Archive for Year End Books

2020 Year End Honorable Mentions – Books/Comics

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2021 by Paxton

YE Book Report

I posted my favorite books/comics of 2020 last week.  As usual, I had a few entries that didn’t necessarily make my favorites list, but I still wanted to talk about them.  Good and bad.

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

Ready Player Two
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
– The long awaited sequel to Cline’s smash hit Ready Player One.  Yes, it came out in November 2020.  It came out, and then sort of just disappeared.  I didn’t really hear anyone talking about it.  But I read it over Thanksgiving break.  And it’s…good.  But there are like three asterix on that good.  I really like the premise.  There’s another quest in this book for Wade.  It’s well constructed.  Cline is great at that.  Where Clline has issues is characters.  I still do not like Wade.  He’s supposed to be complicated, I get that.  He’s the best when it comes to quests, but he’s a total mess when it comes to relationships.  But come on.  Almost as soon as the book starts we learn that Wade and Art3mis have broken up because Wade is an insufferable dick.  And it doesn’t stop until the very end.  Cline still layers on the pop culture references, and this time he varies it a bit so it’s not *just* 80s stuff.  But, there’s A LOT of it.  Especially in the beginning.  And speaking of the beginning, the first 80 pages is essentially Wade doing an exposition dump of everything that’s happened to the High 5 in the last five years.  So, yes, the book has problems.  BUT, that being said, don’t think that I didn’t enjoy jumping right back in to this world.  And the OASIS.  And the other characters besides Wade.  Cline creates an involving story.  It does get a bit bananas at the end.  Like I didn’t really see it coming.  And I’m not 100% sure what I think about it, but overall I would say that I liked the book.  I would love to see Speilberg mold this into a sequel to the first movie.

Anyone
Anyone by Charles Soule
– Soule is one of my favorite comic book writers.  This is his second novel.  I read his first novel, The Oracle Year, back in 2019, which I really liked, even though it didn’t make my favorites lists that year.  This is another strong entry for Soule.  A neuroscientist is looking for a cure to Alzheimer’s and discovers a way for people to switch their conscious mind into someone else’s body.  Realizing the implications and knowing that the people funding her research would take it for their own purposes, she tries to hide it.  And things sort of go downhill from there.  This is a good book.  As good as the last one.  A thriller.  A “woman on the run” type story.  And it plays with some moral ethics that I found fascinating.  It does sort of “drop you at the end” without telling you what happens, which normally drives me up the wall, but I kind of rolled with it here because I enjoyed the story.  But I still really want to know what happened.

Terror Castle Shark Reef Scar Faced Beggar
Alfred Hitchcock and the The Three Investigators – This was the series that got me into reading in the 5th grade.  It was the first series I remember reading multiple books and actually looking forward to more books being released.  A group of guys in my class would would run to the shelves during library time to check for new books and scream triumphant if we ever found any.  So, a few years ago, when my son was still a baby, I found some cheap-ish paperback copies (the three I list above) of these books on eBay and ordered them, with the thought that I’d eventually read them to him.  Thanks to quarantine, this was the year.  We read all three of the above books and he enjoyed them.  I did too.  I’m so glad they held up.  I would have been crushed if I had read them and been like, “Why did I like this garbage?”  When I knew we were enjoying them, I went back out to ebay to find more and dammit if this series hasn’t become collectible.  And prices are too damn high for the titles I want.

Now, how about some comic book honorable mentions?  So last year was a year I caught up on comics I had read and loved back in the 80s (The Flash by Mike Baron/William Messner-Loebs), and comics that I never read but was always curious about.

Booster Gold
Booster Gold
– Booster always seems on the fringe of being popular. He’s one of those heroes that is obscure enough that you can tell other comics people you love him and it has cache. I remember his series by Dan Jurgens back in 1985 but I never got around to reading it. So, I decided to give it a shot.  I had a collection of the first 12 issues.  I like Dan Jurgens and I like his art. I even like the initial premise of Booster Gold. He’s the other hero in Metropolis trying to feed off Superman’s criminal leftovers. We get snippets at first of Booster’s time travel background, but it’s not really served up right away.  I really had a hard time liking this series. Jurgens made Booster just a bit too smug for me.  He reminds me of Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing in Mystery Men.  He has an agent, and is all about branding and image.  Booster’s agent tries to secure movie deals and sponsers.  That’s all a cool idea for a super hero, it honestly is, but for only one super hero in a group.  As the main hero in an extended series, that gets old real quick.  Booster also gets a serious inferiority complex through several issues about working in Metropolis the same time as Superman.  I was like, if it’s such a big goddam deal, Booster, then move.  I ultimately stopped rooting for him and just quit reading.  I had intended to read up to issue #12, but stopped after issue #7.

Blue Devil
Blue Devil
– Next up I read the first five issues of Blue Devil by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin.  I think I liked this a little better than Booster Gold.  Movie stunt man Dan Cassidy is fused to his special effects suit when a demon is suddenly freed on the island where they are shooting a movie.  Now Dan has to cope with the suit being a part of him and being the new super hero on the block.  This book was fun, had some interesting ideas, and for the most part, I enjoyed reading it.  It reminded me a lot of the great never-been-collected Roger Stern/Tom Lyle Starman series I loved so much in the 80s.  Starman’s Will Payton and Blue Devil’s Dan Cassidy are similar “everyday men” that are suddenly into the limelight as super heroes.  I like that premise.  I had actually reread Stern/Lyle’s 25 issue run on Starman a few years ago and loved it.  And I look forward to continuing Blue Devil, especially because in issue #6, we get the debut of one of my favorite obscure DC villains, Bolt.

New Teen Titans
The New Teen Titans
– This title was super popular back in the day. It helped that Marv Wolfman and George Perez were superstars when they did it.  But despite Kid Flash being on the team, I just never got around to reading it.  I got this collection which has their initial debut in DC Comics Presents, as well as the first 8 issues of their main title.  I read the whole thing.  It’s not bad.  The initial issues have the Teen Titans going up against Deathstroke the Terminiator (who would go on to be a major villain for them), Ravager, and the Fearless Five.  Those stories I very much enjoyed.  Then, it goes into a multi-issue arc where we learn the origin of Raven, we meet her demon lord father, Trigon, and lots of other stuff that I just didn’t care about.  As for the characters.  I liked Robin.  I loved Starfire.  Cyborg is so full of angst.  And Wally West.  Kid Flash is….well….he’s not great.  He seems a bit out of character.  He flies off the handle at little provocation and he’s kind of a standoff-ish jerk.  So, this doesn’t sound like high praise, I know.  I enjoyed about half the issues I read.  The thing is, I can see lots of potential.  So I’m probably going to read the next collection to see where Wolfman/Perez take them next.

Look for some movie honorable mentions later this week!

I Read Movies’ 2020 Year End Round up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Year End Badass Book Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s switch over to comics!

Comics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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!