Archive for Year End Books

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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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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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2015

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , on January 11, 2016 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

And here we are again, my year end wrap up articles.

Queue Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration”.

I say it every year, how did we get here already? The year just flies by. Anyway, the particulars: If you’ve read this year end round up before, you know I keep my book logs online in a Google Spreadsheet. I’ve been doing it since around 2009.  Only “new to me” reads in 2015 are eligible, no re-reads.

This past year was an interesting year for my book/comics list.  I really had an off year for books.  It was really hard to get a good list of 5 books that I really enjoyed.  This year as I combed through my list of books I realized I had been in a slump of “didn’t like” and “meh” books that I just didn’t feel comfortable forcing into this year’s “best” list.

Conversely, this was a phenomenal year for comics.  I had SO MANY comics I read that I just LOVED that it became very hard for me to pare it down to only five.  So, I think this year I’m going to cut the book list to maybe three and increase the comic list to 8.  This would be a better representation of the good stuff I’ve read this year.

Looking at the log I see I read around 106 books and comics over the course of the year.  That total includes books/comics I’ve read for the first time as well as any re-reads I did this year which I’ll do from time to time.  Also, I see, after two years of reading 4 books released in the current year, I uptick to 5 books I read this year that were current releases.  Wow.  And none of them are going to make this list.  One of them almost did, but, in the end, I decided no.

Here’s the list!

Books


Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1987) by H. F. Saint – I read and reviewed this book for AWESOME-tober-fest this year.  See my full review there.  But this hands down makes my best of year list and looking at my book log, it’s probably the best book I read all year.


Troll Mountain (2014) by Matthew Reilly – Matthew Reilly is no stranger to my “best of” books list.  His Scarecrow and James West Jr novels have both made it on here.  I read this fantasy novel back in February for the second installment of High Fantasy Month.  It was a serial novel in three parts, each part about 55 pages long.  And it’s junior fantasy, aimed at a younger audience.  But like I said in my review, I really enjoyed it.  The story reminded me of L Frank Baum.  Lots of fun and adventure, full of hope, believing in yourself and believing that good will triumph over evil.  Definitely worth a read.


Mistborn: The Final Empire (Book 1) (2006) – Brandon Sanderson – I really had trouble picking this final spot.  A few things could’ve gone here.  Rick Riordan’s tenth Percy Jackson book, The Force Awakens novelization, Stephen King’s Needful Things or Brad Meltzer’s The Inner Circle.  And I liked all of these choices but I didn’t love them.  So, I flipped a coin and the first book in Sanderson’s fantasy series gets the nod.  It’s a great piece of fantasy world building with a cleverly different system of magic.  Like Troll Mountain, I reviewed it for the second High Fantasy Month back in February.  I just felt that this book runs a little long.  But I liked it and I plan on reading the second book, even if I’m hearing that the second book is even longer.  And unnecessarily so.

Now, let’s move on to the comics I read this year that I LOVED.  And there are lots of them.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels


Aquaman (The New 52) by Geoff Johns and Jeff Parker – I’m including all six of the currently released collections of this title.  This first entry was probably the most relevatory comic I read all year. I’ve never been an Aquaman fan, even with the Peter David series and the hook hand/long hair iterations. I just didn’t like the character. However, I heard such good things about this take on Aquaman that I decided to read the first trade.  The next thing I know, I’ve read all six of the trade paperback collections encompassing the first 40 issues or so plus annuals.  Geoff Johns writes the first four collections and Jeff Parker takes over for the next two.  And they are AWESOME.  All of a sudden, I’m an Aquaman fan.  I even dove into and read the entire side series, Aquaman and the Others, which is not as good, but still enjoyable to read.  I can’t recommend this title enough.  I think Cullen Bunn has taken over the writing from Jeff Parker as of issue 40 or so.  I look forward to more adventures with the King of Atlantis.


