SJ Reads

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SJ Reads: The Unwritten

Published August 21, 2017 by admin

Today’s SJ reads is another graphic novel/comic series, since that’s our theme this month. I’d heard the title The Unwritten kicked around for a while, but not really taken the chance to investigate it. Then, when I had worked my way through a two-month long manga binge and was craving something else, I checked out the first couple of volumes from the library.

Holy. Guac.

I mean, it’s Mike Carey, so it’s not going to be bad, but seriously, guys, this series is amazing. Picture Harry Potter mixed with Christopher Robin mixed with every genre ever (including children’s lit), mixed with conspiracy theory, mixed with Jung, and you might come close to describing The Unwritten. Maybe.

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So we open with Tom Taylor doing conventions, because his dad is a famous author noted for writing a series that would be similar to Harry Potter in our world, and the main character coincidentally is named Tommy Taylor and looked like him as a boy. Things really get going when an audience member questions if he’s really who he thinks he is during a panel (welcome to every panelist’s worst nightmare). What follows is a long, winding story where Tom struggles to figure out if he’s real or fictional, how his world crosses with the literary or how that’s even possible, all while fighting a strange cabal of people known as the Unwritten, who have lived throughout history making sure that only the write message gets written. He also has to deal with what his father did to him and turned him into. Helped by the questioning lady in the audience who may or may not be sane (or real), and a reporter, and a few other people who may or may not have his interests at heart, this is a fast-paced, intricate romp through not just fantasy, but also a lot of really interesting literary paths. We fall into Moby Dick and other titles, go back and forth in history, go to Hades, go to a kid’s world that is reminiscent of Beatrix Potter or the Hundred Acre Wood – there’s even a crossover with Fables (admittedly, since I’m the one person who absolutely isn’t a fan of Fables and since that volume really didn’t affect the plot one way or the other, that’s the one weak part of the series for me).

Also, this series has balls. I will warn you, there is language, there is violence, stuff gets dark. If you’re going into this expecting Not!Harry Potter fanfic or happy fantasy time, this is not that. At all. The stakes are high. If you ever wondered what would happen if your YA fantasy friends grew up and had to play their adventures straight, this is definitely the series for you. I can’t say much or I’ll give it away, but the ending is also one of the best series endings I’ve ever read. As I went along, admittedly I began thinking that there was only one real possible exit if things were being played out to their logical conclusion…but no way a series author would go there, right?

Oh, he did. He goes there. And it is magnificent.

So yeah, if you want something different, if you feel like you’ve aged out of Harry Potter or want some dark fantasy that also explores some high concepts, check this one out.

You can find vol 1 here

 

SJ Reads: Lucifer

Published August 14, 2017 by admin

At this point I figure most of the people who are reading this are going to at least be aware of Sandman. If you aren’t, let me know, and I’ll cover it in a later post. I’ve found, though, that at least within my own friend/writing circle, not as many people are familiar with Lucifer.

 

lucifer cover

Okay, calm down. Here’s the thing. If you’re familiar with the show, this is not that. If the whole religion in fantasy gets you hepped up, that’s perfectly cool. You don’t have to read it, like it, or agree with me. If that’s the case, you may want to skip this one.

For those who really are into dark fantasy and want a longer title that will take a while to get through, especially if you’ve already done Sandman and loved it, you’ll want to check this out. Picking up where Lucifer is running a piano bar with his Lilim companion Mazikeem, continuing the theme of being bored with the role he’s been cast in.

Things to know:

He is still manipulative and scheming and there is a lot of magical politics and entrapment, so he’s not altogether a hero in this series, even though he’s a protagonist. He definitely does things his own way and plays things hard and fast, and has to deal with the complications of that, even when he wins.

He’s less of the booga booga destroy humanity figure and more along the lines of trying to prove his views to his brother angels and God. At one point, they have to band together to save reality, which is an interesting experience.

Basically, through various machinations, Lucifer creates a side universe parallel to ours which has a lot of consequences and effects. The series also explores what machinations other angels have gotten up to, along with the desires of a living deck of tarot cards and the daughter of Michael, so there’s a lot going on. This is less good vs evil and more free will vs predestination and a whole lot of various characters trying to find their place in the universe(s). There’s a lot of separate adventure arcs, mythological figures, and a lot of interlocking pieces. People that show up in the beginning that you think are gone reappear, and the ending truly had me turning pages at a mad pace.

