Enola Holmes: The Graphic Novels – Serena Blasco

Translator – Tanya Gold

This graphic novel was my introduction to Enola Holmes, Sherlock and Mycroft’s younger sister. Enola’s birth was a scandal and she’s not planning on conforming to society’s expectations of women anytime soon. She conducts herself in a fashion most unladylike by refusing to wear the appropriate dress length for her age and, horror of horrors, climbing trees. 

Her mother’s disappearance on the occasion of her fourteenth birthday brings Enola’s brothers out of the woodwork. Visiting Ferndell Hall for the first time in ten years, they quickly determine that the most appropriate course of action is to send Enola to boarding school.

This goes against Enola’s sensibilities and those of her currently absent mother, so before she embarks on the very ladylike occupation of learning how to be a “houseplant”, Enola absconds to London. Smart girl, our Enola.

Sherlock and Mycroft are clearly products of their time and probably think they have Enola’s best interests at heart. However, their brotherly love leaves a lot to be desired. 

Leave her be, Mycroft. She is too young and her head is too small for her body. We can’t expect too much of her. 

Enola is able to use society’s propensity to underestimate women to her advantage, relying on her wits and penchant for disguises to hide in plain sight. 

Brother Sherlock may be a famous detective but Enola gives him a run for his money in these adaptations of the first three books of Nancy Springer’s The Enola Holmes Mysteries. Enola takes it upon herself to solve The Case of the Missing MarquessThe Case of the Left-Handed Lady and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets.

I enjoyed the watercolour illustrations, which felt even more appropriate when I learned that’s the medium Enola’s mother uses.

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I haven’t met Enola’s mother yet but I love her already. She’s a suffragist who’s schooled her daughter in activities that will be useful, as opposed to those that will facilitate her transformation into a houseplant.

Enola’s adaptability and attention to detail are aided by the tools her mother left her, primarily a book on the language of flowers and a handbound notebook full of coded messages. 

Enola is “alone” spelled backwards.
Mum and her love of coded messages.
Could it be a coincidence? 

I loved the clever use of flowers to convey messages and the inclusion of excerpts from Enola’s secret notebook at the end of each case.

Enola’s inquiring mind and indomitable spirit made me want to spend more time with her. I look forward to hanging out with Enola as she continues to subvert her allotted position in nineteenth century London in future graphic novel adaptations. 

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I’ve already ordered the first book in Nancy Springer’s series from the library.

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 graphic novel adaptation of the hit books that inspired the Netflix film! Sherlock Holmes’ brilliant, strong-willed younger sister takes centre stage in this delightfully drawn graphic novel based on Nancy Springer’s bestselling mystery series.

14-year-old Enola Holmes wakes on her birthday to discover that her mother has disappeared from the family’s country manor, leaving only a collection of flowers and a coded message book. With Sherlock and Mycroft determined to ship her off to a boarding school, Enola escapes, displaying a cleverness that even impresses the elder Holmes. But nothing prepares her for what lies ahead…

Book One in the series includes three thrilling mysteries: The Case of the Missing Marquess, The Case of the Left-Handed Lady, and The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets. At the back of the book, readers can explore a portfolio of pages from Enola’s secret notebook!

Sorceline – Sylvia Douyé

Illustrations – Paola Antista

Sorceline’s apprenticeship with Professor Balzar is just a teensy bit more interesting than anything you’ve got planned for summer. She’s on the Isle of Vorn to study cryptozoology. 

“It’s the study of cryptids: amazing creatures that most humans don’t think exist.” 

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She and her fellow students will be learning how to heal magical creatures and one of them, the best one (nothing like some healthy competition), will become the Professor’s assistant. And, boy, does he need one.

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In a world where unicorns, vampires, gorgons and zombie pixies all exist, there’s plenty of healing to be done. There’s also time for some mysterious goings on. Students are disappearing and Sorceline, who somehow has the ability to identify creatures simply by looking at them, thinks it’s all her fault. 

“Don’t ever doubt your incredible gifts, Sorceline!” 

