Archive for Book Report

Year End Book Report: The Best Books/Comics I Read in 2018

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 16, 2019 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Okay, I did my favorite movies of 2018 list. Time for my favorite books/comics of 2018 list.

I’m still keeping my reading log on Google Spreadsheets, however, I sort of re-upped my investment in Good Reads and updated my last two years of reading logs there. I want to test out that site’s functionality a bit more, possibly looking to keep my logs there permanently. You can check out my Good Reads shelves here.

According to Good Reads’ reading stats, I read 85 books/comics last year.  And here are the breakdowns of my starred reviews.

The stats also say I read 18,158 pages last year.  kind of strange to see that giant number written down as the number of pages I’ve read.  Yikes.

So, the same rules apply here as on my movie list.  Only new reads in 2018 count. No re-reads, which I did a few last year. It’s been hit or miss the last few years on getting 5 of both comics and books. However, I was able to get 5 books and 5 comics for this list. Let’s see what they are.

Books

Making of Star Wars
The Making of Star Wars – JW Rinzler
– I didn’t read this one straight through.  If you look at my read dates for this they go from Jun-Dec.  It took me several months because, first, the book is f’n HUGE.  And second, because I would read it in between other books a section at a time.  It’s a big, weighty tome but there’s a metric ton of information, charts, pictures, scripts, artwork.  You name it, it’s in there.  Rinzler combs through the Lucasfilm archives and gives us a micro drilldown on the making of the first movie in the trilogy. So much information and so much to process that I personally couldn’t have read it straight through.  But I’m glad I finished it.  I’m looking forward to Rinzler’s other two books in this series (Empire and Jedi).

Dark Matter
Dark Matter – Blake Crouch
– I got this on a lark during a Kindle sale. The premise was intriguing.  Jason Desson is mugged one night and knocked unconscious.  He wakes up in a place he’s never seen before in a life he never lived.  His wife is not his wife, his son was never born, and he’s not a college professor but a celebrated genius scientist who has achieved something impossible.  Is it this new world or the old one that is the dream?  See?  Great premise.  And the book delivers.  I really enjoyed where this book went.  It’s dark, but a fun read.  It gets pretty bonkers at the end, too.  Very much enjoyed this book, so much so I bought a few more of Crouch’s novels after I read it.

Vicious
Vicious (Villains Book 1) – VE Schwab
– I’d had my eye on this book for a while. The sequel, Vengeful, just came out the end of last year.  During their senior year, two brilliant college students form a theory that under the right conditions, humans could develop extraordinary abilities.  But when their research goes from theoretical to experimental, things go horribly wrong.  I really liked this book.  It’s a much darker take on super heroes and sets up a really cool world.  Several twists happen that I somewhat saw coming, but it didn’t bother me because I was enjoying the ride.  Yes, I *will* read the sequel.

Rap Year Book
The Rap Year Book – Shea Serrano
– Again, sort of bought on impulse at an end of the year Kindle sale.  Features the most important song from every year in hip-hop from like 1979 to 2014.  It’s the author that’s making the determination of “most important”.  I’m glad I got it, because rather than just be a giant list of facts, it’s actually a covert telling of the history of rap through the veneer of the most important singles of each year.  Lots of dropped information and the author is very entertaining in his writing.  And as I suspected, once the book got to about 2003, I hadn’t heard of any of the songs.  I was literally scratching my head the rest of the book.

Billy the Kid an Autobiography
Billy the Kid: An Autobiography – Daniel Edwards
– I thought long and hard about putting this book in.  But the more I thought, the more I realized it needs to go here.  If you’re at all interested in Billy the Kid or even the Wild West like I am, then this is a *very* intriguing read.  I talked about it on episode 49 of Hellbent for Letterbox.  This book does two things, first, it gives you a thorough account of the whole Brushy Bill Roberts saga through the original interviews with him in the late 40s.  Second, it supplements and comments on Brushy Bill’s story with research, facts, photo comparisons and conjecture from a third party, the author, in modern day.  You could almost call it the Brushy Bill Roberts Interviews: The Annotated Edition.  Daniel Edwards really digs in and tries to get to the bottom of the whole Brushy Bill saga.  I’d never really delved into that story, I just assumed it was all a bunch of bull, but there is so much to Brushy Bill’s story that I didn’t know!  Really opened my eyes to a few things.

