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.

Unplugged and Unpopular – Mat Heagerty

Illustrations – Tintin Pantoja & Mike Amante

Spoilers Ahead!

Erin Song lives in Culver City, California, with her parents. She hasn’t managed to crack the popularity code yet.

While her best friend Cody doesn’t care about popularity, Erin does. This results in her going against her better judgement and helping the most popular girl in school cheat off her during an exam.

When they get caught Erin’s parents ground her. Her punishment? No access to anything with a screen, so basically her entire existence.

When she’s no longer attached to her phone Erin begins to notice things she never has before, like aliens!

It quickly becomes clear that the aliens haven’t come in peace and it’s up to Erin, her grandmother and twin librarians, Joe and Charlie, to save the world.

I enjoyed the illustrations and use of colour in this graphic novel. I particularly liked it when a noise was mentioned and words to describe it lined up with what was happening, for example, “breaking glass” was spelled with shards of broken glass.

This story takes place in the near future; Erin’s grandmother is pictured as a young woman in the 1980’s and her parents grew up sans internet. While I love that the majority of the heroes live in retirement homes, this story also perpetuates the myth that older people and technology don’t mix. Besides Erin, who’s not using technology because she’s grounded, the only other people in the story who aren’t glued to their devices are elderly.

I don’t think librarians will particularly like the comment about how the internet has resulted in libraries no longer being used. This is certainly not my experience as a frequent library user. All of the librarians I know are very tech savvy and I see people of all ages in my local library.

There are clues early on in the story about what’s really happening if you pay attention to what’s being said and details in the pictures. I loved that the president in this near future version of America is female and I had fun picking up on the background details, like the movie poster advertising Jaws 26. This naturally reminded me of when Doc’s Delorean arrived in 2015 and Marty McFly encountered the hologram shark from Jaws 19.

I really liked the points this story makes about popularity and how invaluable grandparents are in kids’ lives. This graphic novel also includes not so subtle commentary about the overuse of technology, with people so focused on the screen in front of them that they miss out on the reality that’s happening all around them. Considering that this story’s target audience are growing up surrounded by the glow of screens, it makes a good point.

My childhood would have been vastly different if I’d had access to the technology kids have on hand today and while I know I would have loved the internet as a kid I’m consistently grateful that social media didn’t exist back in the Dark Ages of my childhood.

While the majority of the story flowed well for me, I couldn’t figure out how Erin’s grandmother’s retirement home suddenly became an electronics store. Was this somehow part of the mind control? I reread this story to try to make sense of this but I’m still not clear about it.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

After Erin Song’s parents ban her from using her phone, TV, Internet, and all her screens, she soon discovers mysterious, strange creatures and must foil their plot to take over Earth in this hilarious sci-fi graphic novel for tweens.

Erin Song lives in a digital world. Everyone has a phone, a tablet, a computer – more screens than you can count. Even with a world of information at her fingertips, Erin can’t figure out the secret to popularity at her clique-y junior high school. So when uber-popular Wendy asks for help cheating on a test, Erin jumps at the opportunity. This could be her big break! Unfortunately, she gets caught, and her parents ban her from all her devices. Suddenly, Erin Song is the only girl in the world who’s not allowed to look at a screen.

And that’s when Erin notices something funny: small, furry aliens making humans disappear with a weird device Erin’s never seen before. No one else notices them, though – except Erin’s grandmother and two old men who run the local library. They’ve discovered that the aliens are using screens to control the human race, tricking them into thinking they aren’t really there – and that anyone who’s been abducted never existed. 

Now it’s up to Erin and her grandmother to save the day! But without technology on their side, do they stand a chance?

Kim Reaper Volume 1: Grim Beginnings – Sarah Graley

Kim Reaper Vol. 1: Grim Beginnings combines the first four issues of this fun new series. Becka and Kim are both studying fine arts at university but Becka’s crush on Kim, which consists of staring dreamily at the back of her head in class, is the sum total of their interaction. Becka’s friend Tyler finally convinces her to ask Kim out so after class she follows Kim, who disappears into a portal in the corridor.

