Archive for the books Category

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2021

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2022 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

2021.  What can I say.  I’m still working from home.  Things got a little better in some respects, a little worse in others.  But through it all I was able to keep reading.  And logging my reading.

So, as usual, you can find my reading logs on Goodreads. I log everything I read there. My reading goal for 2021 was originally 115 books. However, I reached that goal in like October.  So, I went in and readjusted my reading goal to 140.  And according to Goodreads, I finished out the year with 170 books.  I tied my total from last year.  Let’s take a look at some of GoodReads’ stats for my reading last year.

Reading 170 books certainly sounds impressive. And I did it twice.  It’s not all novels, obviously.  There are a generous amount of comics in there.  And several smaller kids books.  I actually didn’t even log *all* the books I read to my kids.  Only some of them.  The newer ones.

Let’s look at some of my other Reading totals.

Here’s my shortest and longest book I read.  The shortest was one issue of The Flash (1987-).  Starting in 2020, I did a read through of the first 62 issues of that Flash series.  An issue at a time.  In 2021 I read #36 through #61.  That was a fun re-read.  The longest book as you can see is Stephen King’s The Institute.  That was a pretty good book too.  It felt like there should have been a small connection to Firestarter in that book.  But it never materialized.

Here are my “most popular” and “least popular” shelved books.  Most popular was Huck Finn.  I had started a re-read of the three Mark Twain books I’d read back in high school; A Conneticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huck Finn.  I read all three last year.  I hope to read the two other Tom Sawyer books he wrote that I’d never read; Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer Detective.  Again, one of the least popular things I read was an issue of my The Flash (1987-) re-read.

I’ve already set my GoodReads reading goal for this year.  I set it to 150.  I’m not trying to stress myself out with this goal.  But I am trying to up it a little every year.

Let’s move on with my recap of my favorite books I read this year.

Rules are the same.  Only books/comics I read for the first time in 2021 are eligible for this list.  No re-reads, of which I had a few (I think I mentioned most of them earlier).  I don’t typically read brand new stuff the year it comes out, but it happens.  This year I read 5 novels that were released in 2021.  I wonder if any of them made the list. Let’s find out.

Here are the top 5 books I read last year in no particular order.

Images and links are from GoodReads pages.

Books

Project Hail Mary
Project Hail Mary (2021) by Andy Weir
– I had wanted to read The Martian for years, and then the Matt Damon movie came out.  I loved it, and kind of thought, “Well, now I don’t need to read that book.”  Which is not true, I really should.  However, when Weir put out his next book, Artemis (2017), I checked it out and read it.  And promptly hated it.  So, when Project Hail Mary came out this year, I was a bit cautious.  This looked a lot more like The Martian than his previous book, so I gave it a shot.  And I really really liked it.  A guy wakes up on a spaceship.  He’s clearly not in our solar system.  He seems to have previously been in a coma.  His crew mates are dead.  And he can’t remember anything.  This is where you start in the book and we have to learn everything along with the main character.  The story goes into some surprising places.  I really enjoyed it.  The strength of this is making me want to read The Martian again.

The Tournament
The Tournament (2014) by Matthew Reilly
– I love Matthew Reilly.  His Jack West Jr books have made it onto my “best of” list.  I think his Scarecrow series has also made it onto my lists.  He’s a really fun action author and I really enjoy reading his books.  I think at this point, I’ve only not read maybe 2-3 of his books.  This had been on my “to read” list for a while, but for some reason Reilly’s Kindle books very rarely go on sale.  I typcially like to pick up Kindle books when they are $2.99 or less.  His rarely go there.  So it wasn’t until this year that I finally used a gift card to buy this book.  And I’m glad I did.  This book is GREAT.  It takes place in the 1500s.  Queen Elizabeth II is just a teenager.  Her teacher is Roger Ascham.  They travel to Constantinople to witness a grand chess tournament to determine the greatest chess master in the world.  But a murder during the tournament sends Roger Ascham, a smart, amateur detective, into the depths of the sultan’s palace to discover a murderer.  Lots of mystery and suspense in this one.

BTTF Ultimate Visual History
Back to the Future Ultimate Visual History (2015) by Michael Klastorin with Randal Atamaniuk
– I’ve mentioned before I love oral histories.  I previous read all three of JW Rinzler’s “Making of” Star Wars books.  I want to read Rinzler’s Indiana Jones “Making of” book.  Last year I read one on Jaws and one on one of my favorite video games, NBA Jam.  I’d also many years ago read one on Saturday Night Live.  I’ve even read a Back to the Future “Making of” book before.  And I didn’t love it because, honestly, I already knew all the stuff in that book.  So, while I bought this newer Back to the Future Ultimate Visual History, I was worried I wasn’t going to like it because I thought I would already know everything it had to tell me.  But I was wrong.  This book is so well laid out.  Lots of great info.  There was even a bunch of stuff I didn’t know.  They dig into many aspects of the production of the movie.  Even the whole Eric Stoltz debacle.  And it tackles both sequels, as well as Back to the Future The Ride, and Back to the Future The Animated Series.  So it’s comprehensive.  And very readable.  Thoroughly enjoyed this.

