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New Reviews! #manga #comics

Published November 21, 2017 by admin

I know, I need to get caught up, though this time I do have a decent-ish excuse. Writing has taken me away a bit this month, but I’ll get to that on another post. In the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to:

babyandme.jpg

This tends to be one of my stress/comfort reading series, and it’s really good for a wide range of ages or if you’re looking to get into manga with a low-stakes, easy plot. It’s also cute as can be and hilarious. To read my full review of Baby & Me, check out Violet’s blog!

Crogan's Adventures

Adventure, history, and genealogy are front and center in the Crogan’s Adventures series. Framed by incidents in the modern-day Crogan family life, each volume looks at a different ancestor in a different point in time. It’s a great series to get kids hooked on history and interested in their own family trees. Check out the full review here!

petshop

 

This was one of the first manga series that I read, and if you like anthology horror it’s a really unique way to get into reading manga. All of the stories are linked to the mysterious Count D’s petshop that sells animals of a more…exotic variety, let’s say. And with strange pets, come contracts, and with broken contracts, comes a price. To read my full review, check out the smells like sheep blog!

alice

Pushing the horror theme just a leetle bit longer, I take a look at the first volume of Alice in Wonderland by Kaori Yuki. There’s some great things here, some things to consider, and I also discuss what it means when you can only find the first volume of something. To read my full review, go here!

 

 

 

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SJ Reads: On Writing

Published November 20, 2017 by admin

I feel like this is such a typical book to recommend, I shouldn’t put it on the list, but truthfully, it’s damn good. I have mixed feelings on Stephen King as a whole, but no one can argue with his career and output, and this is truly a really unique, interesting way to illustrate a writing career.

on writing

 

Part memoir, part resource on the craft, this title digs deep. You really get a sense of why King writes the themes he does, how he developed his craft, and how it relates to him as a person. He especially relates a lot to his accident (I think this may have been written recently after), and it really shows how much a cellular part of him writing is.

The back half of the book is his suggestions on writing mechanics, a reading list, and even an example of how he edits his work. It’s definitely worth it for that alone, and together the sections really make this a powerhouse of a title. I’ve read it, I’ve listened to it on audio, and I keep coming back to it. Every time I go through my books, this always ends up in the keep pile, and for good reason.

Granted, after reading his fiction off and on for years part of me feels he breaks some of his own rules, and a few things come off a little heavy handed in the back section to me, but then again he’s Stephen King and I’m not. It’s definitely worth a cursory read, as a writer at probably any level will find some sort of takeaway, even if it’s just a reminder of things to keep an eye out for. This is especially good for the new writer or one who feels stuck. It’s no coincidence that so many writing books also pull from the author’s personal experience, and King does this especially well in the first section of the book. His casual and commiserating tone definitely make this book more approachable than some of the more technique-oriented books out there.

Get it here!

SJ Reads: Writing Down the Bones

Published November 13, 2017 by admin

This was actually one of the first writing books that was recommended to me, and one that was given to me, as well. I’ve read it a few times, though it’s been a while. Probably time to read it again.

writing down the bones

This probably works for me because it’s lined up inadvertantly with some of my own explorations into Zen, and I like the admission that both are a constant practice. The author does a wonderful job of painting specific examples to illustrate her points, often from her own life and experience. There are some great writing prompts in here, as well. Over all, she gives the reader (and writer) a lot to think about. I find myself still thinking on bits and pieces of this book when I haven’t read it, and it’s forced me to be more conscious of my own journey and daily experience.

It’s a decidedly postive, encouraging book, as well, so even if some of the information is things that you could find in a lot of writing books, it feels incredibly supportive coming from these pages. You don’t feel like it’s some high and mighty mega-bestseller writing this to fulfill a quota or to humble brag or whatever. Natalie Goldberg clearly cares about the craft and wants to share her enthusiasm for it. That alone is enough to put this book on my shelf over some others. This was the book that got me writing daily once upon a time, that got me willing to just put words down without knowing what they were necessarily for. It’s done me a lot of good over and over again, so I definitely think it’s one worth exploring.

Definitely check it out!

 

 

 

SJ Reads: Steal Like an Artist/Show Your Work

Published November 6, 2017 by admin

Since so many people are doing Nanowrimo, I thought it might be interesting to focus SJ Reads this month on books about writing and creating. I know, way to get original, amirite?

Anywho, let’s start with something light and easy.

