Archive for Year End Books

2019 Year End Honorable Mentions – Books/Comics

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2020 by Paxton

YE Book Report

I posted my favorite books/comics of 2019 list a few weeks ago.  I had a few other books/comics that, while I didn’t feel they should have made the main list, I still want to talk about.  So, here are my Honorable Mentions of 2019.

Let’s do books first, then I’ll do some comics.

Legion
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
– I’ve read Brandon Sanderson before. I read the first book of his Mistborn trilogy for High Fantasy Month, which was pretty good, as well as his entire Reckoners Trilogy, which was fantastic (it made my best list in 2017).  So I have been looking for more of his books to read and came across two novellas that he wrote several years ago.  The first novella was called Legion, and the sequel was called Legion: Skin Deep.  They were about a man named Stephen Leeds.  He’s a genius, but the way his mind manifested this genius was to create what Leeds called “aspects”.  These aspects housed the knowledge and information he learned.  And each aspect carried a different set of knowledge and skills as well as a personality.  Similar to the movie A Beautiful Mind, I guess, but these stories treat the condition as kind of a super power.  Sanderson collected those first two novellas together into this book with a brand new third story.  And it’s a lot of fun.  This could make for an interesting show on some streaming network.  Someone needs to look into that.

7 1/2 Deaths
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
– Published in late 2018, I got this book as a gift for my wife because the premise sounded intriguing.  There’s a party at an old English manor.  A young woman is going to die at the end of the night, and the main character has to solve it in seven days.  But every day, she wakes up in a different party goer’s body at a different time of the day.  It’s sort of like Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day.  It’s a very interesting story that is structured in a non-traditional way.  It can get confusing and I’m not 100% sure what fully happens at the end, but the read is a lot of fun.

Hot Rock
The Hot Rock (Dortmunder #1) by Donald Westlake
– Back in 2015, when I did the Invisible Man for AWESOME-tober-fest, I read a Donald Westlake novel called Smoke. I liked it, but even before I read that, I was aware of Westlake’s heist novel The Hot Rock from 1970.  I may have even already owned it at that point.  But I didn’t read it until this past year.  And it’s really great, actually.  It’s a fun heist novel that’s sort of a working man’s Ocean’s 11.  The main character is John Dortmunder.  He has just been released from prison and his right hand man approaches him, after JUST picking him up from getting out of jail, with a job.  Dortmunder reluctantly agrees to the heist and everything that can go wrong does go wrong and they wind up having to steal the the thing they are hired to steal at least three different times.  I really enjoyed this book and want to continue the series, as Westlake wrote like 8 or 9 Dortmunder novels.  This book also led me to a movie adaptation I didn’t even know existed starring Robert Redford and George Segal.

Jaws Jaws 2
Jaws by Peter Benchley/Jaws 2 by Hank Searls
– I’m going to cheat a little and put two books here.  I had to mention the Jaws books.  I covered both of these books for the I Read Movies podcast in Summer 2019 and I was pleasantly surprised by both.  First of all, everyone pretty much trashes Benchley’s original novel because it’s not as good as Spielberg’s movie.  Which is true, the movie is better.  HOWEVER, Benchley’s novel is a very pulpy, 70s novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  The characters are a lot less likable in Benchley’s book than in Spielberg’s movie, which may be the crux of people’s issues with the book, but it makes for an interesting story.  I’m mainly speaking of Mike and Ellen Brody as being mostly unlikable (you’ll wonder why they are even married), but Hooper is also a rather unlikable, douchey, just out of college, rich kid.  It makes for a fascinating collection of characters and a really fun read.  Yes, the movie is better, but don’t sleep on the Jaws novel.  I’ll say the same for Jaws 2.  Searls’ story really follows the events of the first movie, but it also doesn’t completely ignore the events of the novel.  And since Searls also wrote Jaws the Revenge, that book fits into this series like a jigsaw puzzle piece.  The whole Jaws cycle of novels are totally fun and well worth a read.  Or, you can listen to me talk about them all on the I Read Movies podcast.

Now on to comics.

Savage Avengers
Savage Avengers by Gerry Duggan
– I’m a fan of Gerry Duggan. He and Brian Posehn did an amazing run on Deadpool which started (for me) with Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet (Best Books I Read in 2015) and continued into the Marvel Now Deadpool series.  Then Duggan did a zany run on Uncanny Avengers that I really enjoyed. He even wrote a somewhat sequel to Dracula’s Gauntlet called Mrs Deadpool and the Howling Commandos which I thoroughly enjoyed.  So when I saw he was doing an Avengers spin off with Wolverine, Punisher, Venom, Brother Voodoo and Conan, I thought, this is something I need to check out.  And this eclectic collection of characters totally works.  I’ve really enjoyed the first volume of this series and want to continue reading.  I love when writers take these totally wacky groups of characters and turn them into a wacky team book.  Kelly Thompson did it with the most recent West Coast Avengers.  Duggan did it before with Uncanny Avengers.  Definitely worth a read.