Director Should Have Shot You
The Director Should Have Shot You: Memoirs of the Film Trade by Alan Dean Foster
– By Subterranean Press.  Being a movie novelization junkie, and host of a movie novelization podcast, I was super excited to discover Alan Dean Foster, the godfather of movie novelizations, wrote a memoir.  And it’s not just a memoir.  It’s a deep dive into all of the movie novelizations that he’s written, including one that was never published.  He goes through each book one by one in chronological order and gives anecdotes about the writing of the book.  It’s a lot of fun, super informative, with lots of good pictures.  Highly recommend this, especially to novelization fans.  Unsigned copies of this book are still available.  Click the image of the book above to go get one.

Six of Crows Crooked Kingdom
Six of Crows Duology (2015/2016) by Leigh Bardugo – This is by the same author that started the Shadow and Bone series that is now a series on Netflix.  Technically, these two books are a part of that Shadow and Bone series.  In fact, the Netflix series adapts part of Six of Crows in its first season.   Anyway, I was aware of the Shadow and Bone series and wanted to read it.  But then I was searching “heist” books and Six of Crows kept coming up on people’s lists.  So I went ahead and read it.  And loved it.  THEN, I figured out that Six of Crows takes place a few years after the three Shadow and Bone books.  The timeline here is complicated, but in the books, Shadow and Bone is the first trilogy.  Then chronologically comes Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom.  Then taking place a few years after these books is another trilogy.  But I enjoyed Six of Crows so much I just read these two books first anyway.  And they are amazing.  Great characters.  Lots of fun intricate plans.  Good dialogue.  Really enjoyed this.  I also read the first two Shadow and Bone books after these, and I can see where I may have spoiled myself on a few things by doing it this way, but I don’t care.  Reading these two first were worth it.

I’m going to throw in one extra. Call it a “Baker’s Five” of books.

Devil and the Dark Water
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton
– This book was on this list until literally the last 5 days of 2021.  I read Turton’s first book in 2019.  It was mostly good, but sort of went off the rails towards the end.  However it was written engagingly enough that I was interested in his next book.  And this was it.  It is sort of a Sherlockian setup.  Takes place in the 16th century on a sailing ship.  Murders start happening.  The “Sherlock” character is locked up in the brig as a suspect.  And the “Watson” character has to solve the mystery on his own.  That’s a very basic setup.  There’s a lot going on in this book.  But it has a great atmosphere, I loved the mystery, and I really enjoyed the characters.  There are a couple of Macguffins in the story.  But I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As usual, I also read a bunch of movie novelizations this year for I Read Movies.  However, I don’t include those in this list.  I do a separate write up for I Read Movies year end.  Check it out here.

Let’s switch over to comics! Here are the top 5 comics I read last year in no particular order.

Comics

Red Hood 1
Red Hood and the Outlaws (Rebirth) by Scott Lobdell and Dexter Soy
– So, as I do, I sort of got on a Jason Todd kick this year. I was always curious about the Red Hood, so I decided to check out Lobdell’s Rebirth series.  And loved it.  I read through the whole thing.  Jason Todd as Red Hood, Artemis, and Bizarro make a great team.  And they were like a family.  It was such a good dynamic.  And Lobdell brought the humor.  Jason Todd’s relationship with Batman and the rest of the family is so sardonic.  But it’s clear that he appreciates them.  His whole sardonic attitude is great and it belies the fact that he’s great at what he does.  He’s usually as prepared as Batman is.  This is a great series and I wanted to delve more into Jason Todd’s adventures, so next I read…

Under the Red Hood Red Hood Lost Days
Batman: Under the Red Hood/Lost Days by Judd Winick, Doug Mahnke, and Jeremy Haun – These books are two different runs separated by 5-6 years, but I’m putting them together because they are by the same author and they are mirrors of each other.  Under the Red Hood was the original run where Winick had Jason Todd return as the titular character.  It’s a great story, told from Batman’s POV that involves the Joker, Talia al Ghul, and Nightwing.  I loved it.  Red Hood: Lost Days is a follow up to the original run, also written by Winick, but many years later.  Essentially, it’s Under the Red Hood, but this time it’s from Red Hood’s POV.  So we get a lot of what you didn’t see in the first book.  This one is also excellent and I highly recommend it.

Fire Power 1 Fire Power 2
Fire Power by Robert Kirkman and Chris Samnee – I’m a fan of Robert Kirkman.  Unlike others, I don’t worship at the altar of Walking Dead, but I love Kirkman’s work on Astounding Wolf-Man, Invincible, and Marvel Zombies.  I’m also a big fan of Samnee’s art.  One of my all time favorite things is his Black Widow run with Mark Waid.  So combine these two on a kung fu tale and YES PLEASE.  I read the first three volumes of this which goes up to about issue 12.  It’s about an ancient shaolin temple that seeks to rediscover the art of throwing fire.  And one man comes to the temple to learn.  Then, the story shifts like 15 years, and we see the man with his wife and kids, and his days at the shaolin temple come back to haunt him when a rival temple comes to attack his family.  It’s really good, I really enjoyed this title.  Great art, of course.  And the story really picks up during the “15 years later” part.