Avengers vs. X-Men (2012) – This is the 12 issue maxi-series Marvel event from 2012.  It launched the Marvel NOW! line of comics.  It’s written by a murder’s row of my favorite comic writers; Matt Fraction, Brian Michael Bendis, Johnathan Hickman, Ed Brubaker and Jason Aaron with lots of awesome art by John Romita Jr and Adam Kubert.  The story is epic, it’s awesome, it’s everything you want in an Avengers vs X-men title.  I loved it.  And the conclusion of this entry leads directly into…

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2014

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture, Star Wars with tags , , , , , , on January 12, 2015 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

I can’t believe I’m doing these year end wrap up reports again.  Where does the damn time go?!

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.

Looking at that log it looks like I read about 78 books/comics this year.  That total includes not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time this year.

And I actually have four books on this list that were released in 2014.  That ties my total from last year.  It’s rare when I get to read a currently released book, but I’ve done it four times each in the last two years.  Amazing!

On to the lists!

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  All that I read for the first time this year.  Enjoy.

Books

Star Wars: Maul: Lockdown (2014) – Joe Schreiber – I predicted at the end of my 2013 Best Books I Read article that this book would be on the list for 2014.  And, as you can see, I was right.  Joe Schreiber really hit it out of the park with this one.  A prison thriller that has Maul locked up in a prototype prison that pits its prisoners in gladiatorial matches and broadcasts those matches on pay-per-view.  Very brutal and lots of fun we get lots of awesome Maul in this book.  However, to be honest, the last third of the book sort of goes WAY bananas in a weird way.  It’s still really good, but the book sort of becomes super-gonzo and you’re left scratching your head wondering, “What the f**k is going on?  Did THAT just happen?!”.  However, overall, still one of the best books I read this year.


Point of Impact (Bob Lee Swagger #1) (1993) – Stephen Hunter – I was not aware of this book until I saw the Mark Wahlberg movie Shooter, which is based on this book.  I love that movie and finally picked up the source material this year to give it a go.  And it’s AMAZING.  Even better than the movie.  A bit more story to sink your teeth into and a bit more of an epic bad guy for Swagger to focus his revenge on.  Great action packed book.  I look forward to reading more of Hunter’s Swagger books in the future (there are several).


The Shining (1977) – Stephen King – This Halloween I decided to fill another hole in my Stephen King reading list.  Two years ago I had finally tackled The Stand and just last year I read The Talisman.  So, I thought, let’s continue that trend this year and I decided to read ‘salem’s Lot.  I enjoyed it more than I expected, plus it left me wanting to read more early Stephen King, so even though I only had about a week left in October, I picked up The Shining on my Nook for like $2 and dove in.  And discovered probably the scariest book I think I have ever read in my life.  The Shining is big on plot and character detail as early King likes to be, but once the stuff in the hotel starts happening, it gets seriously scary.  Like several nights I had trouble sleeping it was so scary.  So here it sits on my list.  But as much as I loved this book, I really saw no need for a sequel so I have little to no desire to read Doctor Sleep.  I even tried reading a sample and I couldn’t even finish it.


Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer (2007) – James Swanson – Earlier in 2014 I got into an American History phase.  I read Walter Isaacson’s epic Benjamin Franklin: An American Life and was all wrapped up in the days of the early Revolution.  I then watched Spielberg’s Lincoln and loved it before starting this book.  This book is a fascinating account of the days leading up to and the 12 day manhunt that occurred after President Lincoln’s assassination.  Lots of inside stuff I never knew about.  And it’s written in a very modern way that keeps events interesting and not like reading events out of a history book.  Right after reading this book, I watched Robert Redford’s The Conspirator to complete my unofficial “Lincoln trilogy”.  So now, I’m on the lookout for Swanson’s other books he’s written, most specifically the one about Kennedy’s assassination.  But I highly recommend this book.


Star Wars: Tarkin (2014) – James Luceno – This last slot was tough. I had a few REALLY good books I could have put here.  Most notably The Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussRed Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch and When March Went Mad by Seth Davis.  But I went with my gut and chose this book.  The second Star Wars book on my list.  I really love what they’ve been doing with the Star Wars novels the last few years.  They’ve really been changing it up and getting really good stories out there.  Luceno wrote one of my favorites from a few years ago, Darth Plagueis, and he looked to do the same thing here.  But this is a more intimate story than the galaxy wide epic that played out in the pages of that earlier book.  Luceno really fleshes out the character of Tarkin in this book and investigates a bit more his relationship with Vader and even the Emperor.  Lots of Star Wars-y goodness to be had.  It gets me excited to see what comes next for the Star Wars expanded universe.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels


