reviews

All posts tagged reviews

Review Roundup!

Published October 10, 2017 by admin

Time to see what I’ve been up to this week!

anyasghost

I’m looking at some creepy YA graphic novel offerings this month, so of course I had to go with the classic Anya’s Ghost for Books by Violet! A tale that really hits on the outsider theme in school/teen years, it also includes a really unique ghost and some truly unnerving moments. Read the full review here!

 

babyandme

 

I’m back at I Smell Sheep with another manga review! This time it’s the shojo-tastic, downright adorable Baby & Me. If you want a decent-sized series that’s full of cute to take your mind off your troubles, this is definitely one to check out. Read the full review here!

 

 

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Here, There, Everywhere!

Published September 19, 2017 by admin

Got some news in these here parts!

I’ve updated the who I am page with better contact explanations and such – eventually, I want to convert to an actual website and do something either connected or separate for my costume work, but that’s going to take time and planning.

 

Bibliorati has a new column and I was the first interview! I talk with Paula Hardin about how I got into writing, my creative motivations, and all sorts of other things. She’s great at what she does, Tommy Hancock has a wonderful site over all, and I’m happy to be featured there. Check out the full interview here!

YA Graphic Novel Reviews – wow I’m behind in posting these. My bad, go on vacation and everything crumbles to oblivion.

through the woods

I talked about how much I love Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods a few weeks ago. If you like horror that isn’t too graphic and has a slow burn, plus some beautiful art, check out my review here. 

 

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I will never not shout my love of Courtney Crumrin. If you like series, you’ll love this. If you just read the first volume, it still works. This thing makes me want to run off to Goblin Town and hang out with all the fantastic creatures Ted Neifeh creates. Check out my full review here. 

 

americus

This is one of those single-book titles that’s necessary, especially for mid grade readers and above. This looks at the topic of censorship from all sides, and while I do think some portrayals are a little caricature-based, I think that overall it does a great job of promoting literature. I also really like that it’s the younger characters caught up in all of this who are the heroes and who really are the focus of the book. Read the full review here.

I’ve got a lot more on the horizon and some things are still being cemented, so definitely keep your eyes posted for where I’ll be next!

General Reader Complaints: A list

Published August 23, 2017 by admin

 

Through my ages-long leave of absence where I spent time wandering the hinterlands and exploring the far reaches of the world and absolutely did not hang out in my spare time recovering from walking pneumonia in my pajamas reading, I came across the book Caraval. I’ll probably review it at a later date, but what actually drew me to it was an NPR article that was somewhat on the fence because of supposed structural problems. I don’t know if it was the wording or the fact that the synopsis of the book was awesome, but I put it on hold from the library and also went scanning reader reviews.

And blinked.  And shook my phone to make sure it wasn’t interpreting an alternate universe and blinked again.

Granted, I have my own opinion of the book, but what really fascinated me was that a lot of people had complaints that really are more telling about where we are as readers as a whole than they were about the book. I’ve seen a few articles lately, as well, about older audiences re-determining what YA subject matter should be, and to me, that’s just so weird, guys. Like seriously? Since when do a bunch of adults get to say what books meant for teenagers should be slanted toward so that they’re more palatable for adults? Why not just read adult books that have the subject matter you’re after?

Confused, I started making a list of general reader complaints when I saw them. To be fair, this isn’t let’s MST3K people’s reviews. These are big generalizations that kept coming up in multiple reviews, social media posts, and discussions. While everyone is allowed their opinion, I’m kind of shocked that some of these exist. So, of course, I decided to blog about them for my own entertainment and maybe we’ll get a conversation going. So the following will be the complaint and my response/take on it.

In no particular order:

This is dark! – Dark plot elements don’t just exist in obvious horror titles. Bad things happen. Portraying that in fiction isn’t a bad thing. In YA lit it’s there for multiple reasons. Pretty sure I survived every problem lit novel ever (The Outsiders, Pig Man, Crosses, etc) whose sole intent was to BE dark and show that life could suck. In a fantasy novel, there’s usually a villain and bad things happen. Usually, the protagonist overcomes it. Some people may not find it all that dark and enjoy it. It’ll be okay, I swear.

This character is unlikeable!  – This is one that particularly irks me. Not everyone you meet in life is someone you will like. That doesn’t mean that their whole life is pointless. You don’t know what they’re going through or what’s going on with them. In stories, often a character that starts unlikeable can grow, or if they don’t, it could be a chance for you to take a look into a viewpoint that you might disagree with and maybe find some empathy. Reading isn’t about only finding the stuff you personally agree or align with. That doesn’t make the character ‘bad’ or the book ‘bad’.

