead?

The Party by Paul Tremblay

“I do get into the spirit of my themes. Perhaps too much.”

Refinery Road by Stephen Graham Jones

It was just the three of them, same as it had always been. Same as it would always be.

The Door in the Fence by Jeffrey Ford

“Some people, when they get old, all they can think about is dying. Some, on the other hand, find freedom.”

Pear of Anguish by Gemma Files

The past is a trap and memory is a drug.

Memory is a door.

Special Meal by Josh Malerman

“Do you really not know what today is?” Dad asked. “It’s okay if you don’t.”

Sooner or Later, Your Wife Will Drive Home by Genevieve Valentine

Never be stuck on the road alone, that was the rule.

Tiptoe by Laird Barron

Trouble is, old, weathered pictures are ambiguous. You can’t always tell what’s hiding behind the patina. Nothing, or the worst thing imaginable.

Skinder’s Veil by Kelly Link

Skinder may show up. If he does, DO NOT LET HIM IN.

While I didn’t find any of the stories scary, there were some that were accompanied by a growing sense of dread. Others were unsettling. Then there were those that left behind confusion in their wake. But that’s the beauty of anthologies; there’s usually something for everyone. The times where a question mark appeared over my head? Those stories are probably someone else’s favourites.

Content warnings include child abuse, death by suicide, domestic abuse, mental health and self harm.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson.

Shirley Jackson is a seminal writer of horror and mystery fiction, whose legacy resonates globally today. Chilling, human, poignant and strange, her stories have inspired a generation of writers and readers.

This anthology, edited by legendary horror editor Ellen Datlow, will bring together today’s leading horror writers to offer their own personal tribute to the work of Shirley Jackson.

Featuring Joyce Carol Oates, Josh Malerman, Paul Tremblay, Richard Kadrey, Stephen Graham Jones, Elizabeth Hand, Cassandra Khaw, Karen Heuler, Benjamin Percy, John Langan, Laird Barron, M. Rickert, Seanan McGuire, and Genevieve Valentine. 

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #14: Unicorn Playlist – Dana Simpson

With the adult world intruding on her, Phoebe is having a sad day. We all need a unicorn best friend right now and fortunately for Phoebe, she has Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Marigold regales Phoebe with stories of the time when unicorns ruled the Earth, how The Pointy Express preceded horn wi-fi and her time at Sparkle Academy.

Phoebe and Marigold discover they have different tastes in music, which causes no conflict at all.

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Eventually they find a song that they both like.

The Goblin Queen challenges Dakota to a popularity contest. Phoebe explains the Magical Christmas Loophole to Marigold, after getting over her Christmas anticipointment. Phoebe teaches Marigold about distraction.

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Max and Phoebe exchange Valentines. Phoebe has lunch with Dakota and her friends.

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Marigold makes a Formal Declaration of Resolution to learn more about her family. We meet one of her cousins, Infernus, the Unicorn of Death. They’re not as scary as they sound. I’m looking forward to attending Marigold’s family reunion with her and Phoebe in a future collection.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Best friends Phoebe Howell and Marigold Heavenly Nostrils march to their own beat, but life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. With so many problems in the world and drama at school, Phoebe wonders why unicorns aren’t in charge instead of humans. With Marigold, each day is full of magic, from introducing Phoebe to unicorn music to crashing a goblin popularity contest, and even tracking down long-lost family members like Infernus, the Unicorn of Death (who ends up being surprisingly adorable). In Unicorn Playlist, Phoebe and Marigold play all the hits.

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.

Diary of an Accidental Witch – Perdita & Honor Cargill

Illustrations – Katie Saunders

“It doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you end up that counts”

Eleven year old Bea Black has just moved to Little Spellshire, UK (AKA, the middle of nowhere) with her father, a weather scientist. She’s supposed to be attending Spellshire Academy with Ashkan (Ash), her new next door neighbour and only friend, but Bea’s father accidentally enrolled her in Spellshire’s other school.

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The Spellshire School for Extraordinary Arts is a school like no other, where physics involves levitation, English is “Incantations and the Language of Spells” and sport involves broomsticks.

“HARD WORK AND FOCUS and you’ll be flying in no time! Flying – hahaha! But remember: don’t tell a soul. Those of us who know, know and those of them who don’t, can’t.”

Bea, who is Ordinary, spends most of her breaks hiding in the broom cupboard with Stan the frog. She can’t wait for her father to finally arrange her transfer to the school she’s supposed to be attending. Until then, try as she might, Bea fails “TRAGICALLY at all things witchy”.

I really enjoyed this book and am trying to figure out how I can enrol myself in this school. Beside the whole witch thing and the opportunity to perfect spells, I’m always in favour of having legitimate excuses to wear a cape.

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Be on the lookout for bats on a sugar high and spiders who can weave pictures. I definitely need to master the “hair-colour-changing trick spell”.

Best homework assignment ever:

Make a model of a medieval witch castle including potion laboratory, high walls for protection from Ordinaries, magical moat, Great Banqueting Hall and broomstick landing pad.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Little Tiger Group, an imprint of Stripes Publishing, for the opportunity to read this book. I’m looking forward to continuing this series.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Monday 20th September

I’M AT WITCH SCHOOL! Now would be a really good time to discover I can do magic…

Bea Black has just moved to Little Spellshire, a town with a magical secret. When her dad accidentally enrols her at the local witch school, she has to get to grips with some interesting new classes, like, NOW! Also on her to do list? Make friends, look after the grumpy class frog AND do everything humanly magically possible to stay on a broom…

But with the Halloween Ball on the horizon, will she be able to master her wand skills in time to WOW? And more importantly can she keep her newfound magical abilities a secret from dad?

Wolf Girl #4: The Traitor – Anh Do

Illustrations – Lachlan Creagh

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

Gwen and Rupert travel outside of the forest for the first time in their search for their parents. It isn’t long before Sunshine goes missing. The rest of the pack immediately begin their search for her.

Although there’s plenty of action that Sunshine isn’t a part of, including some close encounters with a whole bunch of reptiles, this is really her book. She goes on both a physical and emotional journey, ultimately needing to make a very difficult choice.

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I didn’t want to have to say this but another book, another injured dog. Thankfully, Zip wasn’t the one injured this time around but that’s only because they found their owner at the end of the last book. The events in this book also injured a wolf.

While we are introduced to someone from Rupert’s past, we aren’t really given any details about their shared history. Rupert finds some valuable information that may help in the search for their parents but the pack still don’t seem any closer to actually finding them.

With a couple of new locations in this book, the pack get to navigate vastly different ground than what they’re accustomed to. Scenes which would be the perfect set up for dad jokes in other Anh Do series remain serious here. The entire series is a departure from the laughs I look forward to in Ninja Kid, Hot Dog and WeirDo.

I didn’t pick up on an inconsistency as obvious as the one I mentioned in my review of The Secret Cave. I did wonder, though, how Brutus is barely able to make it through an opening while Sunrise, who is absolutely huge, doesn’t appear to have any difficulties when she follows.

I noticed some scenes that were similar to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in the last book. In this one, I couldn’t help thinking Jurassic Park, especially when I came across this illustration.

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Wolf Girl and her trusty dogs are back for another hackle-raising adventure.

On the run from sinister forces, Gwen rushes head-long into danger. With giant snakes, komodo dragons and a whole new wolf pack to contend with, Wolf Girl will need all her cunning… and all her friends.