reviews

All posts tagged reviews

Free fic, reviews, and all that fun stuff

Published December 7, 2017 by admin

It’s time to see what I’ve been up to whilst I was Nano-ing last month!

Ghosts

No matter the time of year, this is a great read that combines family and the supernatural. As always, Raina Telgemeier weaves interesting plot with relatable characters. Read my full review for Books by Violet here!

 

babyandme

Also for Books by Violet, I talk about a manga series that would be great to introduce kids to the medium. What happens when Takuya has to help shoulder the responsibility of raising his younger brother, even though he’s still a kid, himself? A lot of feelings, a lot of growing up, and a lot of hilarity. If you like cute titles and are interested in giving manga a go, definitely check out the full review. 

 

natsume

 

Because I will scream about this series until everyone reads it, I’m talking about Natsume’s Book of Friends on I Smell Sheep. Another great intro to manga, this series has more of a paranormal bent, but it also episodic so you can really start anywhere without feeling the pressure to hit every volume. Beautiful art combines with emotional plots, humor, and just the right amount of tension in this story about an orphan trying to repair his grandmother’s legacy and while learning to be more like a human and less like the spirits only he seems to be able to see. Read the full review here

creepy chair.png

Back for another round of the Ladies of Horror flash picture prompt project! This was my image this month, and man did I have a blast coming up with a story to fit! Be sure to check out what I came up with!

 

 

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SJ Reads: Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol

Published December 4, 2017 by admin

zombiechristmas

 

I really considered how to do SJ reads this month. I have an addiction to Christmas/holiday fiction, and there are a TON of great titles out there.

My notes are also scattered everywhere, so I really need to re-sort and dig through. I decided to keep with the unintentional theme to finish out the year, though, and go with holiday graphic novels/comics (and not just because those are closest at hand).

I love a good holiday story, but sometimes it’s nice to see how other properties use the holiday season in their own franchises. You can find some really interesting, unconventional reads that way – and it’s sometimes fun to find holiday stories that are a bit unconventional.

Today, we look at Marvel Zombies Christmas Carol.

This was given to me a few years ago as a gag gift, and I think the person was a little shocked that I love it as much as I do. On the one hand: what the ever-loving hey. On the other, it’s a title that lives up to the name. While it doesn’t interact with any of the other Marvel Zombies titles, it is definitely A Christmas Carol with zombies. You’d think this would be stupid, but it actually ends up working really well. The basic premise is the plot of A Christmas Carol, but amid a zombie outbreak that’s overtaking the workhouses (admittedly it’s been a while since I’ve read it, and I’m trying to jog my memory while writing this). Setting Scrooge’s personal journey against an actual threat of death and destruction, while finding out that the whole thing may actually be his fault…it’s intense.

It stays true to the original story and takes time to get you through all the beats. While there are a lot of zombies, they’re not slammed up in your face all the time – they’re somewhat part of the environment, unless they’re illustrating the obvious metaphors of the story. It’s a really interesting twist to the tale, and highlights more of Scrooge’s plight and the whole life vs death theme that’s quietly going on underneath the original.

Granted, here’s the thing: to enjoy this you almost have to like horror, like comics, and like the original story. It’s not really a gag interpretation and it’s not over-the-top gore for gore’s sake or meant as some punchline. I’m actually fairly impressed by the care that obviously went into this.

While I’ve read worse in Walking Dead, there are some intense illustrations, and this book does carry a parental advisory. However, compared to most of the other horror comics I’ve read in my life, this is easily doable for teens and up who are into this kind of thing.

The day I was given this, I sat and read it a few times, because I expected it to be a one-note title, and I kept finding little nuances to appreciate. Plus, the art is vivid and grotesque in interesting ways, and the new twist really makes you appreciate the familiar characters and plotline. I definitely recommend a read through – it may not get you precisely into the holiday spirit, but it will help you appreciate what you have around you, for sure. Also a great gift for horror comic fans.

Find it here

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

Free Fiction, New Reviews, & Things to Creep You Out

Published October 31, 2017 by admin

Happy Halloween, all! Time once again to see all that I’ve been getting up to, and since it’s a special day, I’ve got some spooky stuff lined up. But first, if you’re looking for a last minute read that will creep you out, or one that will amuse you and not be as creepy but still be weird, might I offer the following suggestion:

 

Buy My Stuff

 

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s look at where I’ve been in the past week or so.

 

baba yaga's assistant

My latest review for Books by Violet covered one of my favorite new discoveries: Baba Yaga’s Assistant. I love this book. It doesn’t hurt that it’s about Baba Yaga, who’s one of my favorite folklore characters, but it’s also the way she’s used. I love the combination of folklore and modern life, I love the main character, I love the art, I love this book. Be sure to check out the full review full of my love here!

 

halloweenowl.png

I’m back with the Ladies of Horror flash fiction picture project – the above was my image for this month. It gave me a ton of ideas, but ultimately I went with something that I hope will creep you out this Halloween. Read my entry here,  then be sure to click around to read other fantastic, free reads to get you in the holiday mood!

autumn-940401_1280.jpg

You can’t have autumn without leaves, right? Well not only have I kidnapped the HorrorAddicts.net blog, but I’ve done it with a story all about fall leaves – and decorating. By now you’ve probably figured out that there’s more to it than that, but I’ll let you discover what else is up, yourself. Check out the story here.

And I’ll be nice and not include a picture for this next one – if you haven’t read my clown piece The Moments Before, that’s the feature for another kidnapped blog on HorrorAddicts.net’s blog. A strange little piece about a new take on the end of the world, I have to say it pleases me. Check it out here.

 

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!

 

 

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. 

 

courtney crumrin.jpg

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?