Secrets of Camp Whatever Volume 1 – Chris Grine

Spoilers Ahead! (marked in purple)

This is such a fun read!

Willow’s family have just moved to Nowhere and while her parents are getting the ghosts out the cellar (maybe literally), she’s been sent to Camp … Whatever for a week. Willow isn’t thrilled about the move or camp, but at least she’ll be getting a week’s respite from Gryphin, her younger brother.

There’s more to Camp … Whatever than meets the eye, and it’s not just because of the thick fog that covers the island. There are the mysteries of the missing candy and missing children to solve, the cook is suspected of being a vampire and there are weird gnomes everywhere. The Camp Director has plenty of his own stories to tell

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and the island even has its very own spooky legend.

“When the blood of my blood is spilled from a star, and the shadows of elves return from afar, I will once again walk this plane bringing death in tow.”

Willow and her new friends, Violet, Emma and Molly, won’t have much times for arts and crafts at this camp. They’ve got too many secrets to uncover.

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Eleven year old Willow is adventurous and smart, and she’s never short of ideas or plans, even if they defy the rules. She’s someone you’d have a lot of fun being friends with, if you didn’t mind getting into some trouble along the way. Willow has hearing aids and her ability to sign becomes an important part of the story.

I loved the illustrations and had no trouble following the story or getting to know the characters. The only thing that’s niggling at me is why, given the circumstances, Toast couldn’t have told Elric the names of the other gnomes and saved him nearly thirty years of trying to guess them.

The target audience mentioned on the Simon & Schuster website is 9 to 12 years but this adult loved it and is hooked! I can’t wait for the next volume!

While I definitely want to explore more of Camp … Whatever (I have to see some fog leeches!), I’m just as keen to find out what secrets are hiding in the town of Nowhere and I need to find out if there really are ghosts in the cellar of Willow’s new home.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Oni Press for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Eleven year-old Willow doesn’t want to go to her dad’s weird old summer camp any more than she wants her family to move to the weird old town where that camp is located. But her family – and fate itself – seem to have plans of their own. Soon Willow finds herself neck-deep in a confounding mystery involving stolen snacks, suspected vampires, and missing campers, all shrouded in the sinister fog that hides a generation of secrets at Camp … Whatever it’s called.

The Phantom of the Opera: The Graphic Novel – Varga Tomi

Everything that is underground belongs to him!

Apologies in advance for making this review more about my first and favourite musical than the graphic novel I just read. It’s just brought back so many wonderful memories!

I first saw The Phantom of the Opera in 1992. My school’s music classes were going on an interstate excursion to see the musical and a few of us who weren’t studying music as an elective managed to find a way to tag along. I finally understood why my Nan loved musicals so much.

I was already quite familiar with the Angel of Music because when I stayed with my grandparents my Nan and I would listen to it on repeat (on cassette) while we played cards late at night. My Pop would be trying to sleep in the next room but every time a new song began Nan and I would get up and dance around the room. Poor Pop … Saint that he was, he never once complained. You would have loved my grandparents!

As an adult I got to see Phantom again, this time with my mother in 2008. Mum fell in love with it as well and although Nan had died a couple of years beforehand we’re pretty sure she was there too. We had seats directly in front of the orchestra so it was an even bigger buzz when the chandelier flew over our heads!

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Although I haven’t read the book (yet!) the graphic novel included many of my favourite scenes from the musical. The Phantom’s face was more skeletal than I had been expecting but it worked. I wasn’t so sure about his red eyes. I expect the detail of some of the darker scenes will be more vivid in print.

Some of the fonts, particularly those used in the letters, were quite difficult to read in the ARC. Hopefully the higher resolution of the published version will render these more legible.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, A Wave Blue World and Diamond Book Distributors for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

The Phantom of the Opera, the iconic gothic romance, is retold with all the spectacle its legend demands in this devoted graphic novel adaptation that marries stunning artwork with Gaston Leroux’s haunting prose.

