Swashbucklers – Dan Hanks

Nostalgia for the win! When they were kids, Cisco and his friends fought an 8-bit war against an evil pirate and saved the world. Cisco is the only one who remembers what really happened; for everyone else, a gas leak was responsible for the Halloween ‘89 mayhem. 

“Look, honey, that’s the bloke from the bedtime stories your mum tells you. The gas leak boy, I told you he was real!” 

Supernatural fans know ‘gas leak’ is code for ‘whatever it was, it sure as hell wasn’t a gas leak’.

Now all grown up with children of their own, it’s time for the sequel because, as I’m sure you’re very well aware, sometimes the Big Bad doesn’t stay dead. Except it’s not quite as easy saving the world when your joints creak and you’re having to navigate the joys of parenthood while you’re dusting off your custom made game console weapons. It turns out that nostalgia can be deadly. 

“Why the hell did you decide that us four, ordinary, slightly unfit, middle-aged human nobodies could take on this momentous challenge again and get it right this time?” 

This is one of my favourite reads of the year and the perfect way to get you into the spirit for so many important holidays: Halloween, Christmas, Talk Like a Pirate Day… It’s also the movie I need to see. Outside of my head, that is. There’s a talking fox, a secret room behind a bookcase (be still my beating heart), enchanted forest (“Technically, all forests are enchanted-”), faeries that are bitey and priceless news headlines. 

Bizarre attack in Manchester as costumed cannibal snowman partially EATS homeowner. 

It was the Ghostbusters/Goonies mashup I never knew I needed and I loved every minute. I could almost hear the soundtrack playing during the action sequences. This may have been Cisco’s trip down memory lane but I felt like I grew up there too. 

“Bloody nostalgia” 

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Angry Robot for the opportunity to relive my childhood through this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn’t like it was in the movies.

Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits – even the friends who once fought alongside him.

Struggling with single parenting and treated as bit of a joke, Cisco isn’t really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that’s made worse by the tendrils of the pirate’s powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways. 

With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don’t have schools runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes…

Santa Jaws – Mark Sperring

Illustrations – Sophie Corrigan

“Merry Fishmas!”

Shelly the shark has something special planned this Christmas. She makes a sign for her front door welcoming everyone to Santa’s Grotto. The only problem is that none of the other fish trust her, so they quickly make themselves scarce. Fair enough, too. I’m pretty sure I’d be questioning Jaws’ motives before willingly stepping foot inside their home.

The exception is one inquisitive squid named Sid. Maybe Sid doesn’t know who lives behind this driftwood door or maybe they’re just so excited about meeting Santa Claus… Soon Sid finds himself face to face with Santa Jaws, not Santa Claus.

This book is so cute! The rhymes flow well and the repetition isn’t overused. The highlight of this book for me, though, were Sophie Corrigan’s illustrations. They use bright colours, the fish are all quite expressive and there are plenty of details to enjoy.


I particularly loved the coral Christmas trees with shell decorations, the snowman made of sand, the angler fish finding love beneath the mistletoe and the stingray wearing a Santa hat.


I hereby decree that stingrays must wear Santa hats at all times from this day forth, so we may never forget how adorable they make them look.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Today’s my LUCKY, LUCKY day.

Golly, whizz and gee!

For GUESS WHO’s meeting Santa Claus …

Yes, me! Yes, me! YES, ME!

Ho-ho-ho! It’s Christmas Eve and Sid the squid is SUPER-excited. He’s going to meet Santa Claus AT LAST!

But as he enters the dark underwater grotto, all is not as it seems …

Will there be a happy ending? Let’s hope so. It IS Christmas, after all!

Snowball – Gregory Bastianelli

Spoilers Ahead!

How to know if a Christmas horror book is for me in three easy steps:

  1. It’s a Christmas horror book!

2. Include this quote in the first chapter –

The snowman’s head rose, tilted back as its face came into view. Beneath the coal-black eyes and long crooked carrot nose was a black mouth grinning with two rows of sharp teeth.

3. Actually, I don’t need any additional information. Bah humbug!

“What was your worst winter memory?”

This Christmas Eve, during one of the worst snowstorms in New Hampshire’s history, a group of motorists are faced with the nightmares of winters past. Stranded on the highway with the snow building up around their vehicles, these strangers will learn there’s something that connects them. The past is coming back to bite them, possibly literally. Everything got screwed up at Christmastime. Featuring (amongst other creepies) snowmen, Krampus, a snowglobe and a toy maker who wants to play a game, our unwitting players have the odds stacked against them.