If you like how detailed and rich Sandman is, you’ll love this. If you like various mythologies being played with and combined, you’ll love this. If you like super entwining plots and really vivid art and dream-like storylines, this is for you.

This has been published in several forms – you’ll find volumes and books on amazon. I prefer by book because you have a lot of content that interconnects, and it’s easier to flip back if you think you’ve missed something.

Find book one here

Have you read this series? Like it better or less than the TV show? Who’s your favorite character or what’s your favorite part? Let me know!

 

 

SJ Reads: Finder

Published August 7, 2017 by admin

So yeah, it’s been a bit and a half. I’ll get to that eventually, but really, I think at the end of the day it’s good to ask if we want to start with explanations or start the way we mean to go. Since my rambling good intentions usually end up taking time and fizzling at certain points, I’m leaning toward the latter this time around. So there ya go.

I want to get back to SJ reads because I think it’s a good way to showcase not just what I like, but titles that people may have forgotten about or titles that aren’t in their comfort zone. So, as a refresher:

  1. I usually only review mass market titles on my blog so there’s no conflict of interest, but like everything I reserve the right to change my mind
  2. This is less of a review and more of my fluid thoughts on a title
  3. 99 percent of the time everything I talk about here I’ve obtained from the public library, and if mine has it, yours likely does too. Use libraries, they’re awesome.

I want to try going by theme a little bit, so this month I’m going to touch on some graphic novel/comic series that are just amazing to me. Seriously, people, if you aren’t exploring this section of your library or bookstores, you’re missing out on some of the most original stories out there today.

So today let’s talk about Finder.

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Finder started out as a self-published comic by Carla Speed McNeil and eventually got picked up by Darkhorse and is still going on- that’s the basic schematic. Unlike a lot of titles I’ve read, I don’t know that you honestly have to go in order because she does tend to bop around in time and area within her world. Probably the easiest way to read this is to look for the Dark Horse Finder Library volumes first. I think this collects everything through Talisman, although that’s available in a separate book, as well. Then there’s Voice, and I believe Third World is the latest that’s out. I’ve read here and there in Darkhorse Presents, but honestly, I like volumes because I hate to be kept waiting on the next bits.

It’s extremely hard to put a genre on Finder. It’s honestly all the genres. There are dark bits, there’s drama, there’s some genuinely funny aspects, there’s some coming of age, there’s sci-fi and fantasy…I’ve heard that the author describes it as aboriginal scifi if pressed, and that’s pretty accurate.

Basically, Finder is set in a futuristic place similar to our own world without it being exactly us. A lot of the action takes place in bigger cities, where society has been divided into different castes with different rules and attributes. Outside of the cast system are the Ascians, of which is main character Jaeger. We follow him through the series at different points in his life and through different adventures (though sometimes this deviates and we follow side characters, instead) as he deals with being both the lowest in Ascian society (a sin eater, so he takes on people’s sins before they die) and one of the highest (a Finder, meaning he can find anything, anywhere).

So why bother with something weird and complicated and nontraditional? The characters are amazing. I love Jaeger in a bad way and just love how he’s written. He’s not completely good and not completely bad, he’s very much a dude (and I love that he’s written by a female author, truth be told, especially through arcs that discuss all his various lady friends), and he’s an amazing personality to use to explore different situations. All of the characters do this, but as the main audience porthole into the world, he really makes you put aside your thoughts on race and sex and gender and even species.  The setting and society McNeil has built are just astounding. This isn’t just a futuristic city – you have all sorts of lands and cities and towns and places in between with their own rules, not to mention caste rules and religious rites. I like to grumble that it’s completely unfair that this isn’t a movie or TV series yet, but honestly, it would probably get ruined. I don’t think anyone would really have the balls to throw it up on the screen as is, and to change it would be to wreck it.

This is an insanely simple breakdown. Luckily, if you start with the Finder library volumes, they read more like a continuous story. And if you ever are wondering anything, the author has a huge chunk o’ foot notes in the back of each book. Seriously. The amount of knowledge and research and effort that has gone into this series is just mind-boggling and has brought me to my knees more than once. You have a girl going through a beauty show to find her place in society and falling into whole other rituals, you have a girl falling in love with a book, you’ve got archaeological explorations led by creatures, cities that are levels upon levels and tech that puts you into whole other universes to help you leave yourself behind. This series has something to say about everything. It’s insane and amazing and I love it. This is a one of those ideas that makes me moderately jealous, but mostly in awe, because it’s so well done. I wish I drew well enough to pull something like this off. I wish my world building was that good. As it is, I’m more than happy to wait for the next bit and run around in McNeil’s world every chance I get.