MM Mighty Thor 1 MM Hulk 1 MM: X-Men 1
Marvel Masterworks (Thor, Hulk, X-Men) –  Continuing my journey reading through some of these old Marvel issues.  I had set a goal for myself earlier this year to read all the Marvel Masterworks volume 1s featuring the original line up of the Avengers; Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Captain America.  Yes, Captain America wasn’t in Avengers #1, but he showed up in #4, and he’s so linked to the group at this point I’m including him.  I’ve done all of those now except Captain America, Ant-Man and Wasp.  Captain America has two, the Golden Age archive, and the Modern Age archive (essentially before and after “frozen in ice”).  I’ll probably just do both.  Anyway, this year I tackled The Mighty Thor (Journey into Mystery), The Incredible Hulk, and in a break from my Avengers challenge, the original X-Men.  I loved all of these.  In X-Men you see a ton of firsts including Cerebro, Magneto, Scarlet Witch, and Quicksilver.  And everyone is in love with Jean Grey.  Hulk’s is super weird.  Originally he only changes at night.  Then, he has an accident where in order to change into the Hulk, Banner has to bathe himself in Gamma Rays with a radiation gun.  EVERY TIME.  And Thor’s is a lot of fun too with appearances by Loki and Odin.  And Thor has his Doctor Blake secret identity.  And his nurse Jane Foster.  OMG.  So much drama.  I really recommend reading these early adventures of your favorite heroes.  They are so much fun.  Like I said, this year I hope to do Captain America, Ant-Man/Wasp (Tales to Astonish), and maybe Uncanny X-Men.

Black Widow 1 Black Widow 2
Black Widow by Kelly Thompson – Kelly Thompson is the best.  I originally discovered her on Kate Bishop: Hawkeye.  Then I followed her to West Coast Avengers.  Which I loved and was sad it didn’t continue after issue #10.  Now I’m reading her Deadpool series and this, her Black Widow series.  This is so good.  The first collection has Bucky and Hawkeye, the second collection has Yelena and Spider-Girl.  I love Thompson’s voice.  Her dialogue is so great.  The art is by Elena Casagrande and Rafael de Latorre.  And it’s *also* fantastic.  This is a great series.  Love it.

And those were my favorite books and comics I read in 2021. I’ll maybe have a followup article to this talking about some Honorable Mentions.  You know, things that maybe I liked that almost made the list, but also things I didn’t like and really want to talk about.

Hope you enjoyed this article and found something new that you may eventually love.  Let me know if you do!

Okay, that covers EVERYTHING I’ve read.  Next up…MOVIES!  Stay tuned.

I Read Movies’ 2021 Year End Round up

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on January 10, 2022 by Paxton

IRM 2021

As you probably know, I host a movie novelization podcast called I Read Movies.  Every month I read a movie novelization and then on the podcast I talk about the differences between the movie and the novelization.  Last year, I decided to add to my usual “Best of” lists a year end round up for I Read Movies where I listed out my favorite novelizations that I covered on the show.  So, this year, I’m doing it again.

September 2021 was a big year for I Read Movies.  Not only was it IRM’s 4th birthday but September was the show’s 50th episode!  Hard to believe I’ve done that many episodes.  On the main podcast, I covered 12 novelizations in 2021.  You can see the covers of the novelizations I covered above.  I say, “on the main podcast”, because I did cover a few extra books on other podcasts.  I did the 1995 Mortal Kombat novelization for Cult Film Club, as well as an Appendix episode on the original Stephen King novel, Running Man, that inspired the movie.

So that makes 13 novelizations covered by me in 2021.  I’m very happy with the group of novelizations I picked this year (and you guys, you definitely helped me decide).  Out of 13 novelizations, it would have been easy to pick nearly 10 as my favorites.   But I really dug deep and narrowed it down to my five favorite novelizations.

So let’s see which novelizations I most enjoyed covering on the show in 2021!

FYI, most images and links are to movienovelizations.com.

Batman Forever
Batman Forever (1995) by Peter David
– I covered the first two Burton Batman movies back in 2019. So I continue the coverage of the 90s Batman movies with the third movie in the series. Like the previous two, I had read this novelization when it originally came out and remember loving it. So I was very excited to cover it for the show. And it is still very good. David manages to squeeze in lots of Batman easter eggs as well as lots of early story elements that did not make the movie. Like the giant bat. It’s definitely a fun read. I originally had no real intention to cover the final movie, Batman & Robin. I had read it several years ago and my memory was that it wasn’t very different. Well, I recently appeared on the Authorized Novelizations Podcast and we discussed Batman and Robin, so I read it for them, and I discovered I was wrong. There was lots to talk about. So, now, expect to see Michael Jan Friedman’s Batman & Robin novelization on IRM in 2022!


The A-Team (1983) by Glen A Larson
– A few years ago I started trying to cover at least one TV novelization during the year. I covered two Knight Rider episodes the last two years. This year, I decided to do The A-Team. This novelizes the very first episode, Mexican Slayride. It’s a lot of fun and adds a lot of fun tidbits and scenes to the action of the show. On the other side of the coin, it also doesn’t add any context to things in the episode that aren’t great.  Like Hannibal dressing up as a *very* stereotypical Chinese laundry owner, and the part of the show where Hannibal doesn’t help Amy when she’s accosted and nearly raped by two dudes coming out of a strip club.  That being said, the book is a lot of fun and I think the show turned out to be a good one.  2022 will bring another TV novelization to the show, so stay tuned!