Lining up to freeze to death (if something worse doesn’t get them first) …

This is Toby Hodge’s final Christmas with his son, Evan, and his grandkids before he and his wife, Nell, move to Florida. A snowplow driver who’s lplowing his final stretch of highway before retirement, Toby is the first person we meet. The first person introduced in a horror story tends to either be the first victim or the main character. I was veering toward ‘hero’ until I learned he was about to retire.

In his late 40’s, Mason Drake is a parole officer. He and his wife, Joy, have been together for over 20 years. They have teenage children, Duncan and Daria. They have been arguing today. Joy got a tad too friendly with a coworker during an office Christmas party. Their arguing and Joy’s indiscretion may not bode well for them.

A trucker, Tucker Jenks had planned on visiting his sister in Cranford, New Jersey on his way to drop off electronics in Manchester before the storm. Trucker’s friend in northern New Hampshire is letting him stay with him instead, if he can make it there. He smokes a joint but he also loved his Nana, so his chances of survival are fair.

Dean Hagen flew in from Alaska after his mother called to tell him his father was in the ICU after slipping on ice and cracking his hip so he gets brownie points for that. However, he’d “been on a consulting assignment for the past two months there, winnowing out the expendable employees at a manufacturing plant.” The Christmas misery he’s dealt to others may attract some bad karma.

Graham Sawyer picked up his best friend, Clark Brooks, at Boston’s Logan airport. Graham’s wife, Natalie, had wanted Clark to take the bus instead and Graham probably should have listened to her. She’s waiting at home for him with their three daughters. Clark is a divorce attorney from Emeryville, California. They have the potential to be this story’s heroes but not all heroes survive.

Kirk Britton and his girlfriend, Sonya Tackett, are college students with one semester left before graduation. They’re on their way to Sonya’s parents’ home for the holidays. Kirk has a surprise planned for Sonya on Christmas morning but given the horror lore surrounding people who have sex, they’re probably both toast.

Shelby Wallace wasn’t supposed to be driving her two children home from their father’s but he’s drunk. Again. So Shelby is driving Luke (8) and Macey (10) home to spend Christmas with her. Shelby is comfortable in her damsel in distress routine and Macey is kinda whingey so I wasn’t overly attached to their survival. However, I liked Luke; he’s determined and willing to do what he can to be brave in really scary situations.

Werner and Francine Volkmann have been around the country in their RV visiting relatives. They planned to see grandchildren in New Hampshire for Christmas but were behind schedule, so they’re joining the other potential popsicles on the highway.

Finally, Lewis Felker spent Christmas Eve freezing outside a department store ringing his Salvation Army bell, collecting donations. Sure, he stole some of the money to finance his alcoholism but in theory all of that alcohol in his bloodstream should keep him slightly warmer than everyone else. He’s also the one who seems to figure out how dire everyone’s situation is first so maybe he has a chance after all.

I had fun reading this book. I expected more bloodshed and less background information about all of the characters although, to be fair, the relevance of the details of their worst winter memories became apparent as the story unfolded. The reasoning behind why this was happening to this specific group of people seemed a bit flimsy to me but the images of those snowmen helped distract me from most of my lingering questions.

[No, this toothy guy doesn’t line up with the descriptions in the book but I loved him and wanted to share him with you.]

“Things aren’t always what they seem to be.”

The two main questions that are still nagging me:

  1. Why is a Christmas horror story being released in January?

2. What was inside the box in Tucker’s truck?

“Will Santa still come if we’re not home in time?”

Content warnings include mention of death by suicide and alcoholism.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

A group of motorists become stranded on a lonely stretch of highway during a Christmas Eve blizzard and fight for survival against an unnatural force in the storm. The gathered survivors realise a tenuous connection among them means it may not be a coincidence that they all ended up on this highway.

An attempt to seek help leads a few of the travellers to a house in the woods where a twisted toymaker with a mystical snow globe is hell bent on playing deadly games with a group of people just trying to get home for the holidays. 

A Unicorn Named Sparkle #3: A Unicorn Named Sparkle’s First Christmas – Amy Young

I adored A Unicorn Named Sparkle and A New Friend for Sparkle so despite my Bah Humbug tendencies I was excited to read about Sparkle’s first Christmas. I loved the illustrations and the shiny, glittery bits on the cover. I enjoyed seeing Sparkle lapping up his hot chocolate, playing with the birds and ice skating, and I grinned every time an illustration showed the heart shaped marking on his butt.