Incredible Hulk: Planet Hulk (2006) – Greg Pak (writer), Carlo Pagulayan (artist) – Oh, man, this book is epic.  It’s bad ass.  It’s just awesome.  Hulk is deemed “too dangerous to stay on Earth” by a think tank of Marvel’s smartest so they devise a way to shoot him off to another world so he can’t hurt anyone.  The only problem, something happens en route and Hulk crash lands on the wrong planet.  A planet that enlaves Hulk and forces him to compete in gladiatorial games until he decides he’s had enough and stages a coup to take over the planet.  So much awesome contained within.  I can’t recommend this enough.


Savage Dragon Vol. 1 (1993) – Erik Larsen (writer/artist) – Back in September I decided I wanted to read the first 10-20 issues of all the original launch titles of Image Comics.  Most of them were forgettable.  However, Erik Larsen’s Savage Dragon was not only readable, it was GREAT and deserves a spot on my list.  I was surprised how much I thoroughly enjoyed this comic and I look forward to catching up on all that I missed with this character.


Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon (2012) – Matt Fraction (writer), David Aja (artist) – This was suggested to me by several people but I never listened.  But the more I heard how good it was the more I became intrigued.  So I grabbed the first volume of Matt Fraction’s series for cheap and read it.  And loved it.  This is minimalist storytelling at its finest.  Sort of a “between the panels” look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an Avenger.  Quirky, but it’s charming and lots of fun.  I’ll definitely be checking out more of this series.


Thief of Thieves (2012) – Robert Kirkman (writer), Nick Spenser (writer), Andy Diggle (writer), James Asmus (writer), Shawn Martinbrough (artist) – I’ve actually read the first three volumes of this title which cover the first 19 issues of the series.  And it’s pretty great.  Master Thief (retired) Redmond is called back into the life in order to save his estranged son.  This is a pretty great comic with some pretty great writers.  It’s also a nice change from all the super hero books I normally read.  Just a regular guy, trying to get on with his current life but his previous life and his reputation won’t let that happen.  Great book.


Krampus! (2013) – Brian Joines (writer), Dean Kotz (artist) – I think I’ve talked about this book before.  This is such a fun read.  It makes great references to all the Santa/Christmas iconography you can imagine and even makes someone like Doc Holliday, that has nothing to do with Christmas, fit right into the story.  Great art, fun story.  I really hope this gets picked up for some sequels.  So much potential awesome to be mined out of these characters.  GET IT AND READ IT NOW.

That’s my best of list for 2014. It was really hard to pare some of that list down as I read some really good stuff this year. But I also have some good stuff lined up for myself next year. I plan to continue my Stephen King reading by possibly tackling Needful Things as well as possibly It.  There are some good Star Wars books coming out next year featuring Luke Skywalker (Heir to the Jedi) as well as two of our favorite Lords of the Sith.

Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2013

Posted in Batman, books, comic books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , , , , on January 10, 2014 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

How did this happen!?  It’s that time of year again where I pick my favorite books of the year?  Is 2013 over already?  WTF?!  Time is just flying by.  My son is 3, my daughter is 1 and I’m writing the fifth in my series of year end book reports.  THAT. IS. COCONUTS.

Anyway, if you’ve read this article in the past you know I keep my book log online.  Here’s the link to my Book Log on Google Spreadsheet.  There are tabs for every year since 2007.  Take a look on the 2013 tab and you  can see that I read 58 books/comics/graphic novels this year.  That’s way low compared to 2012 in which I read 80 books/comics/graphic novels.  However, having two kids will do that to you.  Those totals include not only books I read for the first time but anything I re-read for the second (or more) time.  For the list below, though, I’ll only take into account books I read for the first time in 2013.

And I actually have FOUR books on this list that were released in 2013.  That may be a personal record.

Below you will find, first, my list of favorite books and following that my list of favorite comic books/graphic novels.  Enjoy.