Time to move on to…

Comics


Jeff Lemire books (Old Man Logan, Hawkeye, Thanos, Green Arrow)
– I sort of went through a tear of Jeff Lemire comics last year.  And I can’t pick one so I’m just going to group them together like I’ve done for the Jason Aaron Thor comics.  I started with Lemire/Sorrentino’s Old Man Logan series which pulls Mark Millar’s creation into the Marvel Universe proper.  Loved it.  Still reading through the series.  Then I tackled the Thanos comic which is an excellent series devoted to the mad Titan.  It’s huge, it’s cosmic, it’s epic.  I was already a fan of the Matt Fraction Hawkeye solo comics, so I was intrigued to see how Lemire would continue that series in All-New Hawkeye.  And it’s pretty awesome.  I love the developing relationship between Clint and Kate Bishop.  Finally, I found out late last year that Lemire took over the New 52 Green Arrow comic.  So I read it and it was a lot of fun as well!  Check out all of these, and while I’ve been a Lemire fan for a while, this latest run of comics has made him a must read for me.


The Mighty Thor: The Death of Thor – Jason Aaron
– And speaking of Jason Aaron’s Thor comics, he makes it on the list *again* this year with the finale to his previous Thor run.  I’ve spoken at length on these year end blogs and a few times on several podcasts about my love of Jason Aaron’s Thor.  It’s great, I love it, and this finale to the Jane Foster Thor saga is epic and heartbreaking and great.

Jughead's Time Police
Jughead’s Time Police
– So, yes, I bought all six issues of this comic off the rack back in 1990. And yes, I do, in fact, still have every one of those issues.  That did not stop me from buying the full collection in digital format last year and reading the entire series.  I’m surprised how much I still really like it.  I almost didn’t add it to this list because I was labeling it a re-read, but honestly, I don’t think I’d ever actually finished the whole series. I think I’d only read that first issue. So the *whole* series was new to me. It’s hokey, and cheesy, but in a very sweet way and the entire premise is wacky and fun.  Elements of this comic’s characters and story line even get a few call outs in the new Jughead reboot by Chip Zdarsky.  And this comic was ground zero for the creation of my 50cent Bin Teen Titans on Nerd Lunch last year.

Weapon X Weapon X 2
Weapon X – Greg Pak
– I’m a huge fan of Greg Pak. His Planet Hulk is phenomenal and I love Totally Awesome Hulk.  So I was intrigued by this team book featuring Domino, Lady Deathstrike, Warpath, Sabretooth and Old Man Logan being hunted by deadly, shape shifting assassin robots sent by the reformed Weapon X program which is now looking to eradicate all former members of the program.  Lots of fun with this eclectic and volatile team.

Archie 1 Archie 2
That Archie comics reboot by Mark Waid and Fiona Staples
– I was curious about this because I love Mark Waid, and I’m a mild fan of *some* things Archie (see two entries up).  So I was morbidly curious how this “reboot” was going to be handled.  And it’s pretty great.  It’s much in the same vein as the CW Riverdale series, but this comic reboot came first in 2015, so I guess the 2017 Riverdale took it’s cues from the comic.  I really like how it sort of reinvents Riverdale.  All the characters are great, Betty is adorable, and Veronica is actually not that bad.  In volume 3, we meet Cheryl Blossom and, YIKES, she’s a force to be reckoned with.  Give it a shot, I think you’re gonna like it, unless, of course, you’re horrified they even tried to reboot Archie in any way.