I was really disappointed by the story though. While I love giving and receiving presents, Lucy’s obsession with presents in this book

and her tantrum made me feel really sorry for poor Sparkle, who she makes cry a puddle of rainbow tears when she declares he’s ruined Christmas. I wish the story had a greater focus on their friendship and the joy they bring to one another rather than shining a spotlight on Lucy’s bad attitude. Yes, Lucy does turn it around in the end but it felt like it was too little, too late and it didn’t undo my desire to give Sparkle a huge hug and adopt him.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

It’s Sparkle’s first Christmas and Lucy is showing him how to celebrate. Make a snowman. Check. Make a unicorn snowman. Check. Hang stockings, make cookies, and, of course – buy presents! (But don’t eat them.) Check. In pure Sparkle fashion, nothing goes as planned, but Lucy ends up learning that love – not presents – is what Christmas is all about.

Hark! The Herald Angels Scream: An Anthology – Christopher Golden (editor)

I’ll be completely upfront with you; I only wanted this book for the Seanan McGuire story. Well, that and the cover image that reminded me of one of the guys from Mars Attacks! playing dress up. I’ve never read Christmas horror before so didn’t know what to expect.

I was hoping this book would contain a bunch of Christmas stories for people who prefer Halloween; serial killer Santas, blood soaked snowmen, Christmas trees that come to life and chase people through the house … What I found were some fun, creepy stories mixed in with a whole pile of stories that just so happened to take place on or around Christmas; Santa, Frosty and Rudolph not even peeking their heads around the corner of the page.

Absinthe & Angels by Kelley Armstrong – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s Christmas Eve and Ava’s childhood fear has just knocked on the front door. The concept was good but felt a bit disjointed for me.

“Give us food. Give us wine. Then our song shall be thine.”

Christmas in Barcelona by Scott Smith – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Murphy’s Law tags along for a Christmas vacation to Barcelona with a couple and their baby. This one started slowly and didn’t feel like it belonged in this collection for most of the story but then it well and truly made up for lost time.

You feel the same thought stirring – everything is going to be okay – but this time you have the wisdom to resist its lure.

Fresh as the New-Fallen Snow by Seanan McGuire – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Seanan has proven, once again, why she’s one of my all time favourite authors! A babysitter tells the story of Snegurochka, the Snow Maiden to Andy, Chloe and Diane. I want to tell you more but don’t want to spoil it!

“She looks for children who could be great, if only the snow that made them were melted down and given to someone else for safekeeping.”

Love Me by Thomas E. Sniegoski – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

The Creeper gets more than he bargained for when he pulls his first job after being released from prison. I enjoyed the buildup but really wanted to know the history of what the Creeper finds in the apartment above the antique store.

”You came to steal from me, I know,” the woman called out.

Not Just For Christmas by Sarah Lotz – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’ve ever thought your pet being able to talk would be adorable you’ll change your mind after reading this one. Technology and the family pet don’t exactly mix. Oodles of swearing in this one.

“Do we really need any more surprises from you this year?”

Tenets by Josh Malerman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Bringing a failed cult leader to your holiday party can really ruin the holiday spirit. I wasn’t sure where this one was going for a while but was getting into it when it abruptly ended. While I can imagine all sorts of things I wanted to see what really happened next.

The last thing she wanted to be thinking about at a holiday party reunion was cults and cult leaders and what all that means and how sad it was if you really broke it down.

Good Deeds by Jeff Strand – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

A man does a good deed and is so proud of himself that he writes a song about how awesome he is. His song changes peoples’ lives, although not for the better. Morbid and sort of amusing (but the type you feel guilty for being amused about), this was one of the weirdest Christmas stories I’ve ever read. I expect the insensitivity of the main character and the subject matter will be offensive to some readers.

The world was a dark, ugly, selfish cesspool of misery, but I’d done my part to shine a ray of joy upon it. With only a credit card, I’d made the universe a better place.

It’s a Wonderful Knife by Christopher Golden – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A sleazy Hollywood producer gets more than he bargained for when he takes an actress on a tour of his collection of rare movie memorabilia. A timely story but not really a Christmas story; just one that happened to be set around Christmas.

“That’s half the fun for a collector. The macabre stuff always goes for top dollar.”

Mistletoe and Holly by James A. Moore – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

A mother of three young boys grieves the loss of her husband as Christmas draws near, but just because she misses him doesn’t necessarily mean she wants him back. This one was predictable but creepy.