Books


Impulse (Jumper Book 3) – Steven Gould – I talked about this series on the Nerd Lunch podcast last year and I sort of reviewed the first two books on the blog back in 2009.  I enjoyed the movie for what it was but it led me to the books which were published first.  And the books are excellent.  There are three of them; the original Jumper from 1992, the 2004 sequel, Reflex, and then this third book which was released early 2013.  All three books are excellent, but you’ll need to read the first two before reading this book.  There’s a lot of continuity that flows throughout the books.  Oh, and if you hated the movie, don’t worry, other than sharing a few of the same characters, the stories are completely different between the two.  Just a warning, though, there is another “Jumper” book by Steven Gould called Jumper: Griffin’s Story.  That book is not really a part of this series, it’s a part of the movie series.  Confusing? Yes, but that’s the way it is.  Read my blog review above for a little bit more explanation.  All that aside, this is a fun read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  And hopefully we don’t have to wait 10 years for another Jumper book.


The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastards Book 1) (2006) – Scott Lynch – I forget how I first stumbled across this book, I think it was while I was searching the store on my Nook.  I was intrigued by the title and the premise. It’s somewhat like an Ocean’s 11 con man/heist story but set in a fantasy world.  Hard to explain, but the book is extremely well written, has a great world built up within and interesting, smart and dangerous characters.  Gun to my head, I would probably put this as my favorite book of the year.  Just really fun and well written.  I recently bought the sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, with holiday money and I’m eyeballing the third book, The Republic of Thieves, which came out in Oct 2013.  Lynch also plans a series of novellas based within this world.  If you like smartly written, character based fantasy with a nice helping of action, this book is for you.


Star Wars: Scoundrels (2013) – Timothy Zahn – Timothy Zahn is one of the best Star Wars EU writers. He wrote the Zahn Trilogy as well as the awesome books Star Wars: Allegiance and Star Wars: Outbound Flight (which made my favorites list in 2010).  This is a Han Solo adventure that also happens to include Chewie, of course, and Lando.  And it’s great.  I honestly hope that when Disney makes the Han Solo stand alone movie, they use this as the blueprint.  It takes place right after the first Death Star is blown up in the original Star Wars: A New Hope. Han gathers a team of expert con men and thieves in order to steal a priceless piece of art from a Black Sun boss.  Han hopes the proceeds from the job will free him of his debt to Jabba.  Lots of well written, fun dialogue and heist action.  There’s also a short story prequel to this book called Star Wars: Winner Lose All that focuses on what Lando is doing right before the actual book. It, too, is a lot of fun.


Star Wars: Kenobi (2013) – John Jackson-Miller – Oh wow, two Star Wars books get to make my list this year. Yay!  This book was very highly anticipated by myself.  I’ve said for years that a movie or book based on Obi-Wan’s “Tatooine Years” would be amazing.  When Disney was throwing out the stand alone movie ideas I said Ewan McGregor as Kenobi should get one.  And this book should be the basis.  It takes place just after Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.  Obi-Wan has dropped off Luke to the Lars Homestead and he’s setting up base in the Judland Wastes and starts getting acquainted with the denizens of a small moisture farming town who are being attacked by Tusken Raiders.  Great book.  Check it out.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2012

Posted in books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 7, 2013 by Paxton

Badass Book Report

Here we are, my year end recap of the books I’ve read this year. You can check out my Google Spreadsheet for the full list of books I’ve managed to read in 2012 (and every year prior).

So, like last year, I’ll list out the top 5 books I read and the top 5 comics I read this year. I’m excluding re-reads in my evaluations. I’m only including books I read for the first time in 2012.

Here we go.  In no particular order.

Books


Ready Player One – Ernest Cline – Okay, I’m immediately going to call myself a liar.  I said these were in no order, but I’m telling you right now, this was the best book I read in 2012.  Hands down.  There was a lot of buzz going around about the book and I had several people recommend it to me.  Which usually makes me not want to read things.  However, my friend Trish over at Love, Laughter and Insanity believed that I would love it so much that she actually traveled to a bookstore in which Ernest Cline was signing, had him sign a copy of the paperback and then mailed it to me.  And that’s why she’s awesome.  Thanks, Trish.  Your hard work paid off and it has been named as my favorite book of the year.  Seriously, this book is the truth.  Don’t read anything about it or the story.  Just experience it.  You’re welcome.


