Saturday, December 31, 2016

Reading list 2016

I'm baaaaaaack! OK, so my blog reboot fizzled a bit earlier in the year after that REALLY TRYING DAY when I tried to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, but I've been busy since then as well which is why I've not had time to hurl myself back into writing here as much as I would've liked to.

Why am I defending myself? God, shut up!

Anyway, that's not why I'm here today – because today, it's time for my annual reading list! Woo-hoo! I know you're all excited about this one because a) why wouldn't you be, but also b) these posts are as much for me as they are for telling you what I've been reading because I've gotten particularly OCD about keeping track of the books I read. I know. Shut up.

So while I may have been busy with other things, I've still been reading. Which is a good thing. Kids, you should all be reading more.

Where were we? Oh yes. The reading list. So as always the usual things apply: I'm dusting off my tweed jacket with the worn leather elbow pads and grading all the books I've read based on a scale that goes from A+ (for those that gave me a little thrill in my downstairs area) to D- and beyond (for those that made me go to a chemist for a special cream for my downstairs area). I'm also providing links to a well know online store whose digital service I've used to read some on my Kindle, but if any of these books take your fancy and you want to pick up an actual physical dead tree copy of your own, I'd urge you to go to a lovely bookshop such as Waterstones or Foyles, or if you have one nearby a little independent shop. Honestly, they're brilliant and I'm sure they'd love to have you browsing their shelves.

Let's begin…

01. Figure Fantasy by Daniel Picard - a stunning collection of the author's photography featuring life-like action figures taken from films and comic books and placed in unusual, every day situations: B+

02. Invincible: Ultimate Collection Volume 10 by Robert Kirkman and Ryan Ottley - The latest addition to the series of hardcover collections of this ongoing superhero comic book series. I can't help feel that Invincible has lost a little of the creativity that once made it so uniquely enjoyable, but it's still a fun read, highly entertaining and worth checking out: B+

03. Joyland by Stephen King - A coming of age tale more akin to King's Stand By Me than his more terrifying works of horror, this book tells the story of a young man's time spent working at a fading theme park. Although there are touches of the author's trademark supernatural flourishes throughout, this book is finely honed portrait of someone at a turning point in their life. It's beautifully written, by turn both heart wrenching and heart stopping, and gripping throughout. I loved it: A

04. The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996 by Charles Schulz - Nearing the end of this incredible collection (only three more volumes to go) and Schulz's comic strip masterpiece is still as insightful and brilliant as ever: A

05. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - Brilliantly told fantasy tale about a teenage boy who discovers the outlandish tales of children with incredible abilities told to him by his grandfather are true: A

06. Hollow City by Ransom Riggs - The sequel to the above title, and the middle tale of the Miss Peregrine's trilogy, is a thoroughly enjoyable story that picks up immediately where the previous book left off. It suffers just a little bit in places from being the second story of a trilogy, but on the whole it's great fun and the conclusion leaves you waiting for the final book: A-

07. Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs - The third and final book in the Miss Peregrine's series sees Jacob and Emma separated from their peculiar friends and with no choice but to take the fight to the Wights who threaten to destroy Peculiardom. A rousing finale for a wonderful series: A-

08. Love and Rockets New Stories 8 by The Hernandez Brothers - A new selection of stories from Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. I didn't feel this volume was quite up to the standards of previous ones, but the Hernandez Brothers' work nevertheless remains head and shoulders above other comic books: B+

09. Illuminae by Jay Kristof and Amie Kaufman - A young adult novel told primarily in the form of various communiques between two teenage lovers, Kady and Ezra, following an attack on the planet they’re living on and their subsequent escape aboard a fleet of ships. A brilliantly told story that is by turns gripping, heart-wrenching and thrilling; the book is beautifully designed and packaged too with wonderfully illustrated pages that need to be seen to fully appreciate. Simply one of the most original and engaging books I’ve read in a long time: A+