It was the holidays. Best to be prepared for the emotional bloodshed.

Snake’s Tail by Sarah Langan – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s Christmas Eve and children are going missing in a little town on the bay. I still have no idea what this one had to do with Christmas other than the time of year it was set.

Yes, the clock chimes, and by the time it stops resonating, the child is gone. Disappeared from her bed.

The Second Floor of the Christmas Hotel by Joe R. Lansdale – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Something awful happened in that room in the Christmas Hotel many years ago and now something wants justice.

The room was fine the rest of the year, no complaints, but come Christmas Eve, no one could make it through a night.

Farrow Street by Elizabeth Hand – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

After her holiday plans fall through, Melanie decides to book accommodation in London and spend some time alone. On Christmas day she ventures out, trying to find an open restaurant, and finds herself in Farrow Street. I don’t think she ever gets her meal. I kept waiting for something to happen and when the action is about to start the story ends.

She cast a final look behind her. A feather of candlelight touched the floor at the foot of the stairs and faded into darkness.

Doctor Velocity by Jonathan Maberry – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Destroyer talks to Doctor Velocity about his desperation and fear of having lost the spark that made his artwork come to life. Doctor Velocity has a Christmas present for him.

“Most often a person has survived because the monster did not want to destroy them all the way. To kill them would be to empty them of screams, of struggle, of fear and pain, and that’s what those monsters feed on.”

Yankee Swap by John M. McIlveen – ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

After avoiding her slimy boss at their work holiday party Kat finds herself in another nightmarish situation, and she’s not alone.

That he had chosen her to go first was a terrible omen that seemed to validate her fear of not leaving there alive.

Honor Thy Mother by Angela Slatter – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Agnes’ family are having Christmas at her home this year; she insisted. Her sons plan to talk her into moving out of her home and into an aged care facility. Agnes’ plan is better.

She likes her privacy, knows it’s integral to her safety; her husband used to joke that if she could have got away with it, she’d have put a plaque on the front fence that read, “Nothing ever happened here.”

Home by Tim Lebbon – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The man and Old Bob make their way through an apocalyptic landscape. Is the man leading Old Bob or is Old Bob leading the man? And where are they going? It’s not until near the end of the story that its connection with Christmas becomes clear.

Standing, stretching, the beauty and horror of what he saw struck home as it did every single morning.

Hiking Through by Michael Koryta – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

While planning a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail a seasoned hiker hears a campfire story about a witch. I really enjoyed this one; I always love a good campfire story.

We all laugh harder around a campfire, because we don’t want to acknowledge that some part of us is deeply concerned about what’s out there just beyond the reach of the firelight.

The Hangman’s Bride by Sarah Pinborough – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The longest story in the collection and one of the best, the characters came to life for me and I want to read more by this author. Without giving away too much, Alexander’s grandfather tells him a story of a chimney sweep whose name is not Tom, a hangman, Miss Darkly, Mr and Mrs West, and the hangman’s bride.

‘People will do terrible things for love.’

Once I got over the gap between my expectation and reality I was able to enjoy most of these stories and have been inspired to attempt to write my own Christmas horror story, with plenty of tinsel, snowmen and blood. Wasn’t it Toni Morrison who said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it”?

Content warnings include suicide, family violence, murder, sexual harassment and kidnapping.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Anchor, an imprint of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, for the opportunity to read this book. My average rating was 3.86 so I’ve rounded up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eighteen stories of Christmas horror from bestselling, acclaimed authors including Scott Smith, Seanan McGuire, Josh Malerman, Michael Koryta, Sarah Pinborough, and many more.

That there is darkness at the heart of the Yuletide season should not surprise. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is filled with scenes that are unsettling. Marley untying the bandage that holds his jaws together. The hideous children – Want and Ignorance – beneath the robe of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. The heavy ledgers Marley drags by his chains. In the finest versions of this story, the best parts are the terrifying parts. 
Bestselling author and editor Christopher Golden shares his love for Christmas horror stories with this anthology of all-new short fiction from some of the most talented and original writers of horror today.

Honey Moon #2: Scary Little Christmas – Sofi Benitez

Illustrations – Becky Minor

Honey Moon just wants to be able to celebrate Christmas like they do in normal towns, but nothing seems to be going right this Christmas. First Honey is cast as a shepherd in the annual Christmas pageant when she’s certain she would be perfectly cast in the role of Mary. Then she discovers that the pageant is in jeopardy this year because evil mayor Kligore is organising a Haunted Holiday Festival instead. Honey also stumbles upon a town mystery and is determined to solve it with the help of her friends.