Find Finder vol 1 here

I can’t be the only Finder fan out there – who else has read this phenomenal series? Thoughts? Favorite arcs or characters? Let me know in the comments!

SJ Reads: Fandom Edition

Published April 11, 2016 by admin

Besides grabbing random things from library shelves, I also search random terms in the catalogue. I can’t remember what led me to discovering that fandom and groupies were now library search terms…but they are. So, of course, had to see what that was about. This would be the result of that search.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath is starting college and her twin is insistent that they not be joined at the hip. Anxious and likely to retreat into the Simon Snow fandom, Cath is also a wildly successful fanfic writer. The book details how she navigates family drama, roommates, relationships, and just plain putting herself out there, while also dealing with an anti-fanfic creative writing professor. The blurb hits the right buzzwords, but the book is much better than the blurb. I like how Rowell handles Cath’s anxiety – nothing is overtly cartoony or cliche. While a lot gets thrown at her, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility. There’s also a lot of really interesting exchanges on the creative differences/validity between fanfic and original fiction. Plus, you get bits of Cath’s Simon Snow fanfic throughout the book. I can see why people wouldn’t get into it, but it reminds me a lot of switching from commuter to campus living in some ways, so maybe I’m predisposed to get into it. I enjoyed that someone was writing about all of these things and exploring the emotional implications.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell – I’ve never quite sussed out if this is supposed to be Cath’s fanfic or the actual final book in the fictional Simon Snow series. It doesn’t matter, because this is the chosen one/magic kid book I didn’t know I wanted. Set up to be similar to Harry Potter, it’s plot and themes are more political than good vs. evil. It also does a lot to set up its characters to be definitively different to the Potter cast, while still playing off some tropes. I also really like that it switches viewpoints so you get a concrete view of what’s going on in the Mage world. I like that it deals with different kinds of relationships and not everything is tied up in a neat bow. I really, really love this book and it feels much more like something that could happen in the world we live in than others with similar topics. It isn’t as escapist and is geared more towards those who are older teens and above. It’s this type of title for an adult audience and it does its job superbly well. I really, really want this as a movie now.

The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls by Sam Maggs– Full disclosure, I skimmed this. Basically it breaks down fandom terminology and opportunities for girls, which is good. It is a positive, encouraging book that talks about things like cosplay, conventions, fanfic, etc. I dunno, part of me feels like this is a little pandery, a little too basic to be of benefit, though I could see it being helpful to  younger girls or girls in smaller towns looking for a helpful way into fandom without falling into the online minefield or whatever. I do feel that the moment you include any sort of interview about fandom that it takes away from the creators and puts a hierarchy in place, like ‘well these are what you should strive to be as a fan.’ I don’t know that that’s the intention, but books like this always give me mixed feelings. I applaud what they’re trying to do, but I dunno if it’s that I’m way out of the age bracket or I get suspicious about the reasoning behind this sort of thing, but this title and others like it always give me mixed feelings.

The Rockstar in Seat 3A by Jill Kargman – At its core, it’s a pretty typical chick lit story that could be straight from the 90s heyday. Girl is going to be engaged, doesn’t know if she’s ready, meets her rock star crush, runs off to be with him, then has to make some decisions. For me, the problem is in the execution. All of the characters are pretty perfect from the get go: the lead lady has a well-paying job at a gaming company (and is never given any real negative energy for it), her fiance is a chef who’s starting his own restaurant and looks to be well off from the description of living space and lifestyle habits, the rock star has had his problems but they’re all handled neatly off screen right before the plot kicks into gear. Everyone’s beautiful. Sex is always awesome. Food is always amazing. She talks like she’s a pre-teen trying to impress people and not drive because she doesn’t feel like it and still manages to get through life. She gets to live out her fantasy before going back to a stable relationship because yeah, people are that understanding in this world. Plus, the whole conflict is that she’s turning thirty and feels that she hasn’t lived life yet. Because apparently that’s still a legitimate concern and plot device these days?