So, those are my favorite books/comics I read in 2018.  There were a lot more I could’ve put on, and normally, right here, I’d put in some honorable mentions.  But I may actually split out the honorable mentions into their own article.  So look for that soon.  And you can see all my ratings/mini reviews for the last two years on my Good Reads account.  Check it out.  Friend me.  I need friends.

Hope you enjoyed this 2018 round up.  Can’t wait to see what this year brings.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2017

Posted in books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 3, 2018 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Man, 2017.  That was a RIDE.  Kind of crazy it’s over.  But one good thing we get out of it is another of my semi-famous year end round up articles.

My book/movie logs have sort of gone through an upheaval the last two years. Back in 2008-2009ish I first put them up on Google Spreadsheet. Then, in 2016, I converted over to an online database tool called Airtable. I *really* liked the features and functionality of Airtable plus their iOS app was pretty slick.  However, I found out in early 2017 that the free version of Airtable only holds so many rows of data and that I had just busted up against the ceiling with both of my movie/book log databases.  If I wanted more, I’d have to pay.  Not willing to do that for these logs I once again searched for a replacement and wound up taking another look at Google Spreadsheet.  I decided to see if I could mimic some of the Airtable functionality in Google.  I was partially successful.  Through some fancy custom cell formatting, template sheet data validation and a little bit of script writing I was able to punch up the usefulness of my original Google Spreadsheets logs.  so I created a brand new spreadsheet, called it Book Log v2 and reimported all my data.  Now I have a visually nice representation of the books I read throughout the year including some cell highlighting for the current year and my rating system.  Here’s a quick look at the Book Log v2 in Google.

Book Log v2

All of this maneuvering and formatting is to make articles like this year end list easier to do.  So, let’s get on with it.

The rules, this list contains 5 books and 5-ish comics that I read for the first time in 2017.  No re-reads.  That particular rule really hampered the amount of books I could pick from because I did a lot of re-reads this year.  I’m re-reading the Artemis Fowl series and I did a few Star Wars re-reads this year so my “new to me” books in 2017 were much lower than usual.  But the comics were *also* hard to pick because I read a ton of them this year and there were some stellar entries.  So let’s see what I decide.  I don’t even know myself as I’m typing this.

Books


The Reckoners Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson – I picked up the first two books of this series on a lark in an Amazon sale for super cheap. I was aware of the author having already read one of his other more famous works, Mistborn, which made this list back in 2015. These books sounded interesting, sort of a dystopian future involving super heroes.  Several years before the books begin, a red sun called Calamity appears in the sky and causes certain people to gain powers.  These people are called Epics.  There are different levels of Epics based on the strength of their power profile.  Unfortunately, when someone gains powers and they start to use them, they change.  They become meaner.  More vain.  Paranoid.  It causes the Epics to essentially take over the world and create little fiefdoms in the larger cities.  The books follow a small resistance group called The Reckoners that work behind the scenes to undermine and even kill the worst of the Epics.
So I read the first two books, then there was a short story Sanderson wrote set in this world called Mitosis that I read, and I finally picked up the third and final book in the series and finished it all this year.  One of Sanderson’s strengths is world building.  He creates these super interesting worlds that work like our world but are different in many interesting ways.  Mistborn was the same way.  Just watching the mechanics of these books’ worlds happen is fascinating and he builds interesting characters in both regular humans and Epics.  So, this series is a winner.  Definitely give it a shot.