Avengers 1 Avengers 2 Avengers 3
The Avengers by Jason Aaron
– Jason Aaron has become one of my favorite comics writers.  His Thor run was nothing short of phenomenal.  It showed up multiple times on my best of lists.  Aaron also wrote the first few years of the 2015 Marvel Star Wars title which was really, really awesome, and he did a great take on Dr Strange that same year in 2015.  So when I heard he was taking over the main Avengers title, I was pretty excited.  And for the most part I’ve really enjoyed some of the stuff he’s done.  Black Panther is the leader.  I love that Panther creates a covert subset of the Avengers filled with all of these B level characters you haven’t seen in years.  Blade joins the team for another “War of the Vampires” story arc.  Hell, Thor and She-Hulk kind of start dating…sort of.  It’s a bunch of cool ideas that it seems like Aaron is having fun with, but also I’m having fun with.

Black Barn
Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn
– I’m a pretty big fan of Jeff Lemire.  He’s shown up on this list many times.  Here’s another one.  This is a straight up horror comic.  It involves the legend of the Black Barn, that has shown up throughout history bringing death and madness in its wake, and ensnaring the lives of two different men.  The book is drawn by Andrea Sorrentino who frequently partners with Lemire and I love these two together.  This book reminds me a bit of Joshua Williamson’s Nailbiter series, which I loved.  Very atmospheric, very dark.  I’ve only read the first volume but I will eagerly be reading more.

JH Time Police
Jughead’s Time Police
– So last year, the original 1990 Jughead Time Police series made my best of list.  This year, we got a reboot of that series.  Written by Sina Grace.  And it’s actually pretty good.  It’s funny, and it coincidentally uses a plot device I thought of when doing an episode of Nerd Lunch back in Sep 2018.  Obviously totally coincidental, but I love that someone else had that idea too!  I’m a big fan of Jughead, especially his reboots in the “new Archie” universe.  This is a good addition to those stories.

Those are some of the other books/comics I felt I wanted to talk about that didn’t necessarily make my “best of” list.

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2019

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2020 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Okey-dokey, my friends, it’s time for my year end round up articles. Every year in January (or February if I’m running late) I write up a list of my favorite things I read and watched in the previous year. I started doing movies in about 2007, then I added a books list in 2009.  These are some of my favorite articles to write because I can look back at the previous year and relive all the ups and downs in my own reading and watching.  It really is a lot of fun.

I keep my reading log in two places.  I’m still keeping a Google Spreadsheet of the books I’ve read.  But you can also check me out over on Goodreads.  See the details for all the books I’ve read, read my reviews, marvel at how handsome my profile pic is.  Lots of stuff to do there.

Here’s my 2019 Goodreads “My Year in Books” information:

According to Goodreads, and it’d know, I read 115 books last year, equaling 22,094 pages.  The longest book I read was Beastie Boys Book, which is surprising because I totally thought that Making of Empire Strikes Back book was longer.  Anyway, last year I had set my 2019 reading challenge to 80 books, so I beat that.  Yay!  I had a pretty good, consistent year of reading in 2019 so I was able to get my numbers up.  I hit a rough patch in October and November where I couldn’t read very much at all, otherwise, I would have finished with 120 books.  I set up my Goodreads challenge for 2020 just the other day, and I set it to 105 books.  We’ll see if I can keep last year’s momentum going.

The rules for this list are the same as always; only books I read for the first time in 2019 are eligible.  No re-reads.  I’ll probably do a followup article with Honorable Mentions and I’ll include any re-read books worth mentioning in that article.  I generally pick about 5 books and 5 comics to put in this list, but as always, I reserve the right to pick a few extras.  Let’s see if that happens this year.

First up…

Books

Four Legendary Kingdoms
The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly – I’ve been reading Matthew Reilly for years, starting with The Contest way back in 2007-ish.  Since then I’ve read almost all of his books over the years.  This is the 4th book in Reilly’s Jack West Jr series. The first three books of this series made a previous Favorite Books list (WAAAAAAY back in 2011).  I read both the 4th and the 5th book (Three Secret Cities) in the series this year.  Reilly is such a fun author.  He writes these incredible, fast paced, adventure novels with fantastical plots.  I love them.  And this book actually features a low key but great crossover with another of Reilly’s heroes from a different series.  So much story and adventure in this book, I really enjoyed it.  As well as the aforementioned 5th book.  Looking forward to the release of the 6th book, soon I hope.