I’d had the books of Austin Kleon recommended to me before, but because I am a stubborn beast, I put off reading them. Which I shouldn’t have, because they’re really easy to get through. Deceptively so. They’re the type of books that you can read in a sitting, then immediately have to reread so you can get the full effect.

steal like an artist

 

I really like how empowering this book is, plus his unique approach to his own art and writing is really fun to look at. Kleon discusses how he came upon his technique, plus he walks people through what it really means to be an artist with the obvious experience of someone who’s been there. There are some nuts and bolts things, but there’s also a lot of positivity and encouragement, something that artists of all types just don’t always get enough of. Based on an address to college students, this book is filled with great material that a reader can go back to over and over again. The words are also the graphics, so there’s a lot to take in visually from an actual artistic perspective, as well. This is something that’s really nice for people who are starting to get into their career, or who may need a pick-me-up.  It’s nothing to do with specific technique so much as it is helping you lay out your journey and not feel so alone. Get it here!

show your work

This one is more about marketing (though it’s not really based around that concept). This leads with the idea that generosity and using a network trump networking. Admittedly, this one has been harder to stay with, not because I necessarily disagree with it, but either I haven’t been in the right frame of mind each time I go to read it, or it just doesn’t flow as well as the first book. It does feel like there’s a little more nitty gritty to this one, so it’s a title I plan on going back to. Definitely worth a look, as well. Get it here!

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads: Hester

Published October 30, 2017 by admin

Time to round out the month with another nostalgic Halloween read! This week’s pick will be one of my favorites from when I was a kidlet, and likely one that only people who date back to bronze age (like me) will remember. I give you: Hester.

 

Hester

 

Hester is an alligator who’s getting ready for her Halloween party, but has time to spare. She goes out trick-or-treating, but ends up at a house that is owned by a very nice older lady and her friends. Since this book isn’t easy to find and has been out forever, spoilers ahead:

Hester totally trick or treats at a haunted house, but it’s full of nice monsters who are happy to have a visitor (and if memory serves, they let her in because she’s dressed as a witch, herself). There’s also a vignette where she helps the older lady (a witch) with some broom issues.

This is a super-cute book with some really vibrant and vivid illustrations. I remember checking out this particular title all year round as a kid, because I had a thing for exploring haunted houses (and this book is probably responsible for me thinking that any inhabitants of such houses would be a friendly delight, setting up my childhood mind to get wrecked by adverts for horror movies later on). The illustrations really give you room to explore – there’s some good detail which led to a great deal of imagining on my part as a kid.

I like this story because it’s somewhat gentle, with Hester soothing and helping out the haunted house inhabitants. They’re never really referred to as anything other than a nice old lady/nice people, so the book relies fully on the illustrations to convey the “joke.” Still, if you also look at it from the standpoint that they could very well be nice people except for the prejudices that are put on them (thanks horror genre), it’s interesting from that angle, as well.

Over all, a cute, fun, Halloween read that will give kids a lot to explore and give adults a chuckle. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, and while it’s a little easier to find than last week’s title, you’re going to end up paying for it.  I would definitely recommend checking out your local library system for it, because it is definitely worth a flip through.

 

 

SJ Reads Bonus: Tomie by Junji Ito

Published October 26, 2017 by admin

For whatever reason, I haven’t really been getting into too much that falls into the realm of horror this year, until very recently. A friend and I got talking about manga and I mentioned that I admittedly fall more into the shojo-type reader (for better or worse), and because he knew I really like horror and wanted to diversify, he recommended the work of Junji Ito. At the moment, Tomie was the first book by Ito I was able to get my hands on, so I brought it home with little expectations, figuring it might kill an evening during a stressful week.

Holy. Balls.

This book…this book…

Tomie

This book had a slightly slow start for me, but once it got going, it really sucked me in. We begin at Tomie’s funeral, where we learn she’s been hacked to pieces by a psychopath, leaving behind her grieving friend and boyfriend. And the teacher she had an affair with. And other classmates who weren’t too fond of her. And by the way, it was her class that killed her after an accident. And then she comes back to class the day after her funeral like nothing has happened.

And that’s just the first story.

The really interesting thing about Tomie, is not just that she’s beautiful, but that she isn’t what I’d call a typical horror monster. I think she’s referred to as a succubus, but I don’t think that’s a really accurate term for whatever this thing is – if there is an actual term for it. There’s also a really clever, repeated use of her name throughout, so you don’t have to name her as a creature or thing – she’s Tomie. She’s not necessarily out to suck the life from someone or anything else…if anything, she craves other people’s attention. And the more they give to her, the more she wants, until she drives them so mad that they commit murder..which usually ends up being her.

You would not think you could fill a book with stories about this, but Ito does it. And they’re unsettling, uncomfortable, and diverse. You have two hikers who find her frozen while they’re looking for the one hiker’s missing brother. You have the two girls who find the strands of Tomie’s hair that one girl’s father has kept and end up infecting their whole class with bits of Tomie. You have medical experiments, a young boy torn between Tomie and his mother, a girl who is manipulated various times by her, a strange salesman selling bits of Tomie to create a mass amount of her to infect the world, a warped plan of vengeance….it just goes on and on.

Really, that’s where it’s effective as a volume. It wears you out. It just keeps going, and you can’t stop reading. You want someone to come out on top against her and just when you think it happens…the other shoe drops.

