SJ Reads

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SJ Reads: Krampus Shadow of Saint Nicholas

Published December 11, 2017 by admin

Time once again to visit a holiday book for the season, and keeping with the inadvertent theme, we’re going to look at another graphic novel:

krampuscomic

Note that this is not a comic/novelization covering the same story of the movie, though it is set in the same universe. If you like the movie, you’ll probably like the comic, and vice versa. Honestly, I think this even fleshes out the movie a little bit and gives more of a reasoning to things that happen there – it kinda gives a slightly different vibe to the last scene, because you have more of a sense of the full scope of things that are going on (and although it’s mostly subtext, I felt like there’s more of a feel of why, too).

This is somewhat more like Trick R Treat than Krampus, in that it combines different narratives in an almost anthology feel, but does a better job of blending them into one narrative at the end. A down-and-out mall Santa, a cop who runs into the person who ruined his life, and a rich businessman each earn a visit from Krampus, and each have to do their part to ward off the anti-santa and his minions and save the town’s Christmas.

If you love the over-the-top aspects of the movie like the evil toys and elves and such, you get much more of that here. You also get to see more of the realm inside Krampus’s sack, and honestly I feel like the limits were pushed much further here at times than in the movie. You also definitely get a moral – this isn’t just bizarreness for its own sake. Though it does feel like it almost runs away with itself at times, the creators do a great job at reining things in toward the end and giving the reader a fulfilling, complete journey. Definitely a great companion to the film, though you don’t have to see it to appreciate the book. I honestly read this long before I saw the movie and loved it a lot. Probably best for teens on up and those who like horror/can have a sense of humor about the holidays, this is a fun title that’s every bit as quirky and creepy as the film it springs from.

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

SJ Reads: The Artist’s Way

Published November 27, 2017 by admin

This is another of those so obvious I probably shouldn’t include it, but it’s well-known for a reason.

artist's way

 

Confession: I haven’t made it all the way through this one. I’ve had to take it in spurts, and that seems to be the case for most people I know who own it. It’s definitely one you’ll probably want to buy (I recommend giving it a flip through at the library first to make sure it’s your speed), because it is involved and detailed. However, if you’re looking for something to jumpstart your artistic practice, this is definitely the book for it.

The thing is, this book is incredibly interactive. It gives you some initial basic practices and things to consider, and then you work through chapter by chapter. It’s kind of up to you how to interpret some of it, and while it’s geared to all types of artists, most of these exercises involve writing, so I feel it really rings true for writers in a special way. This book has really helped me look at my relationship through people where my artistic practices are involved, as well as my views on myself and my own practice, in general.

One of the biggest takeaways that seems to be universal is the morning pages. Whether you use it for journaling, brain dumping, writing whatever comes to mind – the thought process is to wake up and get three pages down to clear your head and get your thoughts together.

Admittedly, not being a morning person, this is not the easiest thing for me. I’ve played with it here and there, and I will say that I’m usually better off when I do it. It also helped me put a lot in perspective during a time when my thoughts about my writing were fairly tangled. For that takeaway, alone, I’m grateful to this title.

It’s one that deserves to be read the whole way through, but you can also skim or focus on the chapters that you think will serve you. As with anything else like this, of course there are corresponding workbooks and such, but really, the main title is all you need.

Get 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!

 

 

 

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!