This character isn’t romantic/chosen one enough/feminist/strong enough/manly enough/vulnerable enough/relatable in the exact way I think it should be! – Tough, that ain’t the type of character the author is writing. Sometimes opportunities are missed and that really sucks. But they’re the ones that got the contract to write the book, so they’re going to put out the story that’s in their head.

This genre isn’t exactly what I think it should be! (see all the adults wanting more adult plot lines in YA lit) – There are lots of genres out there, a lot of titles out there. Sometimes it takes randomly grabbing titles to find something new that you like. Sometimes you have to dig, but re-structuring a whole entire genre away from the people it’s intended for ain’t cool. You can have your own subgenre (like psychological horror vs splatterpunk), but deliberately trying to focus on only the one aspect of the genre you like and making the whole thing all about that niche isn’t really a great answer. You deprive a lot of people who might like YA fiction that doesn’t involve romance or mysteries that are more cozy than thriller or really visceral horror from the stuff they actually want to read.

The person I like isn’t in it enough! I want to know more about this person! – Too bad! (turns the sarcasm down five notches) Okay, look, I get sometimes we all want to know more about people – that’s kind of why and how fanfic keeps existing. The fact is, though, that readers and fans aren’t shareholders into the creative property. Yeah, some may be able to push for certain plotlines (which I don’t agree with), but at the end of the day it ain’t your baby. I’m sorry. Maybe try writing what you want to see just for fun, for yourself. Or go looking to see if there are titles with the types of characters that you want to know more about. If it’s a series, maybe the character you like will be in the next installment more. Them’s the breaks sometimes.

I don’t know the backstory for (insert random piece of furniture/place/item of clothing)! – I’d laugh this one off but I’ve had this argument with editors before. This typically shows up in books where there’s a lot of worldbuilding and magic. All I can say is, sometimes magic is magic. A magic bridge or staircase doesn’t need an origin story. Not every enchanted item is a former servant like in Beauty and the Beast. Sometimes things just exist because they need to for the overall plot. Sometimes the author just thinks they’re cool. And that’s perfectly okay.

My overall point is that yeah, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but at the end of the day, you don’t get to control how certain plots develop. I’m sorry, that can suck. I’ve been disappointed by books before. People who suffer movies with me generally know they’re going to have to listen to my critique of plot elements at some point (though I’ve gotten more docile in my old age). I get that as fans and readers, we really want to pick into everything from our point of view…but sometimes we forget that the writer/creator may have had a reason for why they did things the way they did. Maybe it’s practical. Maybe an editor made them change it. Maybe it’s their first novel and they’re still learning.

Maybe, again, that’s just how they saw the story and never expected people to latch onto certain things (do you really think I thought everyone who read it would latch onto a manifestation of evil trapped as a bird out of every freakin’ thing in Olde School? I’d love to say I saw that coming, but my money for long shot fan favorite was on Ippick the troll and I definitely lost that bet).

My point isn’t for readers to shut up – if those are points you feel are worth contributing to a review, fine, but if those aspects are also either part of the genre or obviously very intentional on the part of the reader, instead of complaining that they exist or aren’t the way you like it, why not go into specifics? Like ‘I really thought it was going to be this type of story, but I also liked this part, or this part surprised me.’ ‘I was disappointed that this character wasn’t in it more because I really admired this about them, but I also latched onto this person.’ ‘This book was darker than I thought, but I still finished it because it was really interesting.’ I’m not saying every negative has to be turned into a positive, but actual details or issues help instead of complaints on things that you can’t change.

And seriously, you can’t. I don’t know very many authors who scan all their reviews and take detailed notes on things like this. They may try to fix pacing or other technical issues, but change a whole genre piece around? Nah.

So how about you readers and writers out there? Do issues like this make or break a book experience for you? Do you get annoyed if a book isn’t exactly how you think it should be or do you still enjoy it? Writers, do you listen to complaints about things that really can’t be changed?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuff I’m doing

Published August 22, 2017 by admin

A short one this week, since the other link of what I’m up to isn’t live yet. There will be a new flash piece from me for the Ladies in Horror project soon – I’ll likely have that to post next week. I’m also back working with I Smell Sheep to do regular manga reviews geared to non-manga readers. Ie, I read it and spell it out for you so you know if you like it or not. So be on the lookout for that, soon.

In the meantime, I’m back at Books by Violet to bring you my weekly YA graphic novel reviews. This week is a series near and dear to my heart – The Adventures of Superhero Girl. This is one of those that I read when I’m down, and I’ve been getting a lot of mileage from it lately. To the point where I may have tweeted Faith Erin Hicks asking if Superhero Girl would let me move to Canada and be her roommate. I was fast reminded of SG’s tendency to not pay rent, but I’d just like to point out that that wasn’t a complete no…

Fangirling aside, this is a super-cute (ha, see what I did there) series, and one that’s great for all ages. Check out my full review here!

Calling readers and reviewers!