WarGames
Robocop (1987) by Ed Naha
– Shawn had covered this in an article on movienovelizations.com. It sounded bonkers and could be a lot of fun. I mean, in it, Robocop gets a dog! And Murphy’s wife, who shows up in all the movies, actually moves to the moon in this book! They colonized the moon! So yes, I was excited to cover it, and the book delivered. It’s definitely a lot of fun. And actually, I had so much fun, I decided as soon as I finished it, that I wanted to cover the Robocop 2 novelization right after it.  And so I did.  And it was just as fun.  This was a reallly fun 1-2 punch and the episodes I think show how much fun the books were to read.

Back to the Future II Back to the Future III
Back to the Future Part II/Part III by Craig Shaw Gardner –  For my first anniversary back in 2018, I covered the first Back to the Future novelization by George Gipe.  That was a *lot* of fun because you could tell the book really followed the original version of the movie that had Eric Stoltz.  A lot of the gags from the Michael J Fox version just weren’t there, like  all of the “Coast Guard” and “life jacket” jokes from the movie.  Plus the “Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan” scene was extended.  It was a lot of fun to do that episode.  So for my big 50th episode I thought, it’s time to cover the sequels.  So I did both in one episode.  And while these books weren’t as bizarre and different as the first book, they had a lot of fun diversions in them.  They even address one aspect of time travel I had always wondered about in the BTTF universe.  When does a person from the future receive updated memories from a timeline change?  Like Marty at the end of the first movie, will he receive all the memories from his childhood with a more loving and healthy version of his parents?  Or will he always have that hole in his memory and when the family is reminicising he just has to play along?  These books, at least a little bit, address that.  And I appreciate that.

The Mummy 1999
The Mummy (1999) by Max Allan Collins
– This one was a surprise to me.  I forgot how much I love this movie.  Brendan Frasier and Rachel Weisz are so adorable.  It’s just a lot of fun to watch this movie.  And when I rewatched it for the show, I found myself not taking notes and just watching the movie.  And the novelization continues that fun.  It front loads the book with a lot more of the ancient Egypt stuff, and adds a few extra scenes at the end.  Like I said it just surprised me how much I enjoyed revisiting the movie and reading the novelization.  So, now I want to do the sequel, The Mummy Returns.  Max Allan Collins actually wrote all three Mummy novelizations as well as the very first Mummy spin off with the Rock, Scorpion King.  And you know how much I enjoy one author writing multiple books in a franchise.  So, this may be the beginning of another sub-series on IRM.

So those were my favorite novelizations I covered on the show this year. Let’s take a look at a few overall stats for I Read Movies.

Over the course of the show I’ve covered just over 60 books and novelizations. That includes the 53 episodes of the main show, as well as the Apendix special episodes, and any other special episodes I did for Nerd Lunch and Cult Film Club.  How about an author breakdown?

Currently, the author I’ve covered the most on I Read Movies is Craig Shaw Gardner.  I’ve covered five of his books (Batman 89, Batman Returns, The Lost Boys, Back to the Future Part II, and Back to the Future Part II).

In second place is Alan Dean Foster with four books on the show (Star Wars ’77, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, The Last Starfighter, Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

Third place is a tie between James Kahn and Jeffrey Cooper with three titles each.  Then there are a bunch of authors where I’ve covered only one or two titles.

So, that’s my I Read Movies year end novelization round up.  Hope you enjoyed this past year of the podcast.  I believe I have a lot of good novelizations coming up in 2022.

What usually happens with IRM at year end is that I take a break in January, and then new episodes start again in February.  And this February IRM is going to debut new episodes on the CultFilmClub.com podcast feed.  However, due to behind the scenes stuff, I want to move my break to later in the year, so I’m going to go ahead and do a January episode this year.  So expect that soon.  And I’ll go ahead and reveal it to you now, I’ll be covering the novelization of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.  Up, up, and Away!

I Read Movies’ 2020 Year End Round up

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , , on January 13, 2021 by Paxton

For those that don’t know, I host a movie novelization podcast called I Read Movies.  Every month I read a movie novelization and then on the podcast I talk about the differences between the movie and the novelization.  Novelizations are great resources for extra information on your favorite movies.  Extra scenes, plot points, missing characters, all can be found in a good novelization.

September 2020 was I Read Movies’ third birthday.  December’s Willow episode was episode 42.  On the main podcast, I covered 11 novelizations in 2020.  You can see the covers of the 11 novelizations above.  I say, “on the main podcast”, because I did cover a few extra novelizations on other podcasts.  Back in May I covered the novelization of Highlander by Gary Killworth for Cult Film Club.  I also talked about the novelizations of Pale Rider and Tombstone on the western podcast Hellbent for Letterbox.  For the last two, I covered those more informally and didn’t go beat by beat the differences with the movie.

So that makes 14 novelizations covered by me in 2020.  I was going to include some of these in my last favorite books article but I decided to just do a quick round up here and pick my 5 favorite novelizations that I covered this year on I Read Movies.  I picked really well this year.  Out of 12 novelizations, it would have been easy to pick 10 as my favorites.   But I really dug deep and narrowed it down to my five favorite novelizations.