It just all feels so…orchestrated and safe. The dialogue is just quirky enough, and the conflict doesn’t quite reach the level it needs to be to make me care. Worried about weird bdsm rock star sex? Nah, he just does that for the videos. Drugs? Taken care of. Dark place? That somehow ended right as the rock star meets the lead character because she’s that amazing. Legions of groupies? Nah, because she’s enough to make him want nothing else instantly.

I get it, it’s a fantasy, but there’s just so much that could have been done and things never quite kick. the girl is never quite the quirky falling-apart wreck she needs to be to move the plot, she’s just immature and silly. The rock star isn’t dangerous enough to be a threat, either romantically or personal baggage wise. The fiance isn’t really anything.  And the thing is, part of me still enjoyed it as a late-night, easy read. And I don’t like that, I don’t like for plots to be that easy, especially when the characters did have some interesting bits to them. It’s also obvious that things really kicked when the lead meets the rock star, so if the goal is to write about being swept off one’s feet by that kind of person…that’s awesome. Write that book.End it with that kind of romance.  Just do that instead of trying to do the typical has to choose between two amazing dudes scenario, because there is no way in hell I’m going to pity or empathize with a protagonist like that. If you go that route, at least play up the conflict to make it interesting or throw a massive wrench into things to shake it up.

I would also like to give romance and chick lit authors a heads up: If you base a character on a crush or a real life celebrity, please don’t disclaim that because that is all I’m going to see when I read your book, and then all I’m going to see is how you either got that person wrong, or wonder if that’s what you think they are, or wonder if you’re purposefully trying to distance the character from the real person. And if you are a certain age, it is very, VERY obvious who said rock star is supposed to be, even if you don’t read the acknowledgements. It’s exhausting and admittedly weirded me out enough that I couldn’t fully get into the book. Just please don’t do that to yourself or your readership.

 

 

 

SJ Reads: YA Graphic Novel Edition

Published April 4, 2016 by admin

I thought I’d open up the week with some fun, so it’s time for another edition of SJ Reads! This time I wanted to touch back on what is probably one of my biggest comfort reading genre – graphic novels, though because I have a lot of friends with kids and I’m always curious about what the youngin’s are puttin’ in their noggins, this edition has a YA slant.

Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel – Combining the stories of a rough paranormal investigator and a boy accidentally pulled to the other side, this is a fast-past story that kids will easily get into. It’s probably geared more to boys, but the characters are likable enough that I think girls would get into it, too. As an old person, there are several plot points that I would’ve liked developed a little more, but it’s probably good that the action and characters take precedent. A fun, loose art style that’s very eye-catching, and just a really nice, just-dark-enough title all the way around.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel – I think I liked this a little bit more than Ghostopolis, because there was a somewhat bigger cast and more attention was paid to how they interacted with each other, even if it was just for a fleeting hint in a panel or two. Cam’s out-of-work father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday. Even though it’s all he can afford, it also gives them time to spend together…and, as it turns out, the cardboard has special abilities. I love all the different creatures and worlds that come from the cardboard, I love the interactions between characters, and because this is so grounded in real-world problems, it really made me pay attention.The only thing that made me go ‘eh’ is the ‘villain’ was the somewhat stereotyped misunderstood rich goth kid. However, a lot is done with the character and although I would’ve liked to be a little less predictable/get in his head a little more, he’s actually my favorite character in the whole book and there are some fun things done with his progression. So, while there is the usual kind of archetypes/tropes that you’re used to seeing in mid grade lit or entertainment (especially if you grew up in the 80s or 90s), there is some comfort to that and there are some interesting things done with it. Nice pace, great art, and it made me want to go make something.