Naturally this is a job for social media so Becka gets ready to capture this moment for internet posterity but then her phone and Becka both get sucked into the portal. It turns out that Becka’s crush has a part time job to help pay her way through uni and to fund her expensive goth clothes. Kim is … 🥁 … a reaper … of animals because she hasn’t been promoted to reaping people yet. 😊

What follows is a process of the two girls getting to know each other, visiting each other’s favourites places and a few other fairly typical getting to know you scenarios, like encountering a cat hoarding gym junkie energy drink addict hulk, zombies 🧟‍♀️ 🧟‍♂️, bed cookies, ghouls, and going to hell via the employee’s entrance.

I wasn’t quite sure what I expected from this collection. I was sucked in purely based on the wonderful cover image and its implied promise of purple tones throughout. I got the purples I was looking for along with a beautiful soft colour scheme. All of the illustrations were really sweet and I was impressed that both girls actually had curves.

The stories were interesting and the budding relationship between Becka and Kim was cute, with arguments along the way before their first kiss. Aww! 😘 While the language used came across as a bit too young for the characters, I was entertained for the entire ride. The strange occurrences in the stories took me deeper into this world instead of the jarring effect I sometimes experience. I had no problem believing anything was possible in this world and I look forward to finding out what’s next for this cute new couple.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Part-Time Grim Reaper. Full-Time Cutie!

Like most university students, Kim works a part-time job to make ends meet. Unlike most university students, Kim’s job is pretty cool: she’s a grim reaper, tasked with guiding souls into the afterlife.

Like most university students, Becka has a super intense crush. Unlike most university students, Becka’s crush is on a beautiful gothic angel that frequents the underworld. Of course, she doesn’t know that.

Unaware of the ghoulish drama she’s about to step into, Becka finally gathers up the courage to ask Kim on a date! But when she falls into a ghostly portal and interrupts Kim at her job, she sets off a chain of events that will pit the two of them against angry cat-dads, vengeful zombies, and perhaps even the underworld itself. But if they work together, they just might make it … and maybe even get a smooch in the bargain.

The Altered History of Willow Sparks – Tara O’Connor

I love a story that makes me think about what I’d do in a character’s position. In The Altered History of Willow Sparks Willow is essentially a book nerd. She is regularly tormented by the school’s resident ‘mean girl’, she loves to read, she works after school at the local library and her friends, Georgia and Gary, don’t appear to be winning any popularity contests either. Oh, she also has pimples, thinks her hair makes her look like a boy and sucks at dodgeball.

Willow accidentally comes across a hidden room filled with books, including one with her name on the spine. Naturally she takes ‘her’ book home and discovers that by writing in this book she can rewrite parts of her life. Of course nothing this magical comes without a price.

I flew through this one. Yes, it was predictable but it was also an entertaining read. Because it’s one of my all time favourite movies I did wonder if Twin Pines High School was a nod to Back to the Future.

I adored the use of blue tones in the illustrations and art critic that I am (ha!) I really liked the feel of the artwork. Perhaps it’s because the same person wrote and illustrated this graphic novel but there wasn’t the jarring I’ve felt recently with other graphic novels. I’m not quite sure how to explain this but it was as though there was a harmony between the words and pictures, so the story flowed seamlessly for me.

When you see Willow making changes to her life your mind naturally does a stocktake of your own life. Circumstances outside of our control aside, we basically do write our own lives anyway, but it is kind of intoxicating to think of the what ifs.

What would you write into your life if you had the power?

What would you write out of it?

Would the consequences outweigh the benefits of the changes?

Personally I can think of a number of things I may consider rewriting but I don’t think I actually would in most instances. While the sucky things in life obviously suck, good can come out of the suckiest of situations. It’s certainly an interesting concept to play around with at any rate.

It’s probably the caffeine flowing through my veins but I loved that there’s a tally in the ‘special features’ section at the end of how much caffeine was consumed by Tara O’Connor during the writing and illustrating process. In case you’re curious, she drank 1460 cups of coffee, 730 cups of tea and 12 espressos. There’s also a list of some of the music that she listened to. It’s the inclusion of this sort of unique quirkiness that makes me love a book even more and feel like I could sit down and have a chat to the author.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

What if you had the power to rewrite your life?