So let’s see which novelizations I most enjoyed in 2020!

FYI, all images and links are to my buddy Shawn’s movienovelizations.com.

The Goonies UK
The Goonies (1985) by James Kahn
– This was the first novelization I did in 2020.  Written by James Kahn who also wrote the Return of the Jedi novelization (which I covered in 2018) and the first two Poltergeist novelizations.  There is so much to love about this novel.  It’s written from Mikey’s POV, but clearly after the events have already taken place.  There are extra scenes including the squid scene at the end, as well as a long drawn out scene of the kids riding a raft through some underground caverns.  There’s even an entire chapter written from Chunk’s POV where he takes over telling you the story.  It’s a lot of fun.  And you do get a type of epilogue at the end that shows you what happened after the movie’s last scene via articles in the local newspaper.  If you are a Goonies fan, this novelization is a must.

Knight Rider 2
Knight Rider #2: Trust Doesn’t Rust (1984) by Glen A Larson
– I mostly cover movie novelizations for I Read Movies. However, starting in 2019, I decided I’d pick one TV novelization to do each year.  Last year I did a novelization of the original Knight Rider pilot episode, Knight of the Phoenix.  If I had done an I Read Movies year end round up last year, it would have been on it.  I had so much fun with that first book, that for 2020 I picked up the second book in Larson’s Knight Rider novelizations series, Trust Doesn’t Rust.  This book is based on the season 1, episode 9 debut of KARR, the evil rival to KITT.  I love this TV show, and the KARR episodes (there were two) were definitely some of my favorites.  This book, being based on only one of those episodes, certainly expands a lot on the action in the episode.  And Larson knows these characters well, so he’s the perfect person to do these novelizations.  However, there are two things about this book that surprise me.  First, these books were written a few years after the episodes.  So Larson had knowledge of later episodes in the series when he wrote them.  Despite this, he doesn’t normally incorporate this future knowledge into the story.  So some story beats of the book will contradict what comes later in the show.  Or not really even mention it at all.  The other thing I’m surprised about is that this book doesn’t also novelize the second episode featuring KARR.  They could have easily said, “1 Year Later” and continued on to tell that story.  But those are nit picks.  This book and the previous Knight Rider book is so much fun to read that I’m hoping to continue on in this series.

WarGames Hackers
WarGames (1983) and Hackers (1995) by David Bischoff – This is a two-fer because they are by the same author.  Like my buddy Retromash, WarGames is one of my favorite movies.  I had actually read the WarGames novelization back in high school when I found it in an old “garage sale store” back in Alabama.  I remember loving it.  So, I looked forward to a reread and to cover it on I Read Movies.  And it didn’t disappoint.  It fills in some pretty great story beats, has a few extra deleted scenes, some throwaway dialogue, and a completely different ending.  It’s a lot of fun, and Bischoff would also write another “techno” based movie novelization I read last year, Hackers (1995).  That movie is so much fun and the novelization preserves that fun while vastly increasing a lot of the context of the story.  There are one or two extra scenes, but what Bischoff does is add a lot of story beats to further flesh out the characters.  Plus, there’s a lot of techno jargon that is either wildly inappropriate, or wildly out of date.  I can’t recommend these two novelizations enough.

Jason Lives
Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part 6 (1986) by Simon Hawke
–  Back for my blog’s AWESOME-tober-fest 2012, I covered a bunch of horror novelizations.  Many of the 80s horror novelizations have become extremely hard to find and very collectible.  I had a friend that had almost all of them and he let me borrow them to read and review for the site.  This Friday the 13th book was one of them.  It was released in conjunction with the movie, but lead to Hawke also novelizing the first three movies in the franchise.  I wish they would have let him complete it, because I would have loved to have seen Hawke’s Part IV adaptation.  Anyway, fast forward to 2019 and I lucked into finding a copy of this book at my local used store for $3.  So I decided to cover it last November.  This is such a great adaptation of probably my favorite Jason movie.  It’s lots of fun.  It does add some context to characters and even fills in a bunch of back story for Jason.  Plus, there’s an epilogue featuring Jason’s dad, Elias.  Like I said, it’s become really hard to find and it’s super expensive on the secondary market.  But if you get a chance, I recommend you give it a read.

Halloween
Halloween (1979) by Curtis Richards
– This particular novelization has picked up a sort of legendary status for novelization collectors.  Again, it’s an early horror novelization, so it’s highly collectible and very hard to find.  Plus, it adds *so much* to the story.  I was able to acquire a copy of this in digital form and covered it for I Read Movies’ Halloween episode last year.  And it delivers.  The book starts off talking about weird celtic cults in Ireland.  Then it downshifts into a scene with Michael’s grandmother and mother discussing Michael’s “unfortunate accidents” in school.  It takes a while before you catch up to the movie.  and even then, you get a ton of extra scenes of Michael and what his life was like inside the asylum.  This novelization is an exercise in why novelizations are great.  Actually, I could probably say that about all of my favorites this year.  They all added so much to their stories it made reading them a joy.

So those were my favorite this year. Let’s take a look at a few overall stats for I Read Movies.