Everyone has heard the whispered tales of the phantom who lives beneath the opera house, the mysterious trickster behind all the little mishaps and lost things. But no one has ever seen the monster … until now. When the promise of blossoming love lures him out from his intricately constructed hideaways in the labyrinthine building’s walls and cellars, a hideously disfigured artist trains the lovely Christine to be the opera’s next star for a steep price. Does she choose her newfound success or her beloved Count Raoul? This doomed love triangle threatens to combust when a tragic death, a series of betrayals, and increasingly dangerous accidents cast the players of The Palais Garnier into a heart-wrenching horror story that will echo through the ages. 

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. 

Alien Nate – Dave Whamond

Nate is setting out on an intergalactic search. His mission?

🍕 Find pizza.
🍕 Eat pizza.
🍕 Bring pizza back to his planet.

The tastebuds of his fellow Vegans are depending on him.

Soon after crash landing on Earth, Nate meets one of the locals, Fazel.

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Eluding capture by representatives from the Men in Black Beige, Fazel manages to hide Nate at his house. Fazel introduces his new friend to more of Earth’s delicacies, including donuts, and all of the other wonders Earth has to offer.

The Men in Beige aren’t going to give up their search for this purple alien easily though.

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This is a cute story about the importance of friendship, teamwork and using your imagination, although the narrative felt a bit disjointed at times. While younger readers will probably really enjoy seeing Nate trying to fit in at school and discovering new things, some of the pop culture references are likely to fly straight over their heads.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for the opportunity to read this graphic novel.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Nate’s on a mission to Earth from the planet Vega. His goal: eat pizza! Luckily, soon after he crash-lands on Earth he meets Fazel, who helps him create a disguise, learn the ways of Earthlings and, most importantly, stuff himself with pizza! Nate quickly discovers there are lots of things to love about Earth and Earthlings besides pizza. He’s having a blast! There’s only one problem. Two Men in Beige (government agents) are desperate to capture him and bring him to their lab – and they’re starting to close in. Will Fazel and Nate manage to elude the Men in Beige while they find fuel for Nate’s spacecraft so he can head home? And will Nate have had his fill of pizza by then? 

Here’s a sidesplittingly funny graphic novel from multiple-award-winning writer, illustrator and cartoonist Dave Whamond. With its irreverent humour and high energy, it’s a perfect pick for emerging readers. Along with the fun, the lovable main character models an eagerness to learn new things and broaden his horizons and, together with Fazel, is able to look past surface differences to find friendship and a shared sense of adventure. There are terrific character education lessons here on adaptability, inclusiveness (even of “aliens”) and teamwork.

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.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn #11: Camping with Unicorns – Dana Simpson

It’s time to hang out with Marigold Heavenly Nostrils’ favourite unicorn (herself, of course!) and her human, Phoebe.

Once again it’s summer vacation and there’s so much to do, once Phoebe winds down from school.

Phoebe attempts to teacher Marigold how to lie.

Max and Phoebe play hide and seek, and Phoebe and Marigold play some games where everyone wins. Well, sometimes. Meanwhile Dakota is enjoying all of the perks of being a goblin princess, from the the tiara to the luxury of being transported upon her “throne thingy”, complete with cup holders.

After spending so long being frenemies, Phoebe and Dakota decide it’s time to reboot their friendship. I wholeheartedly approve of this development because it means more Dakota! I love Dakota!

Phoebe and Max’s families go camping together. When they’re not roasting marshmallows around the campfire or attracting the local wildlife,

Phoebe, Max and Marigold enjoy nature (and meet a unicorn who is roughing it).

I learned that unicorns look even more adorable when they’re wearing swimsuits and discovered why schools are much more interesting during summer vacation. I tagged along with Marigold as she entertained herself while Phoebe was at school and decided Marigold’s favourite magical loophole is now one of my own favourites. Phoebe’s own loophole was a familiar one.

When I realised this collection would mostly take place during summer vacation I expected to see a rehash of previous summers with Phoebe and Marigold. I’m not sure if it’s just because I needed a unicorn fix but this collection felt really fresh. New characters were introduced and I learned something new about some I’ve known since the first collection.

I hope I don’t have to wait too long for my next magical unicorn fix. I’ll definitely be rereading this collection and most likely revisiting some earlier ones in the meantime.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Life is never boring when your best friend is a unicorn! The latest installment in this bestselling series is full of mischief, magic and adventure — as well as an important reminder to always stay true to yourself.

