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.

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.

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.

The Secret Garden: A Graphic Novel – Mariah Marsden (Adapter)

Illustrations – Hanna Luechtefeld

The Secret Garden was one of my childhood favourites. I read my treasured copy until the front cover began to separate from the rest of the book and watched the 1993 movie so many times I could recite entire scenes to you. It’s now been several years since I last read the book; a friend borrowed my copy and never returned it and I haven’t been able to bring myself to read a copy that’s not my well loved, decades old one.

I absolutely adored Mariah Marsden’s adaptation of Anne of Green Gables and was looking forward to her next adaptation. Needless to say, I was delighted to learn that she was bringing me the story of contrary Mary Lennox, sweet animal whisperer Dickon and sickly Colin.

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This graphic novel adaptation stays true to the spirit of the novel but glosses over some of the details found in the original story. In particular, Mary’s life before she arrives at Misselthwaite Manor is barely touched on (the reasons for this are explained at the end). If you didn’t already know her background, the changes in her throughout the story wouldn’t be as meaningful. This story also ends before you find out what becomes of the three children.

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Although I had hoped Brenna Thummler, who illustrated the Anne of Green Gables adaptation, would return for any future adaptations, I did enjoy Hanna Luechtefeld’s style. I especially loved the way the colours fit Mary’s mood. When she first arrives at Misselthwaite Manor the colours are muted. The flashbacks to her life in India take on an orange hue. As the story progresses and life returns to Mary, Colin and the garden, the colours become richer.

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Following the story you’ll find information about Frances Hodgson Burnett’s life, details of the various locations found in the story and a glossary.

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

Green-growing secrets and magic await you at Misselthwaite Manor, now reimagined in this graphic novel adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s tale.

Ten-year-old Mary Lennox arrives at a secluded estate on the Yorkshire moors with a scowl and a chip on her shoulder. First, there’s Martha Sowerby: the too-cheery maid with bothersome questions who seems out of place in the dreary manor. Then there’s the elusive Uncle Craven, Mary’s only remaining family – whom she’s not permitted to see. And finally, there are the mysteries that seem to haunt the run-down place: rumours of a lost garden with a tragic past, and a midnight wail that echoes across the moors at night. 

As Mary begins to explore this new world alongside her ragtag companions – a cocky robin redbreast, a sour-faced gardener, and a boy who can talk to animals – she learns that even the loneliest of hearts can grow roots in rocky soil. 

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #13: Unicorn Famous – Dana Simpson

After having a best friend who’s a unicorn for quite a while now, Phoebe discovers that unicorns have become popular and she’s not sure whether she’s okay with that or not. I, too, was into unicorns before they were cool so I understand where Phoebe is coming from.

Marigold employs her skills as a tooth fairy negotiator. Like all parents do, whether they want to admit it or not, Phoebe’s dad attempts to customise her. Phoebe and Marigold enjoy a day out at the water park.

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Dakota receives a Blarty Award but she’s not entirely sure what the award is for since she doesn’t speak goblin. Marigold proves she has great taste in movies.

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Dakota and Phoebe settle on being kind of friends. Phoebe makes her own Halloween costume without any magical unicorn assistance.

And my personal favourite, Claustrophoebea and Pointyhead make another long overdue appearance.

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I can’t believe I still love this series so much! This is the thirteenth time I’ve been allowed to see what lies beneath the Shield of Boringness and I’d hang out with Marigold and her human, Phoebe, again tomorrow if Marigold was inclined to magic up the fourteenth graphic novel by then.

There’s a great blend of comics that explore things we already know in a new way, like Marigold’s obsession with her reflection, and entirely new, very important unicorn related information.

Unicorn sneers will make 62% of your freckles fall off.

We also discover what’s to blame for us not being able to get negative comments out of our heads. It was peanut butter all along. Who would have suspected something that’s seemingly innocuous was capable of something so dastardly?!