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson – an underworld princes is the pseudo-ruler of her kingdom because her hypochondriac father doesn’t want to deal with stress of politics. Add to that the pain of hiring an unusual new chef who becomes her only confidant and you get a very cute, very tame creepy romance. What I like is that the relationship is not the foremost thing – or it shares the spotlight with Decomposia’s feelings about her father, her stress at trying to put up a front running the kingdom and determining what kind of ruler she wants to be. Plus, Count Spatula is a really unique vampire. Just a kind dude who can cook and happens to have fangs. There’s a lot of moments here that gave me a chuckle, and I love that the major focus was Decomposia standing up for herself. The art is cute and while not as detailed as some titles, it really fits the tone of the book.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale – I love fairy tales. I love warped fairy tales. This may be one of the greatest things I have ever read. Rapunzel, set in sort of the villa/slavery system of the old west, where the witch rules the territory out of her villa and controls the water and harvest of the villages through her growth magic. You see how Rapunzel was put in the tower, but also her escape and her growth as she makes her way across the territory to face down the witch with outlaw Jack (from Jack and the beanstalk fame). A totally new slant is given to most of the characters, and it fits the fairy tale narrative in that there are a lot of little adventures along the way of the big journey. There’s no being saved by a prince (though there’s a hilarious hat-tip to that), and Rapunzel takes down foes with hair lassoing. She is second fiddle to none, and there’s a lot of time given to talking about her role, her place, her gender, her journey.  Also HUGE props to how many female characters are in this book, and characters of color. It’s fantastic. This was one I read and reread and re-re-read and then forced upon everyone around me because it is that much fun. The art is beautiful, vibrant, and earthy and the themes of growth magic are consistent while still really feeling like it all belongs in the old west. Love.

Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro – In the first Curses, Aliera stumbled upon a fencing foil that made her defender of the Seelie kingdom. In this volume, she deals with what that means. Not only is she trying to keep up with fencing to get to nationals, but her lab partner is a troll and declares himself her servant. The powers of darkness are out to get her foil, and it’s hard to know who to trust when her cousin Caroline is attacked. Again, I love this for the female lead – Aliera has unique strengths, but she’s also a normal girl and needs help along the way. Her cousin Caroline is an incredible gem of a character – wheelchair bound and supposedly “frail,” it’s Caroline who guides Aliera with advice and her RPG and fantasy knowhow. Both girls tell it like it is in their own way. It’s also intriguing that the whole school paranormal romance angle is turned on its head with some of the characters, so it’ll be interesting to see where that goes. Plus, Baba Yaga makes an appearance and there’s no way I could ever be mad about that. A fun romp with classic Jane Yolen awesomeness.

 

SJ Reads: The Weird Edition #amreading

Published October 12, 2015 by admin

So hey there…

I know, it’s been a hot minute – I’m going to be working to scheduling more posts in advance this week, along with actually getting some sewing done for later in the month, so there’s something to look forward to. I’ve been busy – Imaginarium was a fun time (with many Clyde hijinks that I’ll share with you), and I’ve been trying to get back into the promotional side of things (I have written many guest posts about October, I’m kind of surprised that it’s not Halloween yet). I’ve also been talking about several possible upcoming projects which I’m excited about, plus, it looks like I’m being added to the group of comic reviewers for I Smell Sheep! Usually I don’t do reviews (in the indie world, at least) because I feel like it’s a conflict of interest, but this is a great way to exploit my love of graphic novels and get ARCs to feed my need.

I haven’t done an SJ Reads post in a while, and since it’s October, we’re going weird. Like, so very weird. This will be a mish-mash of types of books and ratings, so there’s that for ya, too.

Ghosted vol 3 – I love this series anyway, and vol 3 is no exception. Following the misadventures of Jackson, things usually start with him being broken out of prison. His ties to the supernatural are once again being exploited by the law, and a lot of this volume’s stories really tie together past characters nicely. The bikers that sacrifice virgins to make black magic candles to get high gives more backstory to Jackson’s ghostly plus one. The magician who he ends up fighting is the relative of one of his close friends. The whole concept of a dark magic black market is intriguing, and although the volume’s problems were pretty much solved, I’m excited to see where things keep going. This is really getting good and I cannot wait for more.

Through the Woods  – This book is hypnotic to look at, unnerving to read, and will make you immediately start over once you’re through. The author is the master of a short story, and she continuously leaves you falling off the edge at the end of every one of the tales in this book. They’re fabulous. From the girl who watches her sisters disappear after a man in a big hat to a girl who suspects that not all is well with her brother’s new wife, from the girl and her friend who play at being mediums with disastrous consequences to the girl who finds out that there’s someone else sharing the house with her and her new husband, right down to the final story which is a new take on Red Riding Hood…it’s just spellbinding.