George Washington’s Secret Six by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger – I love reading hyper focused history books involving little known tidbits of US history, especially in the revolutionary war period.  I know the Culper Ring was a hot topic for a while leading to this book, a TV show, and also a fictional thriller series by Brad Meltzer which all revolve around the secretive spy organization (side note: I’ve read that fictional thriller, it’s called Inner Circle and it’s pretty good, if a bit long).  This book is a pretty great condensed history of the Revolutionary War that mostly focuses on the real life exploits of Washington’s Culper Spy Ring and it reveals who all was in the ring and what they risked and sacrificed to be a spy during the Revolutionary War.  It’s totally engaging and I really loved it.  I’m now very interested in reading more of Kilmeade/Yaeger’s history books.  The next book involves Thomas Jefferson and Tripoli Pirates.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling – I decided I wanted to read this book but I also realized it had been a few years since I’d read the original series in full, so I decided to do a re-read of the Harry Potter series first.  I started Sorcerer’s Stone on Dec 14, 2015 and finished Deathly Hallows on Dec 29, 2016.  I borrowed a copy of this book from a friend and with much trepidation I began to read it this past summer (I had no idea how this was going to come off).  I shouldn’t have worried.  It’s delightful.  Almost a celebration of the entire Harry Potter series.  It sort of Back to the Future II‘s the story of Harry Potter.  The story takes place years later.  It involves our heroes’ children and what they deal with having such famous parents.  We get kids that don’t fit in and fall in with friends other people think they shouldn’t have due mainly to parents’ old rivalries.  There are time turners and visits to events from the original books, but now we see them from another angle.  I haven’t gone out to see what the reviews on this are but I could see people possibly not being happy because there’s a lot of retread over the original book stories.  Maybe even a bit of fan pandering.  But honestly, that’s why I loved it.  The characterizations were spot on.  The events were fun and I felt “whisked away” into whatever adventures the book took me.  It was a surprise how much I liked it.  I wasn’t originally going to buy this book, but I liked it so much I wound up buying the paperback at Sam’s to put on my shelf right next to Deathly Hallows.  As good as the original series? No.  But it’s a fun revisit of these characters and a world I was happy to jump right back into.


Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige – I read and reviewed this back in February 2017 for my ongoing “Oz Reviews” that I do here from time to time.  It’s simultaneously a reinvention of Oz and a semi-sequel to the 1939 Oz film.  It’s kind of hard to describe.  I thought I may not like it due to how it may or may not reinvent Oz, but in actuality I quite liked the book.  It uses familiar Oz iconography and builds a world around it that seems both different and the same.  It’s new, but it’s familiar.  I mentioned before how good Brandon Sanderson is at world building in his books.  Paige does an admirable job world building in this series as well.  The sheer number of Oz deep cuts that show up are impressive between characters, objects and events that are mentioned.  And the story around it is interesting.  I’ve since read three of the prequel novellas as well as the sequel, The Wicked Will Rise.  I plan on continuing the series.

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AWESOME-tober-fest 2017: Heart Shaped Box (2007) – Joe Hill

Posted in books, Genres, ghosts, horror, monsters with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2017 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2017

I’ve been a fan of Stephen King since before high school. So when I found out his son, Joe, was writing books, I was initially intrigued but ultimately never sought out the kid’s books.  Then I randomly stumbled upon Horns.  I forget how, but the synopsis intrigued me and I put it on my Amazon list making a mental note to check that book out when I get a chance.  Then, in 2013, the Kindle book went on sale so I pulled the trigger and read it.  And really enjoyed the book.  So at that point, I’m wondering, what Joe Hill book should I read next?

Enter AWESOME-toberfest 2015. I was all set to do Ghosts as the theme and I was deciding between two Joe Hill books; the short story collection 20th Century Ghost and the novel Heart Shaped Box.  However, things happen, things change, and I wind up doing invisible man that year instead.  Flash forward to 2017.  I’m really doing ghosts this time. So, I get a sample on my iPad of both books, read the samples and select, with much fanfare to no one but myself…Heart Shaped Box.

So, what is this book about?  The quick elevator pitch is that aging rock star Jude Coyne likes to collect macabre things.  Among other things he has a used hangman’s noose, a signed witch’s confession from the Salem Witch trials, and even a snuff film.  And when his assistant stumbles across a haunted suit in an online auction, Jude decides on impulse to buy it and it to his collection.  Yet when the suit arrives on his doorstep a few weeks later in a black, heart-shaped box, Jude finds that he’s going to get more than he bargained for.