Throughout the story Honey reminds us to stand up for what we believe in, even when it seems like we’re alone in our convictions. Honey is quite bossy with her friends in this book, with her assertion that she is the leader, and it was nice to see her flaws along with her good intentions. She also reintroduced me to the word numbskull so I should be thanking her for that. I haven’t heard that word used in years and am now determined to find a way to use it in everyday conversation.

The illustrations were so much fun and a great blend of Halloween and Christmas. I particularly loved that the scenes depicted at the beginning of each chapter were inside snow globes. My favourite snow globe scene was the snowman in a black cape with fangs. If I ever see snow I’m sure this will be the inspiration for my first snowman.

One of my pet peeves showed up frequently in this book. The detail in the illustrations didn’t always correspond to the description in the text. This happens a lot in children’s books and I’m not sure whose role attention to detail is, but it really frustrates me. Each instance is only minor but if the text specifically describes how something looks, then I expect that something in the illustration to match its description. Some of the examples in this book include:

  • Mrs Keys is wearing heavy boots. In the illustration she’s not wearing boots.
  • Miss Fortissimo was wearing a necklace that was so long it reached past her belly button. I didn’t see a necklace in the illustration.
  • Honey and her friends have fries and milkshakes. In the illustration there are milkshakes but no fries.
  • Honey is sitting on a bench with her little brother. Her little brother is not in the illustration.
  • The spots on a turtle shell are all different colours. In the illustration the turtle is only green. On the front cover the turtle is green with white segments on its shell.

While overall I enjoyed reading Dog Daze more than this book (although I am quite partial to the first book in a series), I was still entertained and it made me laugh. I liked the story and the development of the mystery, and I love Honey’s determination and courage. I’m definitely interested in reading more Honey Moon books.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Rabbit Publishers and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Honey Moon has had it with the scary stuff, at least for Christmas. She wants Sleepy Hollow to celebrate her favourite holiday like normal people. Honey and her friends, Becky, Claire and Isabela, have one chance to take the holiday back, but it means solving a decade old mystery and ringing some bells. YIKES!

Harry Moon: Harry’s Christmas Carol – Mark Andrew Poe

Don’t be afraid of the dark.

It’s Christmas time in Sleepy Hollow, or ‘Spooky Town’ as evil mayor Maximus Kligore turned the town into when it became a Halloween tourist attraction year round. Now, I’m all for year round Halloween festivities (Bah humbug!) but Harry Moon is on a mission to light up the pervading darkness of the town.

Harry’s magic teacher and friend, Samson, has been attacked by the mayor and his evil hordes’ Fouling Curse, and it’s up to Harry and his Good Mischief Team to battle evil toys and the powers of darkness to save Samson – along with the town’s Christmas spirit. Along the way Harry makes a new friend, learning not to judge someone by their outward appearance.

I loved the inventiveness of the anti-Christmas carols that the evil mayor pumps through the town’s airwaves, and replacing chapter with verse was a simple yet appropriate nod to the carols, anti and otherwise, that featured in the book. My favourite descriptions related to the colours of Lady Dra Dra’s wigs, which at one point was puke-lemon.

The illustrations were a great blend of Christmas and Halloween, with the images at the beginning of each chapter foreshadowing an event to come. I find the expressions on the character’s faces in the illustrations for this series are particularly wonderful, especially the evil grin on the mayor’s face in this book.

I’m not quite sure why Jesus couldn’t just be called Jesus. It is a Christmas book after all and while He is referred to as the Great Magician, in keeping with the magical aspects throughout the series, it irked me. There are sections where the Bible is either quoted or paraphrased during the book but at no time are these attributed as such. I did think that the Mr B.L. Zebub character’s name was clever though.

I expects children will love reading about the different varieties of jellybeans described – blue Penguin Poop, purple Reindeer Poop, and for when the purple inevitably sells out there’s the standby red and green swirled Elf Poop! The Halloween fans will also appreciate the town’s festive decorations – green dragon tails forming garlands and light posts wrapped with white bandages mixed with fake blood to imitate candy canes.