Vengeful
Vengeful by VE Schwab – The second book in Schwab’s Villains series. The first book made my list last year.  The world in this book has developed EOs (extra-ordinaries).  EOs are people that have acquired super powers through a near death experience.  And how the person nearly dies kind of determines the powers that person will have.  This book picks right up after the previous book with Victor and his crew tracking down and trying to stop Eli.  But we also get the rise of a brand new EO with her own vengeful agenda.  This is a great followup to the also great, Vicious.  The characters are all well written, the storyline is dark, but I had a lot of fun with this.  And I like the manifestation and different types of power sets in this series.  Really well thought out and written.

Beastie Boys Book
Beastie Boys Book by Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz – The Beastie Boys are one of my favorite groups.  Ever since I discovered them on the Krush Groove soundtrack back in the mid 80s I’ve been a die hard fan.  Consequently, I was thoroughly excited for the guys to tell their own history.  And they don’t disappoint here.  You get a great time capsule of New York in the early 80s.  Some of the punk scene and then transitioning over to the hip hop scene.  The Boys were there on the ground floor for a *lot* of hip hop history.  Some of my favorite stuff in this is the pre album stuff.  The stuff they did while recording the albums.  We get a lot of reminiscing about hanging out recording all their albums, like Check Your Head and Hello Nasty out in California, which is great.  And touring.  So much content.  This book is PACKED with info.  If you’re even a casual fan, you need to give this book a shot.  The only sad thing is that Adam MCA Yauch is no longer with us to tell his part of this story.  That would have made this just that much more complete.

Making of Empire Strikes Back
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by JW Rinzler – I read Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars book last year and it made my year end list.  So I started this book this past summer and read it on and off for about four months.  These books are exhaustive and super long.  I would read here and there, absorbing the details of filming on sets, the drama of actors, trying to get the story right, etc etc.  While this wasn’t as good as The Making of Star Wars, I really enjoyed the peek behind the curtain for Empire.  The lead up writing the screenplay, the tension that occurred between the actors over their parts, and the final marketing before the movie was released.  All of that info, and the book is packed with pictures, images, diagrams, script remnants.  So much to look at.  I also have Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi, and I hope to read that in 2020 the same way I read Star Wars and Empire the past two years.  I would say expect to probably see Making of Jedi on next year’s list.

Rewinder 1 rewinder 2 Rewinder 3
Rewinder series by Brett Battles – Every year Amazon offers its Kindle Unlimited program for a special low promo price. Normally it’s $9.99/month, but they will sometimes offer 3 months for $9.99, or 3 months for $.99, or even 3 months for free. With it you can browse and read a cultivated selection of kindle books and magazines.  I will usually take advantage of these special prices and read as many books as I can in three months for the low low promo price.  This series by Brett Battles is on Kindle Unlimited and during one of these promos I tried it out because it was about time travel.  And it’s a pretty great story.  Denny Younger was born into one of the lowest rungs of society.  His fortunes change when he’s recruited by a mysterious institute to become a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories.  However Denny learns that verifying these histories doesn’t involve research in a library, but actually witnessing history and events through time travel.  And if he’s not careful, even the smallest mistake can have the largest consequences.  I blew through the first book and only had like a week or two before my promo period ended to read the second and third books which I was able to do with days to spare.  The whole series is a great read.  I had a lot of fun binging the three books back to back to back.  This series will definitely become a re-read at some point for me.

Impossible Fortress
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak – This book was sent to me by my good friend, Shawn Robare.  He actually sent it to me years ago, but I didn’t get to it until this past year when I had an unexpected lull in my reading pile.  So I picked up this book, started to read it on a lark, and completely fell in love.  It’s set during the summer of 1987, and the book feels natural in that time period.  I don’t feel like it tries to hit you over the head with the nostalgic setting.  And the characters are very well drawn, especially our leads, Will and Mary.  It’s a wonderful, unassuming “back in the day” type story that I totally fell for.  Great great book.  Highly recommended.  Thanks Shawn for introducing me to it.

Here and Now and Then
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen – I forget how I discovered this book.  It was published in January 2019.  It’s a really cool story about Kin Stewart, a man living a normal life in San Francisco in the 1990s with his wife and daughter but whose previous occupation was as a time traveling temporal police detective from 2142 who was accidentally stranded in the 90s after a botched mission.  18 years later, Kin is struggling with only partial memories of his previous life which is giving him headaches and blackouts, when his rescue team unexpectedly shows up and tries to take him back to his rightful future and a family he doesn’t remember.  This was such a good book.  I’m a sucker for time travel anyway, and this really hit the spot.  A lot of the story is about family and really hit home for me with the relationship of the main character and his daughter.