Heart-Shaped Box was Hill’s first novel, published in 2007.  It’s actually pretty good.  Based on the two novels I’ve read, Hill really knows how to set up the atmosphere of his books’ worlds.  Hill’s books exist in this darker, hyper real existence where crazy things can happen but it still feels 100% real.  Like I can easily picture it and it feels like I’m in that world as well when I’m reading the book.  Hill is also good at setting up his main characters.  Jude, in this novel, isn’t the greatest guy.  He’s an aging rockstar, he collects weird memorabilia, he sleeps with goth girls that are way too young for him.  But by the end of the novel you see how the experiences in the book change him.  He realizes that how he’s been acting is wrong.  He sees the unhealthy patterns he’s following.  We also learn a little about his past that brings his current behaviors into focus.  So by the novel’s climax, the things Jude learns and the behaviors that are changed are earned.

What about the ghost aspects of the novel? Hill realizes his ghost very well.  He is CREEPY.  He has black scribbles over his eyes which somehow makes him more terrifying.  You learn a little bit about the nature of the particular ghost haunting the suit, but it’s not really made clear if that applies to all ghosts. There are clearly some rules for the ghost in the book but you don’t know if the rules apply to all ghosts or just him.

I liked this book.  I actually think I liked it more than Horns.  And don’t get me wrong, I liked Horns.   I really like what I’ve read of Hill’s books so far.  They are dark and atmospheric.  They have interesting characters that follow a good arch throughout.  And the story concepts for his books so far have been interesting and different.

I happen to also have two of Hill’s newer books The Fireman and NOS4A2 which are absolutely going to get read sooner rather than later.



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

Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1 (2014) by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , , , , on February 16, 2017 by Paxton

inspired_by_oz

A week or two ago I reviewed Danielle Paige’s Dorothy Must Die. It’s the first in a series of books that take place several years after the original Wizard of Oz book by Frank Baum.  It reimagines Oz as a place in serious peril where Dorothy has returned but she’s changed.  She’s become obsessed with magic and has essentially usurped Ozma as the ruler and with the help of Glinda starts literally strip mining Oz for magic.  It’s an interesting enough premise and the author really digs in and reuses characters from the books in very interesting ways that made me want to continue the journey into this Oz.

Aside from the main books in the series, Paige has written a series of novellas that act as prequels to the books.  I went to my local library and I found the very first collection of novellas called Dorothy Must Die Stories Volume 1.

DMD Stories 1

This book contains the first three prequel novellas; No Place Like Oz, The Witch Must Burn and The Wizard Returns.  I didn’t really know anything other than the titles going into these but I was intrigued. Mostly by The Wizard Returns since that character is very cagey in Dorothy Must Die so I was very interested to hear how The Wizard got back to this particular Oz and what his agenda may be.

No Place Like Oz
The first novella, No Place Like Oz, is very Dorothy-centric.  It’s also the longest one by about 100 pages.  It picks up with Dorothy a few years after her original return to Kansas from Oz.  It’s her sixteenth birthday party.  We see that Dorothy is sort of unhappy as many people think she’s crazy with her ramblings about a fairy magic land with talking lions and people made of tin.  Even some of her friends don’t believe her.  Plus, Dorothy is finding out that life on the farm in rural Kansas is not as exciting as it was in Oz.  Once you’ve encountered magic, nothing else can really live up to it.  So we see this Dorothy, who’s become a little bitter because no one believes her about Oz, even her friends.  Plus she sort of enjoyed the fame that her disappearance caused in Kansas and once that started to fade she began resenting her life there.  After her birthday party ends embarrassingly bad, Dorothy shuts herself up into her room and opens a mysterious gift to find a pair of red, high heeled ruby shoes.  She puts them on, clicks them together just as Aunt Em and Uncle Henry walk into her room and transports all three of them to Oz.