The art is magnificent for horror manga – Ito really pulls out all the stops. I will say, having become used to shojo style art, it was a little bit of a switch for me, but very quickly the art becomes more detailed and expressive once you’re let loose on the roller coaster. This stuff is over-the-top, dramatic, gory, and monstrous. The different forms Tomie takes, the way she regrows, or reforms herself, plus the variety of her deaths as people desperately fight back…it’s a lot to take in. The sheer amount of different ways Tomie regenerates and clones herself, the different expressions of people as they lose their minds, the different ways they try to rid themselves of Tomie through terror and love…it’s intense.

And really, for me, that’s where the horror came in. Story-wise, all the ways that love is shown to grow manic, obsessive, and toxic is deeply unsettling. The people that you want to cheer for turn horrible, or you just know in the pit of your stomach that they’re going to be victims and be touched forever once Tomie shows up, because once she does there’s no escaping her. There’s no underdog awkward girl coming out on top, no one getting the last laugh. As horrifying as the illustrations are, they were almost cathartic after the tension of watching Tomie manipulate people. She’s intensely cruel and apathetic in turn, her manipulations are really uncomfortable. You’re put in the horrible position as reader as not wanting to cheer for her death, but not quite blaming the other characters when they snap, either.

I think, in horror, it’s common to try to game the story, to have in the back of your mind what you would do, how you would ‘win.’ I just don’t think there’d be any way to win with this creature and the intense, obsessive emotions she provokes just by being around people. And that is absolutely terrifying, especially considering her desire to mutiply and go out into the world – the thought that these stories may not even cover all the multiple Tomies that were made in one of the stories just makes the whole concept even better (and thinking long-term on it so much worse).

What also bothered me with this is that, essentially, the monster is a young woman whose purpose is to get killed repeatedly, so does that propel misogyny and the whole succubus/evil woman stereotype in horror? Usually I’d give an immediate yes, but with this,  I’m honestly not sure. I feel like I should have something to say on that, and yet the story really says as much or more about how other people take to Tomie, about their own inherrent monstrous qualities that are lurking below the surface, as much as whatever she’s supposed to be. Really, no one is innocent in this book, no matter how much they claim to be. Tomie may affect people, but you also get the sense that that desperation is already there, and is drawn out rather than implanted. In some ways, she does have agency – it’s just incredibly twisted.

Still, it does worry me that so much of the theme of this is violence against a woman, even if she obviously is not human and is very much drawing out the reactions of others in a calculated way (you could argue that inciting her own death makes Tomie potentially grow and multiply faster, and as long as she’s not being ignored, she’s somewhat satisfied..if she’s ever satisfied). My own reactions to the book have given me a lot to think about, and I’d be curious to know if there’s supposed to be any further symbolism or anything there, or what the thought process was. This is a book that definitely makes you consider who you are and how you’re reacting to the material, so while I found myself entranced by the story, I was also highly unnerved that I was so taken by it, too. And you get the feeling that that’s the way the character would want it, which also mildly freaks me out.

This book gets under your skin quickly and stays there – it’s definitely haunted me long after reading. A fast read, it also probably isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s not one of the most unsettling horror books I’ve read, but I think the visuals help propel it to the unnerving category much quicker than a straight novel. I definitely recommend this one, but be warned – Tomie comes back, and she likes to stick with you.

Creepy Reviews, get yer creepy reviews!

Published October 24, 2017 by admin

So, being down a week means I have more fun stuff to share with you today!

black butler

My latest manga review for I Smell Sheep is up – to celebrate all that’s creepy this month, I’m taking a look at Black Butler! While it’s not without it’s problems, it does some really good things to subvert typical horror cliches and characterizations – if you can stick with it. To read the full review, go here!

princess decomposia

 

And to prove I can write about and even like cute stuff, too, I reviewed Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula over at Books by Violet! It’s a really fun, different sort of look at vampires and monsters, plus there’s a plucky heroine and some fun scenes in this quick read. Definitely be sure to read the full review!

ghostopolis

 

Also at Books by Violet, I’m taking a look at Ghostopolis – I mean, with Halloween around the corner, you’ve got to have ghosts, right? Fast pacing and some really original world building are the big features in this story about what life is like on the other side – and what happens if one of us might get dragged over there before it’s time. Definitely worth checking out the full review if you like a lot of action and interesting twists and turns with your creepy. Read more here!

 

OldeSchoolCoverFinal_650X433

It occurs to me that I shared this around media but not here – so a long time ago I did a thing for Friday the 13th (the day, not the franchise. I’ve had dealings with Jason, but that’s a whole other story). Once in a while I fanfic myself and the not completely good and not actually a bird character Clyde, from Olde School. So, if you’re in the mood for something to read to kill some time and laugh at me getting sucked into one of my own worlds, here you go. 

Also, it’s October, and I write creepy stuff, so…

Buy My Stuff

Specifically, might I suggest the 1800’s vampires vs lumberjacks short read Mooner? 

Or how about taking a chance on a bunch of shorts ranging from weird to what the hell in Lost in the Shadows?

I’ve also got a story in the horror anthology The Grotesquerie, as well as shorts in Curious Incidents,  The Big Bad and The Big Bad 2