Over the course of the show I’ve covered just over 50 books and novelizations. That includes the 42 episodes of the main show, as well as the Apendix special episodes, and any other special episodes I did for Nerd Lunch and Cult Film Club. How about an author breakdown? Currently, the author I’ve covered the most on I Read Movies is a three way tie between James Kahn, Jeffrey Cooper and Craig Shaw Gardner with three titles each.

James Kahn – Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, The Goonies
Craig Shaw Gardner – The Lost Boys, Batman, Batman Returns
Jeffrey Cooper – Nightmare on Elm Street, Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Nightmare on Elm Street 3

Then there are a bunch of authors where I’ve covered two titles; Alan Dean Foster, George Gipe, David Bischoff, Hank Searls, and Glen Larson. I have a few of these authors scheduled again in 2021 so we shall see who jumps in front next year.

Okay that’s my I Read Movies year end novelization round up.  Hope you enjoyed this past year of the podcast.  I picked a lot of really good choices last year and I think I have a lot of good novelizations coming up in 2021.  I typically take a break in January, but I might have a special episode for January and then I’ll be back in February covering The Last Starfighter by Alan Dean Foster.

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2020

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2021 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

2020.  Oh my god, guys, what a ride. I’m surprised, but I was able to get some reading done in 2020. It helped, sort of, that I was home most of the time. And, we read a lot more books as a family to each other. So that’s why you’ll see Diary of a Wimpy Kid on my list, and Little House on the Prairie, and Junie B Jones. These are book we read as a family or I read to my kids at bedtime. So it did seem we were all reading more together. I really liked that.

So, you can find my reading logs on Goodreads. I log everything I read there. My reading goal for 2020 was 105 books. And according to Goodreads, I read 170 books.

Reading 170 books certainly sounds impressive, but it’s deceiving as well. I had three books I did not finish, but Goodreads counts them in my “books read” and “pages read” totals.  There were also a couple large story collections that I only read one story out of, but Goodreads counts that whole book towards my totals.  Also, I read several comics series that weren’t collected into paperbacks so I had to list them as single issues. That quickly inflates my totals.  Plus, comics are super easy and quick to read. And I read a bunch of them this year.

Let’s look at some of my other Reading totals.

Here’s my shortest and longest book I read.  Both were read for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.  The short one is obviously a short story.  The longest one is a collection of the works of Stephen Vincent Benet.  He wrote The Devil and Daniel Webster.  I only read The Devil and Daniel Webster.  None of the other stories.  But that book is counted amongst my totals.

Here are my “most popular” and “least popular” shelved books.  I had read the first Harry Potter to my kids this year which started off a whole Potter obsession in this house that continues to this day.  We’ve watched all the movies, I’ve read the first three books to them, and they each have their own wands.  The least popular book I read is a comic from the Ultraverse: Prime comic series by Malibu.  I read a bunch of these Ultraverse titles for my apppearance on the podcast Wizards: The Podcast Guide to Comics.  These didn’t even exist on Goodreads.  I had to add them.

If you look at my Google Spreadsheet reading log, which I keep in parallel with Goodreads, you’ll see it listing 113 reads this year.  Minus the three aforementioned DNF books, which makes it 110 reads.  That number rolls up the single issue comics into their collected titles.  Still over my goal number of 105, so I’m happy with that.  Next year (or this year, I guess, 2021) I set my reading goal to 115.

Let’s move on with my recap of my favorite books I read this year.

Rules are the same.  Only books/comics I read for the first time in 2020 are eligible for this list.  No re-reads, of which I had a few.  You won’t find a lot of “2020” reads in here.  I don’t typically read brand new stuff the year it comes out, but it happens.  There was one big 2020 release that I did read.  Will it make the list?  Let’s find out.

Books

Immortality Inc
Immortality, Inc by Robert Sheckley
– I’ve been wanting to read this for YEARS.  This is the book that the movie Freejack was based on, and I am a fan of that movie.  We even covered Freejack on Cult Film Club in 2020.  Robert Sheckley is a prolific sci-fi author from the 50s.  And yes, Immortality Inc was written in the late 50s.  The novel is very different from the movie.  The movie took a few aspects of the story and that’s about it.  I’m considering doing an appendix episode of this novel on I Read Movies, so possibly stay tuned for that.  But the book is good, it’s packed with interesting ideas, and I had some fun with it.  I’m now curious to check out more of Sheckley’s work.  He’s written a *ton* of stuff including several short story collections, and a novel, Dimension of Miracles, that was a precursor (and possible influencer) to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide.

Brilliance Trilogy 1 Brilliance Trilogy 2 Brilliance Trilogy 3
Brilliance Trilogy by Marcus Sakey
– I forget how I found out about this series.  The basic premise is that at some point in the 80s it was discovered that 1% of the population is born “brilliant”.  Meaning that they have special abilities.  But we aren’t talking throwing fireballs, super speed, or flying.  It’s more grounded than that.  One man can read your intentions through your posture or your muscles tensing.  Another man can read the subtleties of the ever changing stock market to such a degree that he racked up billions and shut the entire NYSE down.  One woman can turn invisible, not physically invisible, but she inherently knows where people aren’t currently looking and can occupy those spots at the exact time to make herself functionally invisible.  And there are many other degredations besides that.  Sakey creates a pretty interesting world.  It’s definitely an X-Men pastiche type story.  Which itself is a thin alegory for racism.  This book investigates all of that.  The government that’s scared that Brilliants will take over world.  What they do about it.  And all the political intrigue and drama behind the scenes.  It’s really good and I highly recommend it.