This is the gist of the story.  Dorothy is back in Oz, this time with Em and Henry. She meets Ozma and reunites with her old friends.  And being back in Oz, instead of making her happier, starts to enhance some of her feelings.  You see her obsession with magic really take hold.  It’s a really good story.  I feel like Paige made the reason that Dorothy sort of turns bad believable.  It’s not a 180 with no explanation.  It makes a bit of sense.  And you get to see the setup for Dorothy as we find her in Dorothy Must Die.

The Witch Must Burn
The next story, The Witch Must Burn, is told from the point of view of Jellia Jamb, the head house maid in the Emerald City.  She plays a fairly big (and ultimately important) part in Dorothy Must Die.  And Jellia’s story here is really a vessel to tell the story of Glinda and her possible future plans for Oz.  You also get to see a bit of just how horrible Dorothy has become, but it all leads to Glinda “borrowing” Jellia from Dorothy and what happens to Jellia because of this.  I was not expecting this story but it was a good read.

The Wizard Returns
Like I said, the third and final story is really the one I was most interested in.  The Wizard Returns starts off with the Wizard leaving Dorothy at the end of the original Wizard of Oz.  The hot air balloon he’s in crashes and we see him land in the very same poppy field that Dorothy was trapped in.  Fast forward twenty five years and The Wizard is awoken and he has no memory of himself or his past actions.  This particular story started off a bit slow, but the back half really saved it.  You still don’t really 100% know The Wizard’s agenda by the end, but you know what happened to him before the events in Dorothy Must Die.

All three of these stories are honestly good and do a great job of setting up the world we see in Dorothy Must Die.  However, I thought my favorite story was going to be The Wizard Returns, but honestly, I think it turns out being No Place Like Oz.  I’m glad I read this collection.  There is another set of prequel novellas that take place after this.  They are about Dorothy’s friends; Heart of Tin, The Straw King and Ruler of Beasts.  However, I’ll probably get the full sequel novel The Wicked Will Rise and read it before delving back into these prequel novellas.

I guess the ultimate question with these prequel novellas is, should you read them before or after you’ve read Dorothy Must Die.  It could go either way but I’d recommend reading them after DMD.  They fill in the world of the books and I feel like you may want the basis of the full novel first before the novellas.  But I think if you did the prequels first and then DMD, it would honestly still work.

I return to an alternate Oz with Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Posted in books, Classic literature with tags , on February 3, 2017 by Paxton

inspired_by_oz

From time to time I’ll read stuff that isn’t part of the established “Oz canon”, but is directly inspired by Baum’s Oz works or it takes Oz and re-interprets it in an alternate way. The 1985 movie Return to Oz would be an example of this.  Or Gregory Maguire’s Wicked series.  Whenever I read this stuff I’ll try to throw a review up to add to my ever growing Oz review archives.

Recently, after watching Return to Oz for the Cult Film Club podcast and reading its novelization, I decided I was ready to try another “alternate Oz” story so I pulled the trigger on a book I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about; Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige.

dorothy_must_die_book_cover dorothy_must_die_book_back

I wasn’t for sure what to expect from this book when I started to read. Was it a reboot of Wizard of Oz? A sequel? A sidequel? I had no clue.  So I loaded it on my iPad and hoped for the best.

It starts off a little slow.  Amy lives in Kansas.  Her father left her and her mom.  The mom has become an addict.  Life is not good.  And we sort of get beat over the head with this for the first 75-80 pages.  Amy’s life sucks.  I get it.  This early building of character angst for Amy is sort of tiring and why I no longer read as many YA books as I used to.  That being said, the fun begins when the freak tornado hits and Amy wakes up in Oz.