Time to move on to…

Comics

Superior Spider-Man collection
The Superior Spider-Man Complete Collection Volume 1 – I’ve had some of these issues for a while but never got around to actually reading them.  Then I was able to get this complete collection (the first 16 issues of the series) on sale for cheap and decided to give it a shot.  Just before he dies, Otto Octavius manages to switch his mind into Peter Parker’s body and Peter’s mind into Otto’s dying body.  Then Otto masquerades around as Peter/Spider-Man, being a super hero and living Peter’s life.  I think this is a great concept.  Otto tries to fit in and use his intellect to make his job as the new Spider-Man easier.  He’s also a lot more ruthless about catching criminals and it gets him into trouble.  It’s an interesting take on the “fish out of water” concept.  I really like it.  It reminds me a lot of Brian Michael Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man (which made my Best Books of 2017 list).

Kate Bishop 1 Kate Bishop 2 Kate Bishop 3
Kate Bishop: Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson
– Several years ago I read Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series and loved it.  Kate is a big part of that series and I loved her in it.  So when I found out she got her own series, I snatched it right up.  And it’s great.  Kate is an awesome character and I love how Kelly Thompson writes her, and her eclectic group of friends that gather around her.  This is a great series, I love Thompson’s humor and was sad there weren’t more issues of this series when I finished with the third volume.  I wanted more!

Gwenpool 1 Gwenpool 2 Gwenpool 3
Gwenpool the Unbelievable by Christopher Hastings
– There are 5 volumes of Christopher Hastings’ Gwenpool series.  I originally started reading it because we were having him on as a guest on our now defunct podcast, Down the Rabbit Hole.  The very first volume was a bit rough.  I had a hard time getting through it but it sort of worked itself out by the end.  Then, starting in Volume 2, it just took off.  The series was so fun.  I know, she seems like a total “girl Deadpool” rip off, but she’s not.  Exactly.  Yes, she has the same “break the fourth wall” abilities, and she’s very wacky, but, as far as this series goes, I think I like her better than Deadpool.  I really enjoyed how zany and meta this whole series got.  I want Gwenpool to show up a lot more from now on.

WCA 1 WCA 2
West Coast Avengers by Kelly Thompson
– So I loved the two previous series starring the badass ladies Kate Bishop and Gwenpool, so of course I decided to pick up the title that TEAMS THEM UP and is written by the gal that wrote Kate Bishop’s solo series! This was such a cool and quirky team book with an eclectic collection of characters that I had so much fun with.  I am doubling down on Kelly Thompson here, she is a fantastic writer.  I loved both of these series she’s written so much I’ve gone searching out more of her work.  She’s currently writing the new Deadpool book, which of course I am going to read, but secretly, after West Coast Avengers ended this year, I was hoping she’d write a Gwenpool solo book.  This Avengers book is awesome and I was super sad it only lasted two volumes.  I wanted so much more of this team!

Thanos Wins
Thanos Wins by Donny Cates
– On my list last year I grouped together a bunch of Jeff Lemire titles as favorites. One of those titles were his Thanos books (Thanos Returns, The God Quarry).  Those books were awesome and epic and I loved them.  So when I saw another guy, Donny Cates, was finishing off the third and final volume of the series, I was unsure what to do with that.  I loved those first books and I was disappointed Lemire wasn’t writing the third.  But I read it anyway and BAM! Cates knocks it out of the park.  It is BANANAS.  So much fun and I don’t know why I was worried or surprised because Cates also wrote Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die and *that* book was cosmic and bonkers and amazing.  So, Donny Cates is now someone I’m paying attention to.

And those are my picks for the best books/comics I read in 2019.  Like I said, I may have some honorable mentions I can talk about in a separate article, but let me get my “Best Movies of 2019” list out there first.

Hope you enjoyed this list, stay tuned for my Best Movies list coming up soon!

2018 Year End Honorable Mentions – Books/Comics

Posted in books, comic books, pop culture with tags , , , , , on February 4, 2019 by Paxton

YE Book Report

So you read my movie/TV Honorable Mentions list for 2018 (or maybe you didn’t).  Regardless, now it’s time for me to list out some books and comics that didn’t make the favorites list but I still want to talk about in some way.

Let’s do books first, then I’ll do some comics.