Making of ROTJ
The Making of Return of the Jedi by JW Rinzler
– So, I finally finished this series.  It took me three years, but I finally did it.  I read the original Making of Star Wars in 2018.  Then I read the Making of Empire Strikes Back in 2019.  And this year, I was able to finish the trilogy with Making of Return of the Jedi.  These books are exhaustive.  Thousands of pictures.  Script fragments.  Behind the scenes stuff.  I had the Kindle versions and they also came with snippets of audio and video clips.  There is so much to consume with this series.  It’s an undertaking.  But it’s highly satisfying and worth it for a die hard Star Wars fan.  And to be honest, lately, I’ve been sort of “taking a break” on Star Wars.  These books sort of put me back into the mindset of, “Yeah, there’s a lot to like about Star Wars.”  Then add in watching season 2 of The Mandalorian with my son, and I may be somewhat ready to dive back into….well, if not all, then certain…Star Wars things.

NBA Jam
NBA Jam (Boss Fight Books) by Reyan Ali
NBA Jam is one of my favorite arcade games of all time.  This book is an oral history of how the game was made, how it became a global phenomenon, and all the drama that went on behind the scenes.  It’s a lot of fun and I love oral histories like this.  I read another pretty great oral history this year about Jaws called The Jaws Log.  It was written by one of the screenwriters, Carl Gottlieb, who was there almost every day of shooting.  Check it out!

Ninth House Time & Again
This last spot was pretty hard.  Several things could go here.  I didn’t have any one, clear winner.  So how about a two-fer?
Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo – This book is a part of the plethora of “Magical Schools” books that have flooded the market since Harry Potter. See Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.  This one, though, doesn’t use a hidden magical school amongst our world, it takes place on an existing college campus, Yale, that has a whole hidden magical community inside the normal campus life.  I won’t lie, the book is a slow starter.  You are sort of dropped into this world with very few context clues to what’s going on.  But as I read and picked up more details about the magic in this world, I really liked it.  Life in this book is pretty much the same as our own, except magic exists.  The problem is, magic is dirty.  It’s gross.  And it’s not easy to do.  There’s a lot of ceremony and ritual that’s required, and not just anybody can do it.  And, it’s super dangerous.  I liked this approach to magic.  And the main protagonist, Alex Stern, is an interesting and complicated character.  I would definitely read any sequel Bardugo wants to write in this world.

Time and Again by Jack Finney – I love time travel books.  Especially ones that sort of try to take the material in different directions.  This is one of those “secret government experiment to make time travel a reality” type stories.  And it’s pretty good.  A shadowy government agency recruits Si Morley to their ranks.  They are attempting time travel.  But time travel doesn’t work with a device or a “machine”.  In this world, you have to almost will yourself into the past.  It reminded me a lot of the movie Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeve.  And very few people have ever done it.  The way they handle time travel here is pretty great.  Si ultimately figures it out and travels back to the late 1800s New York.  Something goes awry.  He gets in trouble with a bad dude in 1880, but everytime he goes back to the future he notices small things are changing.  So he has to make a decision about what needs to happen and where is he going to wind up staying, in the future, or in the past?  This book was written in 1970.  There’s a sequel, but it wasn’t written until 1995!  25 years later!  I’m curious to read the sequel now considering some of the things that happen at the end of the first one.

I also read a bunch of movie novelizations this year for I Read Movies.  I wanted to place a few on this list, however, I think I may break them out and do an I Read Movies 2020 Year End round up.  And talk about the movie novelizations I read for the podcast there.  Stay tuned for that!

Let’s switch over to comics!

Comics

Flash 4 Flash YO
The Flash by Josuha Williamson
– This summer I went on a BIG The Flash read/re-read. First, I had gotten way behind on my current Flash reading. I had read the first couple volumes of Joshua Williamson’s Flash but stopped there. I wanted to catch up. So, I started where I left off, Volume 4, and read nearly straight through to Volume 12. And this includes Williamson’s take on Flash: Year One. There’s a lot of characters, and a lot of characters with super speed, which normally would bother me, but Williamson is able to handle that load. I enjoyed reading this run so much I actually went and read The Flash: Savage Velocity which is a collection of the first 18 issues of the 1987 Flash title.  That was the title I read back in the day as they were being released.  The first few issues are by Mike Baron and then William Messner-Loebs takes over.  Everyone always talks about Mark Waid’s Flash run, but he didn’t get on that title until issue 62, so there are 61 issues BEFORE him that are actually really good.  So I read the first 18 issues in Savage Velocity, and I happen to have a ton of these issues from when I bought them as they were coming out, so I pulled them out and read all the way up to issue #35.  Loved this full read.