Willow Sparks and her best friend Georgia Pratt are at the bottom of the social ladder at Twin Pines High School, just trying to get through each day relatively unscathed. But when Willow finds a mysterious book that allows her to literally change her life, it feels like her luck is finally turning. 

As she becomes more popular with each entry into the book, her old life, including her friendship with Georgia, seems miles away. Yet as Willow will soon discover, every action has a reaction, and the future has unusual – even dangerous – ways of protecting itself.

Archival Quality – Ivy Noelle Weir

Illustrations – Steenz

This should have been the perfect graphic novel for me. I hate writing negative reviews and I want you to know there are plenty of really positive reviews too. I would encourage you, if you’re considering reading this graphic novel, to check out some of the 4 and 5 star reviews as well. Just because it wasn’t for me doesn’t mean it won’t be for you. 😊

Our main character, Celeste Walden (Cel), has lost her dream job in a library as a result of a breakdown, lives at home and has been in a five year relationship with Kyle. Kyle sometimes comes across as fairly passive aggressive but most of the time he appears genuinely concerned about his girlfriend’s mental health. Kyle like The X Files so I figure he must be a good guy.

Despite Kyle’s concerns Cel winds up with a job at the Logan Museum as an archivist. The archivist job comes with a fully furnished apartment, which is pretty sweet deal for someone who scans antique medical documents and photos for a living.

Almost immediately Cel starts losing time, dreaming of a girl she’s never met but feels compelled to help and items tend to move around unassisted. Her boyfriend is understandably worried about her mental health and she’s pretty good at being the cranky girl pushing people away.

Cel’s boss is Holly Park, the Head Librarian, who’s worked at the museum for three year, has a girlfriend called Gina, and rocks purple hair with a couple of sections of blue. Prior to this job Holly was a medical student.

Abayomi Abiola (Aba) is the 29 year old chief curator who manages the collections and is kind of a mystery for much of the book. He’s standoffish and cold, and you get the impression he knows more about the museum than he lets on.

I spent the majority of the graphic novel wondering how the museum stays open when there are apparently very few customers. I was so close to giving up for more than half of the story because it seemed to drag out, I had no connection with (and didn’t particularly like) any of the characters and the plot didn’t seem that cohesive.

There were mysteries of who the girl was that Cel was dreaming about and if there was a connection between Cel and her, who the Board members were, what they did and why Cel wasn’t allowed on the third floor, what happened to the previous curator that vanished, and what the deal was with Aba. Some questions were answered but frustratingly others weren’t.

I did appreciate the diversity in the characters as well as the exploration of how people with mental health conditions have been treated and mistreated throughout psychiatric history.

Ultimately though, I was expecting more from this paranormal mystery and unfortunately I was fairly bored for most of the story. While I know people experience mental health conditions differently I found Cel’s character irritating, particularly the amount of time she spent snapping at the other characters. Frankly I was surprised she made it past the interview to get the job in the first place and shocked she managed to keep the job.

Favourite line (by Holly)

Content warnings include mental health.

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

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everything you need to know is in the archives.

The Logan Museum is a mysterious old building practically covered in skulls, and also the new workplace of Celeste “Cel” Walden, a librarian who was let go from her previous job after a mental breakdown. But Cel is desperate to feel useful, and Abayomi Abiola, the Logan Museum’s chief curator, is desperate to hire a new archivist. 

Cel soon realizes the job is unlike any other she’s had. There’s an apartment onsite she’s required to live in, she only works in the middle of the night, and she definitely gets the impression that there’s more to the museum than Abayomi and her new boss, Holly Park are letting on. 

And then strange things start happening. Odd noises. Objects moving. Vivid, terrifying dreams of a young woman Cel’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. A woman who for some reason needs Cel’s help.

As Cel attempts to learn more about her, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out – there’s no denying the job is becoming dangerous. But Cel can’t let go of the woman in her dreams. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save herself?