Origin
Origins – Dan Brown
– This is Brown’s latest Robert Langdon novel. *Long loud sigh* I really liked the first two Langdon books, Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I really didn’t like the third book, The Lost Symbol. I kind of liked Inferno, especially in how it ends the book with the implication that Langdon didn’t actually save the day. But rather than another Langdon sequel, I’ve longed for Brown to write more standalone novels akin to Deception Point and Digital Fortress. Instead, we get this book, which addresses *NONE* of the consequences of the previous book that I thought were so interesting. There was even a spot at the end of Origin where Inferno could actually have come up. But it doesn’t. Consequently, I hate this book with the lava-like fury of Apokolips itself.

RPO
Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
– I wanted to talk about this in my previous list, but it was my third re-read of the book, so it was ineligible. This book has had an interesting journey for me. I *loved* it the first read. Then I listened to Wil Wheaton’s audio book version and I almost hated it. Then this particular re-read I swung back around to liking it again. I have some issues in the beginning, particularly with characterizations of certain people but I love how the world is setup and I love the Oasis.  And the mechanics of the egg hunt.  I’m looking forward to the sequel that Cline is supposedly writing.

Oracle Year
The Oracle Year – Charles Soule
– I’ve talked enough about stuff I didn’t like. How about something I *did* like that very nearly made my favorites list?  I’m a fan of Charles Soule’s comic book writing.  So I was very interested when he released his first novel.  The premise is: one day, a young man wakes up with 180 prophesies in his head.  He writes them down and with his friend, tries to figure out how best to use them.  He starts a website to keep himself anonymous, it becomes a sensation and suddenly he’s dealing with multinational corporations and governments that will stop at nothing to learn his secrets.  It’s a pretty engrossing read that I enjoyed all the way to the end.  No, it doesn’t answer every question I maybe would have liked answered, but it did its job and I really liked the book.  I’m looking forward to any more novels Soule wants to throw our way.

Landover trilogy
The Magic Kingdom of Landover Volume 1 – Terry Brooks
– I have this omnibus that contains the first three books in the series. I didn’t read all three of them last year. Just the third one. And while none of these three books made their respective years’ favorites list, as a group they are actually pretty good.  It’s an interesting take on fantasy.  A lawyer, sick of living the “lawyer life”, wants to get away.  He finds an ad squirreled away in an auction catalog for the purchase of the magical land of Landover.  He’s intrigued, gets his affairs in order, buys the land and travels to Landover, which exists in a different reality, to become its king. And it’s nothing like he had imagined.  I enjoyed the characters Brooks created in this series as well as the land of Landover itself.  And the rules by which the King of Landover must live.  It’s a fun three book cycle that has two more books in a second omnibus and a sixth book that was released several years ago.  I hadn’t originally planned on it but I’ll probably try the fourth book at some point.

Now on to comics.

New Superman
New Super-Man Volume 1: Made in China
– This was a total surprise to me.  I didn’t understand the point of this. Then, I actually thought I’d give it a shot because the more I thought about it the more I was intrigued where they were going with this.  And it’s actually pretty good.  China, feeling like they are falling behind in the super hero department find a way to duplicate powers in certain human beings.  So they create their own Superman, but will they live to regret the person they chose to *be* New Superman?  This very much reminds me of Greg Pak’s Totally Awesome Hulk.  It’s fun and funny.  I liked it a lot more than I expected.  Looking forward to volume 2.

DD
Daredevil Volume 1: Devil at Bay
– This is Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s initial run on Daredevil.  If you remember, I put Waid and Samnee’s Black Widow series on my year end list back in 2017. I said then that I need to check out their previous Daredevil run. So I did. And I didn’t like it. I love both these guys, but I just couldn’t get into this run. I think I just don’t like Daredevil. I had a similar problem getting into Frank Miller and Klaus Janson’s run on Daredevil and that run is revered by many comics fans.  I don’t know what to tell you, I tried.  The Charlie Cox Netflix series is great, but I just don’t like Daredevil comics, I guess.

Hex
Hex
– This was a 1985 reboot of the western character Jonah Hex. I had a few issues of this I bought off the rack back in the day. I was intrigued by the post apocalyptic premise featuring the formerly western hero. It ran for about 18 issues back in 85-87.  I read the first 6 last year.  I’m hoping to read the next 6 this year.  It takes place in the distant future but somehow Batman shows up in issues 11-12.  I have to know how that happens.  Anyway, it’s essentially Mad Max meets Paladin: Gun for Hire.  Jonah Hex wakes up in the distant future.  It’s post apocalyptic, after the third World War.  Hex is part of some rich guy’s zoo, but he escapes and roams the land helping out people and fighting off mutant bikers.  It’s not bad.  It’s different.  I won’t say it’s excellent, but it’s definitely an entertaining read.

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.

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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