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the opportunity to fall in love with this graphic novel early.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When your best friend is a unicorn, every day is a stroll down the red carpet. Phoebe Howell’s unicorn BFF, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, is happy to provide the celebrity treatment – teaching Phoebe fancy new spells, giving her a ride to school so she doesn’t have to ride the bus, and even negotiating with the tooth fairy on her behalf.

But when Phoebe starts noticing that unicorns have become a trendy fashion statement, she doesn’t feel quite so unique. Fortunately, she’s distracted by adventures including a visit to the unicorn community and a trip to the woods to see her friend Dakota receive an unusual honour at the goblin award ceremony. Unicorn Famous is filled with amusing examples of the extraordinary lengths friends will go to make each other feel special. 

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #12: Virtual Unicorn Experience – Dana Simpson

It’s no secret how much I love this series. There are unicorns, magic and nerds. What’s not to love?! Although it’s technically a series for kids, this adult finds it delightful. The friendship between this unicorn and her nerd is really sweet, full of mutual admiration, laughter and a healthy dose of sarcasm.

In this collection we learn that Marigold floats when she’s complimented. As she fishes for compliments a lot I would have thought we’d already know about the floating but this is new information for both Phoebe and me.

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Phoebe learns the Unicorn Investigative Agency has her under surveillance. The solution? A sparkle transfusion! Of course, this doesn’t exactly go to plan.

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Phoebe finds out what life without a phone is like. Marigold attends an audition and it’s Phoebe’s job to distract her until she finds out the result. Phoebe enjoys one of life’s pleasures – falling asleep to the sound of rain.

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We learn that Marigold has a magical pocket dimension, which could be the answer to all of your storage needs. Phoebe performs in a talent show and Marigold has jury duty. We discover that Marigold went through a goth phase.

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My favourite chuckle was when Marigold showed us how good she looks in pink.

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I enjoyed seeing a couple of different sides to Dakota. I was disappointed by the comics that included Max though. His character has so much potential but he wasn’t given a lot to do in this 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

Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is one magical unicorn – and she knows it! But sometimes it’s harder for humans like Phoebe to understand that they can be magical, too. In the latest Phoebe and Her Unicorn adventure, the pair visits the science museum, tests out an extra-special virtual unicorn reality, and performs in the school talent show. With the help of her best friend and an emergency sparkle transfusion, Phoebe learns about confidence, empathy, and resilience – and even how to live without her cellphone. It’s all part of the very real excitement of Virtual Unicorn Experience.

Happily Ever After & Everything In Between – Debbie Tung

After watching my life play out in the pages of Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love, I was eagerly anticipating seeing what other thing that makes me me she was going to explore. This third graphic novel is where our lives diverge, which turned this read from ‘how is she getting into my head?’ to ‘aww, Debbie and Jason are such a cute couple’.

Whether you’re deciding what to cook for dinner

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or ensuring the essentials find their way into the household budget,

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it’s important that your partner understands your love language.

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While there are some sweet, kinda mushy moments,

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single, introverted bookworms will also find plenty of relatable moments in this collection.

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While I couldn’t guess what Debbie would tackle next after finishing her second graphic novel, the reveal at the end of this one seems to me to be a pretty big clue about what to expect from the next one.

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

From the bestselling author of Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love comes a funny and adorable collection of comics about married life. From choosing a movie and sharing (or not sharing) dessert to snoring (naturally) and knowing when someone needs a cup of tea and a cozy blanket, Happily Ever After is the perfect gift for anyone in a relationship.

The comics in Happily Ever After & Everything In Between may be inspired by Debbie Tung’s marriage to her extrovert husband, but any couple can relate to increasingly relaxed anniversaries, slowly seeing more of each other’s weird sides, or the punishment for taking care of your sick loved one (catching whatever they had). Happily Ever After humorously captures what everyday love looks like – both the sweet moments and the mundane – making it a fitting gift for weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day.