Avengers MM Dr Strange MM
Marvel Masterworks
– I actually read several of these collected Marvel Masterworks books.  I read the first two Avengers volumes, as well as the first volume for Dr Strange, Iron Man, and Silver Surfer.  I really dig these high quality collections.  They are nice to read.  I’m going to call out the Avengers (issues #1-10) and Dr Strange (Strange Tales #110-111, 114-141) as my favorites.  I can’t express how much fun the Avengers books are.  They are mostly by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Don Heck.  These 60s stories are amazing and so different than what you expect out of these characters.  Iron Man has roller skates BUILT INTO HIS BOOTS!  And Dr Strange is exactly what you want it to be, these weirdly strange magical stories with TERRIFIC art by Steve Ditko.  I highly recommend reading some if you have the chance.  This year I’m hoping to bust into X-Men, Uncanny X-Men, and maybe even another volume of Avengers or Iron Man.  Or even Dr Strange.  Maybe all of them!

Paper Girls 1 Paper Girls 2 Paper Girls 3
Paper Girls (v1-v3)
– So I burned through the first three trades of Paper Girls this year based on people just *loving* this series.  I was curious, plus Brian K Vaughn is an awesome writer.  And there was talk about the 80s.  I thought maybe I’d get some sort of Stranger Things vibe out of this.  And that’s not wrong, but it doesn’t really do justice to what you get in this story.  There’s SO MUCH going on here, and at any moment, you probably are only aware of 50% of it.  There are constant revelations about things that already happened in the story that shed new light or change your perspective on the ongoing story.  It’s amazing how well this is written considering how bananas the story gets.  I mean BANANAS.  The art is great, the titular “paper girls” are awesome, and it takes place in the 80s.  I’m not going to spoil anything, just read it.

Calamity Jane
Calamity Jane: The Calamitous Life of Martha Jane Cannary by Christian Perrissin/Matthieu Blanchin
– I found this on a lark for sale and grabbed it to read for my western podcast, Hellbent for Letterbox.  And wow, it was super charming.  The art is terrific.  It’s black and white with some gray lowlights.  It reminds me of those Japanese paintings with ink and brush.  But the book tries to tell as accurate a story as it can from all the known facts about Mary Jane Cannary, aka Calamity Jane.  It takes from several books, and some letters Jane wrote to her daughter.  I loved this book and thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Infinite Kung Fu
Infinite Kung-Fu by Kagan McLeod
– This book reminds me a lot of the above Calamity Jane book.  The art is similarly fantastic.  Black and white with lots of brush strokes.  It felt like Kagan McLeod had found a lost 70s Kung Fu movie and illustrated it into graphic novel form.  An evil emporer, his evil kung fu master generals, kung fu gods, and lots of limb tearing action.  I really enjoyed this.

And those were my favorite books and comics I read in 2020.  Hope you enjoyed this article and found something new that you may eventually love.  Let me know if you do!

Lots more coming up, guys.  Expect to see an I Read Movies novelization round up, as well as my favorite movies of 2020 list.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: The Man in the Black Suit by Stephen King

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

I’ve been talking a lot about devils in movies and TV shows. So I want to throw another book into the mix. And I feel like I need to include something from Stephen King. And that something is going to be Stephen King’s short story, The Man in the Black Suit.

Man in the Black Suit Everything's Eventual

I think the story has been published in several places, but I know it from King’s short story collection Everything’s Eventual. I love King’s short story collections; Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, Nightmares & Dreamscapes. They are some of my favorite of his writings.  There’s just something about the stories being more concentratedly powerful and creepy.  Many years ago, say 2004-ish, I picked up the paperback version of this collection and started reading it.  I was traveling a lot at the time for my job, flying across the country.  I got about 3 stories in and accidentally left the book on the plane.  To this day I’ve not continued reading it despite the fact that the first two stories in the collection were terrific.  The Man in the Black Suit is the second story.  And it’s stuck with me all of these years.  When I decided to do The Devil for AWESOME-tober-fest this year, this was one of the first things that popped into my head.

The story is told in flashback.  Gary, old and dying in a nursing home, has decided to write down a story that he has never spoken to anyone.  Ever.  It happened back in the 1920s, when he was 9 years old.  He went fishing one day several miles from his house down Castle Stream.  He falls asleep waiting for a bite and is suddenly awoken by and sees what looks like a man in a black suit.  But upon closer inspection, it is so much more.  They start off having a conversation.  During this conversation, Gary comes to understand that this man is The Devil himself.  And the rest of their conversation Gary is trying to not let the man know that he has figured out that he is the Devil.

Yes, this story is creepy, but I’m bringing this story up because of King’s depiction of the Devil.  It’s one we don’t see that often.  The truly monsterous version of the Devil.  This Devil is pale and tall with skinny arms and legs.  He smells of burnt match sticks.  Gary notices claws at the end of his pale, thin hands and his mouth is filled with sharp fangs.  And where the man’s eyes should be, are flames.  Like a blast furnace with no door.  This Devil is truly terrifying.  He doesn’t speak in an English accent, say pithy lines, or make bargains or deals.  This Devil makes it clear to Gary that he intends to eat him.  For he is mighty hungry.

Since the story is told in flashback, you know that ultimately Gary escapes.  But it’s a harrowing escape.  I love this story, and I highly recommend you checking it out.  It’s available out there in several places by itself or in other collections.  And now that I’ve reread this story and it totally holds up, I think I may pick back up Everything’s Eventual and finally finish it.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.