SJ Reads: The Weird Edition #amreading

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!

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