Translated from French, this graphic novel combines the first three volumes of Sorceline’s story. I really enjoyed the world building. The story itself felt disjointed at times but, because I was so busy drooling over the pictures, I didn’t really mind. Paola Antista’s illustrations are absolutely incredible, particularly those that showcase the scenery.

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Beware the cliffhanger. I have so many questions that are demanding answers so will be travelling back to the Isle of Vorn as soon as possible. 

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Isle of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. In Book 1 of this riveting new middle grade graphic novel series, a gifted young cryptozoologist-in-training must learn to tame powerful beasts – including her own inner demons.

For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices.

But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper.

When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected …

Heart Takes the Stage – Steenz

I’d never heard of the Heart of the City comics before so this collection was my introduction to Heart Lamarr and her friends. 

I liked Kat. 

“Friendship is nothing if you don’t stand up for each other.” 

I also liked nerds Charlotte and Dean. Their problems are understandable, like worrying that the other is nerdier. And Charlotte’s dog is called Ripley, so you have to love her for that.

The thing is, though, I didn’t like Heart. 

“Sorry to interrupt this weird-off, but let’s get to how your skill can help me.” 

In this collection, Heart really wants to get her ears pierced. She also wants a part in the school play.

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She also attends a sleepover, babysits and hosts a Halloween party. I found Heart most relatable when she was binge watching TV.

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I loved the fortune telling bread and I may need to join the Atlantic Paranormal Society.

I would probably want to hang out with Heart’s friends again but I’m not especially keen on crossing paths with her. 

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

This first book collection of Heart of the City comics by the strip’s new creator, Steenz, is packed with outstanding art, a diverse cast of characters, and engaging, positive storylines about friendship, pop culture, ghost stories, and a wide range of real-world issues. 

Heart Lamarr is a girl with big dreams who lives in Philadelphia with her single mum. She has her sights set on a life of theatre, but she runs into plenty of drama off-stage, too. Luckily, her best friends Dean, Kat, and Charlotte form a stellar supporting cast to help Heart navigate the challenging world of school plays, cliques, rumours, and everything else middle school throws at them.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #15: Unicorn Selfies – Dana Simpson

This collection begins with Marigold and Phoebe attending the unveiling of their brand new clubhouse, which wouldn’t be complete if they weren’t pixie punked. Now the clubhouse is finished, all they need to do is figure out what kind of club they are.

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A good portion of this collection focuses on Marigold preparing for and attending her family reunion. Phoebe and Marigold attend the reunion in style because unicorn and once there Marigold catches up with some familiar faces. She also meets some of her family for the first time.

When the reunion is not the focus, Marigold makes Phoebe’s problems disappear and Phoebe helps Marigold with her self help book. Marigold’s shadow goes to the dark side and a conspiracy theory is tested. 

In keeping with the honour that is being Marigold’s best friend, Marigold bestows upon Phoebe her unicorn name. This is also the collection where we learn the number 5 is a dragon called Jim who “rains death from above”. 

Phoebe’s powers of observation are called into question.

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More than once.

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Because so much time was spent in the lead up to and attendance of Marigold’s family reunion, there wasn’t quite as much variety in this collection. I enjoyed finally getting to meet more of Marigold’s family but I missed Dakota, who was only mentioned in passing. Max also only had a small part to play. 

I always enjoy hanging out with Marigold and Phoebe, “knower of unicorn secrets”. I’m looking forward to the next collection already.

Book in a book: Phoebe reads The Neverending Story. I also attempted to read this as a nine year old but couldn’t understand at the time why the book didn’t replicate the movie exactly, not realising the book came first. Note to self: finish reading The Neverending Story.

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

Phoebe Howell and her best friend, the dazzling unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, have all kinds of exciting things planned for the summer. Their adventures include constructing a secret clubhouse with Phoebe’s friend Max (enlisting the help of some magic pixies along the way) and preparing for a trip to Marigold’s unicorn family reunion. Along the way, readers will meet all kinds of new characters, learn what magic spells are best avoided, and have all kinds of sparkling unicorn fun.

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.

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.