10. Prometheus: The Complete Fire and Stone - An immense graphic novel collection drawing together stories from the Prometheus, Aliens, AvP and Predator comics to tell one epic story. It starts brilliantly - the Prometheus and Aliens entries telling wonderful stories that promise much - but the AvP and Predator tales prove to be little more than competent all out slug fests, while the final chapter, Prometheus: Omega, appears to get things back on track before trailing off with the most ridiculously open ended conclusion that fails to wrap up any of the ongoing plot threads. That said, for the most part I enjoyed this a rather a lot: B

11. Leonard: My Fifty Year Friendship with a Remarkable Man by William Shatner with David Fisher (Kindle) - A touching and insightful memoir of Shatner's near 50 year friendship with Leonard Nimoy. Yes, many of the Star Trek anecdotes here have been told elsewhere, but there's enough fascinating new details about both these remarkable men to warrant giving this a read, and both their voices shine throughout: A-

12. Star Trek Volume 11 by Mike Johnson - The latest graphical novel collection of Kelvin Timeline Star Trek comics collects stories detailing an encounter with the Tholians, Sulu's first landing party mission, and a special that draws the doctors of the five Star Trek series together to solve a mysterious virus that threatens the Federation. Entertaining enough, but not the series' finest collection: B

13. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (Kindle) - Cracking story about the crew of a spaceship that creates tunnels through space. There’s a hint of galactic politics and a larger story bubbling under throughout the book, but its main focus is on the individual members of the ship’s crew and this it does marvellously - with Chambers crafting a wonderful array of characters you really care for. Loved this: A

14. Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey (Kindle) - After reading good things about the television show based on The Expanse series of books I thought I'd give the first novel a go. It's a great read, very entertaining and with some good characters and interesting story threads. However, it didn't quite make me want to jump straight into the second book right away, although I'm sure I will plough on with the series at some point (on a side note, the TV series is worth a bash): B

15. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel (Kindle) - A good read that tells the story of the discovery of a giant robot hidden in pieces across the globe and reconstructed by a secret government agency. Using emails and journal entries to tell the tale makes this an interesting and quick read, but I did feel I was missing certain parts of the story along the way. Still, I’m intrigued enough to be looking forward to the already announced sequel, and wondering where the story will go next: B

16. They All Love Jack: Busting the Ripper by Bruce Robinson (Kindle) - A comprehensively researched and brilliantly written exploration of the Victorian serial killer. Robinson delves deep into not only the legend of the ripper but also Victorian society to reveal the identity of who he believes truly was the infamous Whitechapel murderer. He makes a compelling case, and this is a stunning read: A

17. Archie Vs. Predator - Fantastically fun collected edition of the four issue comic book series that brings the fun-loving characters of the Archie comic book series together with the murderous alien Predator. It shouldn’t work – yet somehow it does, and it’s a joyous thing! A

18. Aliens: The Original Comic Series 30th Anniversary by Mark Verheidan, illustrated by Mark A. Nelson - A beautifully designed oversized hardback collecting the 1980s comics that continued the story of Hicks and Newt after the events of the movie Aliens (and before Alien 3 rendered it all moot). It’s a good read that has some interesting twists and turns, and a unique take on where the Aliens franchise could have gone: B+

19. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay - An enjoyable novel about the effects a teenage girl’s apparent possession has on her family, particularly her young sister whose eyes the story is told through. It’s an effective tale, but I found it somewhat lacking in chills: B+

20. Arkwright by Allen Steele - A simply brilliant novel that tells the story of Humanity’s first interstellar starship, spanning the generations from the project’s very beginnings in the 20th century through to the ship’s arrival at a distant planet centuries later. I loved this book (so much so that I’ll just about forgive it for the very noticeable typos that cropped up a bit too frequently) - one of the very best sci-fi tales I’ve read in a long time: A

21. Star Trek Volume 12 by Mike Johnson - The latest collected edition of stories from the Star Trek comics line sees Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise meet their Mirror Universe counterparts, while a second tale explores the backstory of the Orion character Gaila. The Mirror Universe story is a particular highlight of the run so far, and a thoroughly enjoyable read: B+