Favourite sentence:

“For the Great Magician and his deep magic can best be seen in the selfless love between one to another.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

While everyone is singing cheerful Christmas carols, Harry Moon and the Good Mischief Team march to a different song – Don’t be Afraid of the Dark. With their swords of light, the team battles against the Fouling Curse threatening Harry’s magic teacher, Samson Dupree, and the Sleepy Hollow Magic Shoppe. As evil armies of toys rise up, Harry must leave the sword behind to find a more powerful means to take down the darkness threatening Sleepy Hollow’s entire world. 

Merry Christmas, Hugless Douglas – David Melling

In this book you’ll search for the little robin that is in each scene. There are snow angels, tree hugging (by Douglas), snowman building, a Christmas tree with a difference and an adorable reindeer called Rudi. Rudi stole the show for me. His nose jingles, he’s blue and he has magic. I loved the illustrations and expect this will be a popular read in the lead up to Christmas this year.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Hugless Douglas knows what Christmas is all about – snowing sheep, finding a tree, sledging and and making new friends like Rudi the Reindeer! And one more thing of course … Christmas hugs!

All I Want for Christmas – Rachel Bright

OK, this is the one! Even though I live in the Southern Hemisphere and am therefore not exactly dreaming of a white Christmas, if I was wandering through a bookstore looking for a kiddie Christmas book, this is the one I’d be taking home with me.

Why? Call me superficial but the small things really can be big things for me. At just a glance of the front cover I’m greeted by two colourful penguins in striped beanies and the dot on the i in Christmas is a snowflake. Then when I turn over to the back cover, our cute as a button penguins are putting a glowing star on top of a Christmas tree and some of the tree’s decorations are smiley fish!

So, by judging a book by its cover we already have a winner but then inside the story told in rhymes and the illustrations are aww-worthy. We follow Big Penguin and Little Penguin prepare for their Christmas celebration and while the presents are wonderful, what’s even better is the love they share. Aww! Heart melted.

P.S. There’s a giant teddy bear close to the middle of the book that I’ve already claimed. You may borrow it if you ask nicely.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Two penguins discover that love is the perfect gift at Christmas in this sparkling festive picture book!

The countdown to Christmas has begun and there is so much for Little Penguin to be excited about: decorating the tree, cooking festive treats, sending a letter to Santa, wrapping presents, and much more. But what does Big Penguin want for Christmas? The answer will warm the hearts of every penguin, big or small!

Disney Manga: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – Jun Asuka

It’s Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas! It’s my very first manga experience! What’s not to love?!

OK, so you know the story of The Nightmare Before Christmas, right? If you said “no” I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear you and wait here patiently while you go watch the movie…

[Christmas carol elevator music plays in the background]

OK, so you know the story of The Nightmare Before Christmas, right? Great!!!

So you know that in Halloween Town, Jack the Pumpkin King is over it! After another successful Halloween Jack is disillusioned and wanders off, followed by his trusty ghost dog Zero. I love Zero! After finding a Christmas tree shaped door in a tree trunk Jack stumbles into Christmas Town where he discovers snow, colour and the wonders of Christmas. Jack decides he’s going to be Sandy Claws this year and gets the freaky folks of Halloween Town involved in the preparations. Then things kind of fall apart. Can Sally, who’s secretly in love with Jack, help to save the day? Will the kidnapped Santa Claus ever make it back to Christmas Town? Can Christmas be saved?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then obviously you haven’t been paying attention. I’ll wait here patiently while you go watch the movie…

[Christmas carol elevator music plays in the background]

Right, so now we all know the story, let me say that this manga book is absolutely brilliant! If this is what manga is all about then I’ve been seriously missing out. This story stays true to the magic of the original and the artwork still feels like you’re walking through Tim Burton’s mind. With the cover illustration by Natsuki Minami and manga by Jun Asuka, I’m sold!

Kids and adults alike will appreciate this book. It’s suitable for those who decorate their trees by November and still have them up in January and it’s also a great read for those like me whose December catchphrase is ‘Bah, humbug!’. Plus, there’s Halloween Town! Need I say any more??

Thank you so much to NetGalley, TokyoPop and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King, the ruler of Halloween Town and master of all things creepy and spooky. But he’s tired of his life in the shadows and longs for something new. When he accidentally stumbles upon Christmas Town, he decides this is the perfect chance to try his hand at a brand new holiday and is convinced he’ll have the world yelling “Scary Christmas”! With the young patchwork doll Sally trying to dissuade him and the evil Oogie Boogie waiting in the wings to take over Halloween Town in Jack’s absence, he’d better hurry if he wants to get his plan in place by December 25th!