What this book turns out to be is a sequel to The Wizard of Oz.  I’d like to definitively say it’s a sequel to the book or the movie, but, like Return to Oz, they sort of hedge their bets and use iconography from both.  Mainly, of course, it’s the damn slippers.  But Paige is a little bit more ambiguous about the slippers.  She mentions that Dorothy wore silver slippers, however there are statues in Munchkinland featuring Dorothy in ruby slippers and when we finally meet her, Dorothy is wearing ruby slippers.  She never takes them off actually.  But it’s honestly a minor thing, there’s a lot more going on than the slippers.

The biggest strength of this book’s story is the world building.  The events in this book seem to take place many years after the original Oz book/movie.  From context clues in the story it seems like events in the first two Baum Oz books (Wizard of Oz, Marvelous Land of Oz) happen as normal.  It’s Dorothy’s return in the third book (Ozma of Oz) that events seem to “take a turn”.  Many years before the events in this book, Dorothy returned to Oz from Kansas and Ozma made her a princess.  Those events basically happened in the Baum books, but over the years Dorothy sort of becomes obsessed with magic.  This obsession changes Dorothy’s behavior.  It makes her more erratic.  And with this change, her closes friends, Scarecrow, Tin Woodsman and the Lion sort of change with her.  Dorothy supplants Ozma as the ruler of Oz and conscripts Glinda to enslave the Munchkins to start mining Oz for magic.  Oz’s magic lies deep within its land so everyone is busy strip mining Oz and hoarding magic for Dorothy.  And like I said, Dorothy’s friends sort of follow her lead. Scarecrow becomes obsessed with getting smarter.  He starts experimenting on Oz citizens like a mad scientist.  Studying their brains and creating weird monster hybrids. The Tin Man is in love with Dorothy and becomes the captain of her guard.  The Lion goes savage and starts just indiscriminately eating people and drinking in their fear.  It’s a very interesting idea that the gifts bestowed upon Dorothy’s friends (brains, heart, courage) are the very thing that are driving them mad.  It can be dark and frightening, but I’m enjoying the world that Paige is building up.

Wanted: Dorothy

So Amy shows up in the middle of all of this.  We slowly learn all the backstory stuff I just talked about.  Amy is put in a dungeon by Dorothy but is saved by The Revolutionary Order of the Wicked.  The Order is a group of the witches of Oz that have banned together to stop Dorothy’s tyrannical rule.  They include Gert, the former Good Witch of the North. Glamora, the twin sister of Glinda.  And Mombi, the witch that originally secretly held Ozma in captivity from that second Oz book.  The Order trains Amy to go undercover in Dorothy’s court in the Emerald City in order to get close to her and hopefully assassinate her and allow Oz to once again be free.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2016

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2017 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Here I go, writing another one of these year end round up articles that I’m shocked to be writing every year. 2017. CRAZY. What a ride 2016 was. Hopefully 2017 will give us a bit of a break.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  After so many years of logging my books and comics reading via Google Spreadsheet, I actually converted my logs over to an online data tool called Airtable. It’s similar to Access in that it is a relational database but the user entry interface is very simple to create and similar to Excel. Plus being able to link specific information between tables really helps in cross referencing and spelling.  You have no idea how many times I misspelled author names throughout my logs.

Here’s what my book log looks like now on Airtable.  I’ve converted all my logs back to when I first started in 2007.

airtable_books1

The blue colored fields in the screenshot are actually linked to another table.  I was able to also create the Rating field on the right with different color coded ratings to make it easy at a glance to see what is going to make my year end list and what isn’t.  Plus, Airtable makes all of this data entry even easier with a nice app for my iPhone or iPad that makes it easy to log entries on the go.  Google Sheets had one as well but Airtable’s works better.

So that’s all the behind the scenes stuff.  I had a better year for novels.  I was able to pick 5 this year.  Again, comics were booming and I had a tough time paring down to 5.  But I did it.

So, without further ado, here’s the list!