22. Star Trek: Manifest Destiny by Mike Johnson - The crew of the Kelvin Timeline Enterprise (that’s the JJ Abrams universe if you didn’t know) come into conflict with a group of rogue Klingons who seize the ship as part of a plan to take control of the Empire. A decent Star Trek graphic novel: B

23. Return to Tomorrow - The Making of Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Preston Neal Jones - A massively comprehensive tome detailing the troubled production of the first Star Trek movie. This remarkable time capsule gives an incredible insight into the film and its many issues, and includes some startlingly honest opinions from the 70+ members of the cast and crew who are interviewed. A fascinating read for Trek fans and those interested in film production: A

24. Guidelines for Mountain Lion Safety by Poe Ballantine (Kindle) - The latest collection of one of my favourite author’s writings contains more stories of Poe’s time spent traveling across the U.S. in his earlier years, along with contemporary tales of his new life as a husband and father. Joyous, honest, and in places heart wrenching: A

25. The Butcher of Anderson Station by James S. A. Corey (Kindle) - A short novella from the universe of The Expanse. This story details what led to the character Fred from Leviathan Wakes being given the name ‘the Butcher of Anderson Station.’ A quick read, and entertaining enough: B 

26. We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson - Thoroughly enjoyable story of a teenage boy who, when presented with the option of saving the world from destruction by aliens he calls the Sluggers, has to consider whether he actually wants to save humanity. The second young adult book I read this year, and one of my favourite reads of 2016: A

27. Spock Must Die! by James Blish - The first ever Star Trek novel is something of a curiosity as obviously it was written without knowledge of the countless hours of television and film to come. In this tale, the Klingons go to war against the Federation after somehow neutralising the Organian race who had forced peace upon the Empire and the Federation in the television episode Errand of Mercy, while at the same time the efforts of the crew of the Enterprise to learn what has taken place results in the creation of a duplicate Spock. There’s a few character quirks throughout that make the characterisations of the Enterprise crew a little ‘off’ but this is still a fun read: B+

28. Star Trek: The Fifty Year Mission – The First 25 Years by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman (Kindle) - A fantastic book detailing the origins of Star Trek and the production of the original series TV show and movies. The book takes the form of an oral history, collecting snippets of interviews from those involved in the series, and revealing information that even I, a seasoned Trek fan, was unaware of: A+

29. Star Trek: The Fifty Year Mission – From Next Generation to J.J. Abrams by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman (Kindle) - Continuing on from where the first book left off, the second volume of this series delves into the creation and production of the modern Trek series, with plenty of discussion and commentary on the politics and strife that went on behind the scenes, and information about Trek projects that were never realised. Both volumes are an essential read for Star Trek fans: A+

30. Star Trek: The Classic Episodes by James Blish - A beautifully put together collection of some of Blish's TOS novelisations in one giant leather bound volume. Wonderfully written versions of some of the original Star Trek's best episodes which often expand upon or differ from the source material, making them a unique read: A

31. A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (Kindle) - The second book in Chambers' Wayfarers series is markedly different from the first, picking up on threads left dangling from the events of the first story but with the focus shifting to the characters of Pepper and Sidra, the former AI of the Wayfarer. While this is an unexpected shift, the story is nevertheless a great one with two strong female protagonists: A

32. Star Trek: Starfleet Academy by Mike Johnson - This Star Trek graphic novel introduces a group of new young characters and ties their story into one featuring the cast of the Kelvin Timeline Enterprise crew during their time at Starfleet Academy. It's a good read, and one that surprised me with its quality: A 

33. Bone: Coda by Jeff Smith - A wonderful final chapter in Smith's Bone saga. It's slight and not strictly speaking necessary addition to the Bone legacy, but it's a joy to see the Bone cousins back in action once again. Also contains the Bone Companion detailing Smith's effort to get his masterpiece into print: A

34. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - Second book in the trilogy that began with Illuminae; Gemini starts as its own story set along similar lines to Illuminae with two new teenaged protagonists finding themselves facing an armed takeover of a space station, before picking up the threads of the first book and weaving them deftly into one tale. A great story and like its predecessor, a visual treat: A+

35. Lazarus by David Bowie and Enda Walsh - The book of the musical telling the tale of what happens to the alien Thomas Jerome Newton after the events of The Man Who Fell to Earth. I loved the stage show, and reading this script helped bring greater clarity to moments I missed when I saw it performed: B+

36. My Neighbour Totoro by Tsugiko Kubo - A beautifully packaged and wonderfully told novelisation of the acclaimed Studio Ghibli film, telling the story of a young girl’s move to the countryside and their discovery of a strange creature living in the nearby woods. A delightful tale: A 

37. The Voyage of the Space Beagle by A. E. Van Vogt - A classic sci-fi novel that was among the inspirations for the original Star Trek television show. The book is told in an episodic fashion, effectively as three interlinked novellas detailing not only the crew of the Space Beagle’s interactions with alien life forms, but also the politics they face among themselves during their long voyage. A fun read: A

38. The Complete Peanuts 1997-1998 by Charles Schultz - Another collection of Schultz’s masterpiece as the series draws towards its final years; even after so many years, Schultz’s humour and penmanship remained first class well into their fifth decade: A

39. The Complete Peanuts 1999-2000 by Charles Schultz - The final volume of daily and Sunday strips sees Peanuts draw to a close after almost 50 years, and an emotional goodbye in Schultz’s very last panel. This collection also features the complete L’il Folks, Schultz’s precursor to Peanuts, a fun addition that provides glimpses of how Snoopy and the gang ultimately came to fruition: A+

40. Ofelia by Gilbert Hernandez - Another Love and Rockets collection that features the ongoing misadventures of Beto’s cast of characters including, among others, Luba, Pipo, Fritz, Doralis and of course, Ofelia. Always a great read: B+

41. Star Trek Volume 13 by Mike Johnson - The final volume in the ongoing Star Trek series set in the Kelvin Timeline features two of its finest stories; the first is a fitting farewell to Leonard Nimoy’s elder Spock that details his attempts to aid the Vulcans of this timeline in finding a new home, while the second sees a crossover that could only happen in the comics as the crew of the original series encounter their Kelvin Timeline alter egos. A treat for Trekkies: A+

42 Groo: Friends and Foes Volume 2 by Sergio Aragones - The second book in the Friends and Foes miniseries sees Aragones’ warrior meet more familiar faces and cause increasing amounts of chaos along the way! A fun-filled read: B+

That's yer lot then. At 42, I managed a smidgeon less books this year purely because, I'm guessing, some of the ones I read (I'm looking at you, Star Trek: The Classic Episodes and Return to Tomorrow) were huge and very heavy and would cut off the supply of blood to my legs if I didn't ration the time I spent reading them. As is often the case though, after Christmas I have a lovely stack of new books ready to get stuck into in the New Year, so hurrah for reading!

Right, whatever you're doing I hope you have a very happy and healthy New Year, and maybe - just maybe - I'll be back here soon…


Inexplicable DeVice said...

Oh, hello! I remember you. Just. I think it was those elbow patches that made me do a double-take.

I'm glad to see that we have read some of the same books - we've obviously still got "it"!
I loved the first Miss Peregrine book, but I wasn't too enamoured with Hollow City so I didn't read Library of Souls. I think I just fell for the idea of the old photos telling a story, rather than the actual story?
And I can't believe The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet didn't get that extra + from you! But I can understand why A Closed and Common Orbit didn't - although, Pepper's story was A+ worthy in my eyes.

I'm intrigued by Sleeping Giants - might have to give that a go. And, having watched The Expanse TV show, I'm hmming and hahing about the books. We Are The Ants sounds like it could be fun, too.

Happy New Year! Hope to see you sometime in 2017, but I don't think I'll be holding my breath for your triumphant return to the Blogworld...

Tim said...

How could you possibly forget me?!