School’s out, so Phoebe and her unicorn best friend, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, have the entire summer to play games, visit the pool, and even go camping. Unicorn horns are excellent utensils for roasting things over the campfire, too, even if Marigold prefers toasted apples to s’mores. While exploring in the woods, Phoebe and friends meet a unicorn named Alabaster, who uses a special video game console that’s powered by plants. Throughout her summer adventures, Phoebe learns that being cool isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that it’s much better to be your true self. It’s all part of the unforgettable experience of Camping with Unicorns

Monstress Volume 4: The Chosen – Marjorie Liu

Illustrations – Sana Takeda

Spoilers Ahead!

Two things happened when I finished reading Monstress Volume 3:

I learned that I was simultaneously desperate to continue reading and scared that something awful would happen to Kippa. My fear for Kippa won and I’ve been putting off reading this Volume for months now as a result.

I bought Book One, the signed Barnes & Noble exclusive version, and it’s gorgeous! It even includes postcards, which feature some of Sana Takeda’s extraordinary artwork.

Just in case I wasn’t already too invested in Kippa’s wellbeing, this Volume begins by upping her adorability quotient to infinity by showing me baby Kippa! Because apparently my emotions are fair game. Aww!! Incidentally, toddler Maika is also a sweetheart.

Maika and Corvin are trying to find Kippa, who is being taken to the ‘doctor’. That sounds ominous. In their travels Maika winds up seeing her father.

While all of the adults are strategising for the coming war it’s Kippa who again softens the narrative with her ability to forgive someone who betrayed her.

“I can’t abandon people because they make mistakes – I would have to abandon myself.”

I’m not always entirely clear what’s happening at all times or whose side I should be on but I do know one thing: war is coming, people, and it’s not gonna be pretty.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Maika and Corvin make their way through a warped and lethal land in search of Kippa, who is faced with her own terrible monsters. But when Maika comes face to face with a stranger from her deep past, startling truths are uncovered, and at the center of it all lurks a dangerous conspiracy that threatens the Known World. Maika is finally close to getting all the answers she ever wanted, but at what price? With war on the horizon, a war no one wants to stop, whose side will Maika choose?

Collects Monstress 19-24. 

Skyward Volume 3: Fix the World – Joe Henderson

Illustrations – Lee Garbett

Colours – Antonio Fabela

When we last saw Willa, she was on her way to Kansas City.

She’s decoded the treasure map in her father’s journal, even though she’s not entirely sure what it means, and it’s time to fix the world.

Meanwhile, Edison is in Chicago, where his story of giant bugs sounds like a lie to those who haven’t seen them before. It’s not.

All hell is breaking loose but it’s okay because Willa has an idea.

I wasn’t sure how to explain the wrap up of this series because everything I want to say includes spoilers. Thankfully Joe Henderson wrote this at the end of the Volume.

SKYWARD started out as the story of a father who is afraid of everything and a daughter who is fearless. It ends as a story of a woman who has experienced true fear and overcome it, becoming stronger for the experience.

On a broader level, this book is a story about fear and how humanity can overcome it. In today’s climate, I wanted to tell a story about hope and empathy, and the strength that comes from them. The world can never be fixed: it was always broken, just in a different way. All we can do is our best with what we’ve got. Try to make it the best world it can be. Approach life from hope, not fear.

After being enthralled by the first two Volumes I’m sorry to say that this final one didn’t really wow me. There’s some more action, romance and a blast from the past but the reveals and resolution were pretty underwhelming and I’m so disappointed that I can’t shout from the rooftops about how extraordinary the ending was. Maybe I expected too much after the build up of the first two Volumes.

Regardless, I still loved the artwork and am looking forward to seeing the movie when it’s released.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Willa’s faced terrifying storms, giant man-eating bugs, a deadly rebellion and a whole lot of heartbreak, but nothing can prepare her for this. It’s time for Willa to fulfill her father’s last request. Time to fix the world. But a revelation will rock Willa to her core and test her in ways she never imagined possible.

Collects Skyward 11-15.