Beautiful Darkness – If you want creepy that is also heart-breakingly gorgeous to look at, this is the title for you. The opening is bar-none one of the most gut-punch openings I’ve ever read in a graphic novel, and things do not let up from there. Basically a bunch of sprites come out of a dead girl and have to survive in the woods. If this doesn’t feel like something you’d be interested in exploring in depth, then it will probably definitely unnerve you. It has a fairy tale vibe, but the animals act like animals and follow their instincts to hunt or to be, well, somewhat mindless animals. The pixies and sprites,, though, possess an almost childlike selfishness – they just don’t really care if any of their own get hurt and either go right on about their business or play a new game after every event. They are cruel and brush it off. There is blood, but the lack of empathy is what really makes it uncomfortable, yet believable in the context of these little creatures. Jealousies erupt, some play others against each other…there are some phenomenal scenes that will also make you squirm…and it’s made the more uncomfortable because the illustrations are so beautiful. The contrast between the lovely backdrops and cartoony characters is interesting, too. Aurora, the lead character, is someone your heart breaks for, but she also has her moments and the ending is fairly up in the air and you’re not quite sure how to feel for her, especially if you try to connect one of the characters in that scene to the beginning of the book. Or maybe I’m overthinking it. Either way, I’ve never read anything like this.

Baba Yaga’s Assistant – Probably YA, but I don’t care because I am SO HAPPY THERE IS A BABA YAGA BOOK. I’m even happier that there’s one set in modern times. I have the witch set aside for a series I’m developing, but I’m so thrilled when I find her in other work, and this book is fantastic. It really blends the Baba Yaga stories of old with a modern context. Masha’s not thrilled about her dad remarrying (her mother died when she was young), because he seems to be more devoted to his new wife to be and her daughter. This is one of the rare books that doesn’t make the stepmother out to be evil and puts a decent enough blame on Masha’s perception and her father’s actions. Obviously he misses his first wife and Masha reminds her of him, and without her mother or her grandmother (recently dead) around to hold him accountable, he’s more likely to sit down to dinner with the new arrivals than his daughter. Masha finds an advert where Baba Yaga is looking for a new assistant. The fun part is that her grandmother had an encounter with the witch – indeed, the whole town pretty much accepts that there’s this kid-eating witch living out in the woods. So Masha goes to apply, has to pass some tests, and ends up having to decide whether to save her sister-to-be, and ultimate her own future. It’s fun, if you’re familiar with the folklore it’s like sitting down with an old friend, and the design of Baba Yaga is just reminiscent enough of some of the famous paintings to make you squeal. LOVE. Not creepy per say, but enough tension for younger readers that it’d be a fun October read.

The Gargoyle – I have loved this book for so long, and just recently reread it. It’s not creepy per say, but it’s dark, and emotional, and those who like a historical/paranormal slant on things will appreciate it this month. It is a little slow moving compared to a lot of horror or urban fantasy,but this book is it’s own thing so it can do what it wants. It chronicles the recovery of a fairly unlikable (to start) narrator who has had a career in porn and has a lot of vices. After a car accident that leaves him burnt to the point of losing body parts, he begins a year-plus long recovery in the burn ward, effectively giving up every part of his earlier life. Enter Marianne Engel, who may or may not have mental problems. She keeps him focused, aids in his recovery (and funds a good part of it), and tells a story so complex that he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into the idea that they may have known each other in the 1300s and fallen in love. As things go along, her own mental state can’t be ignored, and the author is really, incredibly good at playing a fine line between is it true or isn’t it. Every time I read this I catch different things, and I’m still out to vote on what’s really going on. It speaks so much on the nature of faith, believe, and love, and is really quite breathtaking in places. There’s also some fantastic short tales she spins mixed in, so if you want a moody love story, this is it.

Horrorstor: A Novel – This is brilliant. This book…I snapped it up when it was recommended to me,because who doesn’t want to read about employees getting picked off in a haunted IKEA knockoff store? Seriously, the lead character is just unlikable enough that her change is believable – I can identify with her statis and her fight to be more than what she is at the moment. Retail is also a fabulous metaphor for that, so I hope that was intentional. Some of the side characters are awesome, and there are some genuinely creepy and unsettling moments. When a group of employees stay after because they think someone’s breaking into the store, then find out that the store was actually built on the site of an old prison that massively mistreated its prisoners…well…let’s just say this gives the haunted house trope a whole new makeover, and it’s amazing. I also love that the book is designed like an IKEA catalog, and the diagrams of items before each chapter get more relevant and macabre as you go along.

So yeah, that should be enough to get you started. What are some creepy titles that you like to read this time of year? They can be horror, short story, graphic novel, etc – give me some suggestions!