I Left the House Today! – Cassandra Calin

I probably should be embarrassed by how relatable I found a lot of these comics. Sure, there were also a fair few that I personally didn’t relate to, but overall I haven’t felt so seen since Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and Book Love. You know the kind of seen I’m talking about: the kind where you’re not entirely sure that the artist hasn’t been covertly following you and drawing your life for all the world to see.

Taking on a range of everyday occurrences, including the quest for perfect adequate makeup,

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having your expectations and reality diverge just a teensy bit

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and the equally horrific experiences of losing sight of the spider someone else was going to take care of for you

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and someone calling your home phone.

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A lot of comics had me nodding in agreement and others had me chuckling. There were a couple that went over my head but not enough to dampen my enjoyment. I just wish there were at least another 50 pages because it felt like I’d only just begun when I reached the final page.

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

Hilarious and relatable comics about one young woman’s life, relationships, and day-to-day humorous musings on why it’s good to leave the house sometimes – and when it’s better to stay home.

Cassandra Calin’s ability to document the hilarity of relatable everyday events in a series of webcomics has generated a huge following on social media. This beautifully illustrated compendium of first-person comics about the trials of the single life, school, stress, junk food, shaving and maintaining a healthy self-image. Cassandra Calin’s comics frequently highlight the humorous gap between expectations and reality, especially when it comes to appearance and how much she can accomplish in one day. 

55 Slightly Sinister Stories – Racha Mourtada

Illustrations – Lynn Atme

Do you know how hard it is to get your point across in only 55 words? I’d never be able to accomplish that because when it comes to ideas and books, I’m a rambler. I don’t even get my thoughts organised that quickly so I take my hat off to the author for managing it.

That paragraph there? 55 words.

While I really like the idea of bite sized stories I don’t think they’re for me. I love world building and character development too much.

A lot of these stories revolve around love, finding it and losing it. While there were some that had no impact on me at all, I did have a couple of favourites: A Literary Death and Fashion Victim.

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

55 stories. 55 words each. No more. No less. Enjoy this collection of flash fiction with a sinister twist. 

Size does matter in these delightfully tiny tales populated with narcoleptic drivers, bickering backers, suspicious spouses, and other memorable characters. Full of dark humour, intrigue, and absurdity, this collection of slightly sinister (and occasionally sweet) stories delivers a bite-size reading experience to satisfy any literary craving.

Snoopy: First Beagle in Space – Charles M. Schulz

This selection of Peanuts comics takes me back to my childhood, and even further. Alongside the usual baseball games, school reports and Peppermint Patty falling asleep in class, the kids’ thoughts on newsworthy occurrences at the time, such as the moon landing and Halley’s Comet, are also included.

While Snoopy prepares to be the first beagle on the moon,

Lucy considers the possibility of extraterrestrial life. Naturally it can’t exist; if it did it would have already made contact with her.

When he’s not being an astronaut, Snoopy is either trying to figure out what type of bird Woodstock is or leading Woodstock and the other Beagle Scouts on adventures a little closer to home. When the round-headed kid Charlie Brown bails one of the Scouts out of jail (don’t ask!) and attempts to return her to the rest of the troop they get lost in the woods. Peppermint Patty and Marcie to the rescue!

Sally and Eudora prepare themselves for another summer at camp

and Sally plots revenge.

There’s also time to celebrate Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Ground Hug Day,

and I saw some space comics from the archives for the first time.

While I love all of the Peanuts kids I’ve never been that big of a fan of Snoopy himself, especially the World War I flying ace comics. However, there’s plenty of variety in this collection and I’m looking forward to the next one.

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

Join Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang as he seeks new milestones in the space race!

Even though the first moon landing was 50 years ago, Snoopy has a bold new mission: to be the first beagle in space! Join Snoopy as he sets out on his ambitious quest, while also leading Woodstock and friends as a Beagle Scout and keeping the company of his owner, the round-headed kid Charlie Brown.