Books


The Old Man and the Sea (1952) – Ernest Hemingway – I don’t read classics as often as I used to.  I really need to remedy that.  There are two reasons why I read this.  #1, it was featured in the movie The Equalizer starring Denzel Washington as a book he’s reading. #2, Steph checked it out from the library with a bunch of other books and I, on a whim, picked it up to read.  It’s actually really good.  I quite enjoyed it.  I’m probably not going to pick up any other Hemingway, but I’ll definitely try to read more classic lit this coming year.  I’ve been wanting to re-read Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, so maybe I can get that done.


Steve Jobs (2011) – Walter Isaacson – I’ve now read two of Isaacson’s famous biographies and let me say that I’m hooked. Back in 2014 I read his biography of Benjamin Franklin and it nearly made my year end best of list.  This one about Apple founder Steve Jobs actually cracks the list. It’s not only a great portrait of a complicated man, but it’s also a great look at the beginnings of our technological age we live in now.  I would love for Isaacson to tackle Bill Gates in a full book, but I’m not sure that’ll happen.  Isaacson did write a book called The Innovators that really digs into the people who created the computer and the Internet; going as far back as Alan Turing and jumping forward to people like Larry Page and Bill Gates.  That will probably be next on my Isaacson reading list and the closest I’ll get to a full Gates biography by him.


Star Wars: Catalyst – A Rogue One Novel (2016) – James Luceno – The “New Canon” of Star Wars books since Disney has taken over has been very…hit or miss.  Since those books started in Fall 2014, only one has made my year end list.  And honestly, I think that one novel (Star Wars: Tarkin), also written by James Luceno, would work perfectly as a side-quel to this book.  This is the written prequel to the movie Rogue One and it’s pretty great.  It digs deep into the relationship between Galen Erso and Director Krennic.  It also explores a bit more the rivalry between Krennic and Tarkin all while adding in backstory to how the Death Star was built and how it works and what they use to power the planet killing laser.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.


Magic Kingdom for Sale–Sold! (Landover series Book 1) (1986) – Terry Brooks – I talked about this book earlier in my High Fantasy Month article back in March.  It’s a different setup for a fantasy series and I really enjoyed it.  I had bought the collection of the first three books in the series, but I’ve not delved into the second book yet.  However, it’s on the plan for this year.

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A review of Dot and Tot of Merryland (1901) by L Frank Baum

Posted in books, Frank Baum, reviews with tags , , , , , on December 8, 2016 by Paxton

Baum Readalong

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Baum review, so let’s do this.

The illustrator of the first Oz book was WW Denslow.  If you recall, he illustrated only the very first Oz book before John Neill took over in book two and illustrated over 30 Oz books in his career.  Denslow and Baum had a falling out in 1902 over royalties from the first Wizard of Oz musical.  However, before that happened, Denslow had also illustrated Baum’s books By the Candelabra Glare, Father Goose: His Book and another children’s fantasy story called Dot and Tot of Merryland.

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Dot and Tot of Merryland was published in 1901, the very next year after The Wonderful Wizard of Oz although it was actually written around the same time.  As I mentioned, the book is a children’s fantasy book written in the same style as Wizard.  Child protagonists visit a magical fairy land and must find their way back home when they become trapped there.

Yes, that sounds awfully familiar but it’s Baum style, it’s straight up in his wheelhouse.  He managed to make this concept work for like four or five of his Oz books, so I’m not too worried he’ll make it work here.

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The story begins with Dot who is a bit of a sickly child. She’s sent to live in her father’s palatial mansion in the outskirts of town. While there she has the run of the estate. She starts playing with the gardener’s little boy, Tot. They are having a picnic out by the stream that runs through the back yard and they are swept away in a rowboat which takes them through a tunnel in the mountains where they emerge in a fairy land called Merryland.  They meet a crazy cast of characters including a guy with long whiskers called the “Watchdog” that oversees the entrance to Merryland and they meet the ruler of the land who is a walking, talking wax doll.  Dot and Tot are adopted by the queen and go with her to tour the seven valleys of Merryland.

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