Published October 5, 2016 by admin

 

OldeSchoolCoverFinal_650X433

Hey, remember that awesome book I wrote, Olde School? It’s currently up for grabs on the Juniper Grove Book Solutions Review Library, so if you request it you can read it for free in exchange for an honest review (Don’t let Clyde influence you. Please feel free to be honest).

paddlelump-review

Maybe not this honest

I’m still plotting out what comes next, but I’m extremely proud of that title and would love the word of mouth to keep going! So if you’re a book blogger, reviewer, or a reader who’s into quirky fantasy with a touch of horror, check it out!

All the info on how to request the title can be found here!

 

paddlelumpshill

More reviews makes my characters stop shilling for me, I swear

 

Comic & Film Review Roundup 2

Published December 7, 2015 by admin

Time for another batch of the reviews other people want me to do for some reason! The story behind this is I had a geektastic talk with Sharon Stogner of I Smell Sheep Review Blog at Imaginarium, which led to me agreeing to do comic and movie reviews as I can.

Really I just wanted people to give me comics, but they don’t have to know that.

This Damned Band 1 – Think Almost Famous meets rock folklore meets Led Zeppelin meets Spinal Tap meets demons. A great set up.

This Damned Band 2 – A little more uneven than issue one, but still intriguing. This issue follows the band on their tour along with continued tensions and strange happenings.

This Damned Band 3– The band records in a French chateau and contemplates a missing groupie. The bassist’s money problems come front and center, along with some further haunted happenings.

This Damned Band 4 – The band faces off with masked intruders in the chateau. The magic mushrooms are back, plus there are uncomfortable discoveries in the band manager’s room. Some really creepy moments make the weird pacing and art changes worthwhile.

I also got asked to check out as many films in the Another Hole in the Head Festival, which had so many awesome horror entries that I really wish I could’ve just binged them all. Sadly, between being crunched for time and being sick, I only got to two, but they were two awesome films.

Nina Forever – I believe this actually comes out in theaters in February, but I loved this one. When a boyfriend still mourning his ex tries to move on with a new love interest, things take a weird turn when his dead former girlfriend shows up every time he and his new girlfriend try to be intimate. More of a horror/romance/relationship movie hybrid, I was really pleased that it took on the metaphors head on instead of trying to be really campy or in-your-face.

Sacred Blood – An ‘operatic’ film without the singing, this is a melodramatic look that spends time treating all the undead characters as people, which is nice. I’d have liked a little more explanations for some things, but the film just looks stunning and there are some nice stand-out performances, as well.

 

Comic Review Roundup

Published December 2, 2015 by admin

So along with people foolishly inviting my writer-type opinions on their sites, I’ve been invited to guest review for the awesome blog I Smell Sheep. And more than once, too!

Seriously, this is something that’s been a ton of fun so far. While it’s still my policy to not officially review small press or indie books (obviously I still give my general thoughts on library books in my SJ Reads posts), I’m all about reviewing comics and movies if someone’s going to enable me. While I do read a few superhero titles, I have a passion for the fact that graphic novels can really tell stories in a unique way – from realistic titles like Persepolis, The Property, Fun House, or something meant to mirror reality like Maus, to epic stories like Sandman or horror titles like Locke & Key. There are some truly unique titles out there that aren’t getting the love they deserve or people may not know unless they specifically follow a certain title or publisher, so I love the chance to discover new titles and share them with others.

Since these were done for the I Smell Sheep Blog, I’ll spare you full reviews and link you to the actual ones. I’ll have to divide this up because I’ve actually done more than I realized, but here’s the first batch.

Dark Horse Comics Presents # 15 – Admittedly one of the reasons I jumped on board was because I knew the blog had an in with Dark Horse and I had just discovered Finder and I love it with an unholy passion. So when this title came up and featured serialized Finder, I was ready to fight to the bitter end for it. Truly, though, every story in this issue was fantastic and has opened me up to some other titles I can’t wait to check out.

Dead Vengeance 1 -A carnival sideshow act comes to life and tries to figure out who he really is. A lot of flashbacking, but a really interesting set up that reminds me of the older Creepy and Eerie titles.

Dead Vengeance 2 – More information on John Dover’s tragic past, as well as a unique allusion to a possible time travel element, plus it takes us back to the carnival!

Plants Vs. Zombies Garden Warfare 1 – Love this. So ridiculous in the best possible ways. Dr. Zomboss tries to take over town with some help from the future…and a metal butt. Brings to mind a lot of the Saturday morning cartoons I used to love watching.

Love Hurts: The Complete Love Hurts (Horrifying Tales of Romance) – Translated from a Swiss comic, I believe, this is amazing. I love this thing. A collection of short stories that blend horror and romance elements, these are twisted, warped, insightful, emotional, and just so inventive I can’t stand it. Loved.