Star Wars: Darth Plagueis – Honestly, this was the best book I read for most of 2012.  Then, in early July, I read the above book.  But even if this isn’t my #1, it’s absolutely in my top 5.  This is probably also in the top 5 of Star Wars books of all-time.  This book had been planned, started, stopped and delayed several times.  Finally, James Luceno grabbed the reins and drove this baby home.  It’s a very ambitious novel.  Focusing on the behind the scenes machinations of Darth Sidious and his master, Darth Plagueis.  It’s fascinating to see the rise of Plagueis, his meeting with Palpatine on Naboo, and their cultivating the plan that will eventually be unleashed in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  This book is so good it makes The Phantom Menace a better movie.  Luceno was never one of my favorite Star Wars writers but this book and Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader have changed that.  I’m now on the lookout for what Luceno plans to do next.


11/22/63 – Stephen King – I’ve been a fan of King’s work for years.  My favorite stuff are his short story collections but I’ve read most of his other seminal novels.  Earlier in 2012 I had decided to finally read The Stand.  I didn’t just love it.  And after 1130+ pages of that, I was reluctant to read another King book that tops 800 pages.  But I acquired this hardback in early 2012 at a used library book sale for around a dollar.  I’ve always been fascinated with the Kennedy assassination and time travel, so this was a perfect topic for me.  And the story delivers.  King really outdoes himself with this book.  King meanders a bit in the middle, but honestly I didn’t mind because the characters were so engaging.  Really, the Kennedy assassination is almost an afterthought.  But when it finally comes it’s awesome.  This book blew me away.  I highly recommend giving it a shot.  Especially since the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death is Nov 22, 2013.  But get the eBook version.  An 800 page hardback is a little tough to read.

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Year End Book Report: The Best Books I Read in 2011

Posted in books, comic books with tags , , , , , on February 7, 2012 by Paxton

Badass Book Report

Here we are, I finally begin my year end round up articles. In February. Sorry about that. I wanted to do it earlier but I wanted to give myself a little bit more time to finish off some movies and books that are eligible for this list. But, apologies aside, my lists are here.

As you know, back in 2009 I started keeping a book log with everything I read. It makes looking at this list easier. I keep it in a Google Spreadsheet so I can access it from any computer.

Here it is.

My Book Log

You can click the image to view it or just click here.  So I perused this list and made my selections.  Below are the best books I read last year (not including re-reads).

Unlike last year, I’ve split this list into books and comics/trade paperbacks.  I read enough of both of them to create their own lists and it was hard to weed out stuff just because it was a comic in order to make room for a book.  So, last year I only read three books that were actually released during the 2011 calendar year.  Did they make the list?  Read on to find out.

So without further ado, here are my favorite books I read in 2011.

Lost Hero Son of Neptune
Heroes of Olympus series – Rick Riordan – This is the sequel series to Riordan’s Percy Jackson series which made my inaugural best of list in 2009. It is currently up to book 2.  Son of Neptune is one of the three books that was released in 2011 that I read. I loved the first book in this series, The Lost Hero and Son of Neptune is almost as good. Riordan has created a fascinating world and I long to return to it when book 3 comes out.  And despite what Riodan had said earlier, Percy Jackson is all over this series.  Especially Son of Neptune.

The Magicians
The Magicians – Lev Grossman – Wow, this book is really good. It’s billed as sort of a Harry Potter in high school, and I see the parallels, but this story is tonally a 180 from Harry Potter. From the friendships to even how magic is actually executed, it’s just completely different. And great. This book is great. I look forward to checking out the sequel, The Magician King.  I’ll probably check out a few of Grossman’s other books, too.

Darth Bane 1 Darth Bane 2 Darth Bane 3
Star Wars: Darth Bane trilogy – Drew Karpyshyn – This series was recommended to me years ago by my friend Dr Mike, but I was reluctant to read it because it was about a bunch of Star Wars characters I didn’t know in a time period I knew nothing about.  Boy was I wrong.  It’s amazing.  This series needs to be the template for all the Star Wars books that want to focus on a specific character.  Interesting origins, cool bits of Sith history.  It’s just great.  If you read Star Wars (or science fiction) at all, read this series.

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