Monday, December 31, 2018

Reading list 2018

I'm going to be honest from the outset: while I have once again neglected this blog like some Dickensian street urchin for most of 2018, I'm going to smugly state that I believe I more than make up for it with this year's reading list, because - BRACE YOURSELVES - I read an astonishing number of books this year. I thought I did well with 60 last year, but quite frankly, 2018 makes 2017 look like that kid we all knew at school who sat there with his tongue poking out the side of his mouth while still making his way through a Meg and Mog book long after the rest of us had moved onto Willard Price novels (if you've never read a Willard Price novel, GET IN THE BIN).

As always, I'm donning my glasses (which I only need for working on the computer, but they make me look intelligent and 'speccsy') as well as my well-worn, trusty tweed jacket with the leather elbow patches, and will be assigning each and every book a grade, from D- (you're blocked and unfollowed) to A+ (feel free to slide into my DMs). And for those that are wondering, yes, I'm really wearing the jacket; nothing else, just the jacket.

Now, as long time readers will know (I'm just gonna assume I still have some of those), I usually provide links to each book so you can toddle off and buy your own copy should the fancy take you. This year, however, I'm not going to because quite frankly I read over 90 books and I don't really feel inclined to paste in 90+ links. Honestly, I think we all know how the internet works now, so just cut and paste the title into Google, hit return and - gee whiz it's like witchcraft - you'll find somewhere to treat yo' self. Any books listed below as Kindle were obviously bought from that gargantuan behemoth-like beast beginning with 'A'. As a general rule of thumb, any books I do choose to buy as a physical, you-can-hold-it-in-your-hands, dead tree edition I do make the effort to buy from an actual  bookshop, because they're precious and we should treasure them. Waterstones is lovely, and their click and collect option is a treat. Buy from them. Or an independent bookshop - if you've got one of those near you give it all the business you can afford to.

Anyway, lecture over: TO THE BOOKS!

(And you at the back, stop picturing me in just my tweed jacket like the literary equivalent of Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct)

01. Star Trek: Boldly Go Vol. 2 - The second collected edition of comic book stories post-Star Trek Beyond deal’s with the fallout of Starfleet’s encounter with the Borg, reimagines Garth of Izar for the Kelvin Timeline, and gives us a short tale with a small alien called Kevin. Great fun: A

02. Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View - A wonderful collection of short stories that retell the events of A New Hope from the perspective of other characters. As with all short story collections, some tales are better than others, but for the most part this is a great anthology that puts a fresh and unique spin on familiar territory: A

03. The Twilight Zone adapted by Anne Washburn - Script book of the play that debuted at the Almeida Theatre in late 2017, based on episodes of the classic TV show. The play was wonderful, ands reading the original script only enriches it further: A

04. The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson - A lovely hardback edition of the very first Moomins story, in which Moomintroll and Moominmamma try to find the missing Moominpappa. A quick and easy read, endlessly inventive and utterly charming: A+

05. Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill - The story of an ageing rock star who buys a ghost, only to find it – and his own past – coming back to haunt him. I really wanted to enjoy this, and for the most part did, but it felt overly long, and I couldn’t help feeling it would’ve made a much stronger novella: B- 

06. The Cardiff Christmas Club by Nick Frampton (Kindle) - A festive tale of a woman named Katy returning to Cardiff after a year travelling, only to find her life complicated by the affections of two different men. An utterly charming novel that I thoroughly enjoyed: A

07. The Silence of Ghosts by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - Another spooky tale from one of my favourite authors of recent times. This book sees an injured World War II naval officer return to his family’s old home in the Lake District only to find its not quite as empty as he had first thought. An effective ghost story: A

08. The Talisman by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - This master of horror stories turns his hand to a story that (by his own admission) bears some resemblance to The Exorcist. This tale of demonic possession nevertheless has its own flavour and is a riveting read I devoured in just a couple of days: A

09. Star Trek: Discovery - Drastic Measures by Dayton Ward (Kindle) - The second tie-in novel to the latest Star Trek series is a prequel in which younger versions of Georgiou and Lorca find themselves involved in the events of the massacre at Tarsus IV, as first mentioned in the TOS episode The Conscience of the King. It’s a great concept, but this book dragged somewhat around the middle third. Solid conclusion though, and worth a read if you go in with moderate expectations: B-

10. Comics Dementia by Gilbert Hernandez - A collection of some of Beto’s lesser seen work. Hit and miss in places, but still wonderful enjoyable: B+

11. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'engle (Kindle) - Thought is read the original novel of this classic before the film hits cinemas and… I was disappointed. It’s a reasonably fun story of three kids skipping across the universe in search of their missing father, but it’s a slight tale and I fail to understand why it’s so highly praised: B

12. Dick Tracy by Max Allen Collins - After getting my hands on Collins’ sequel novels last year, I had to complete the trilogy (having thrown out my original edition years ago) and managed to find a brand new copy of this nearly 30 year old book! A terrific novelisation of the 1990 film that adds layers of detail not seen in the big screen version: A

13. Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (Kindle) - This young adult novel tells the story of Simon, who is coming to terms with his sexuality, and the online friendship he strikes up with another closeted gay teen. A very enjoyable, quick read: A-

14. Don’t Skip Out on Me by Willy Vlautin (Kindle) - Just as he did with his stunning novel Lean on Pete, Vlautin takes another subject I have little interest in - in this instance boxing - and crafts a truly remarkable story around it. A real slow burner that’s vividly brought to life by Vlautin’s sparse prose. I loved this book: A

15. Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff - The third and final part of the story that began with Illuminae and continued through Gemina. This book picks up with the characters we met in the previous two, and sets them back on course for the planet they had previously fled. Packed full of incredibly designed pages, and inventive storytelling, this is a fitting conclusion for these wonderful characters, and for this trilogy, which I rank as among the best sci-fi I’ve ever read: A+

16. All the Dirty Parts by Daniel Handler (Kindle) - A short novel that delves into the filthiest aspects of a horny teenager. Fun, filthy and doesn’t outstay its welcome - you even grow to like the protagonist: B+

17. No Good Brother by Tyler Keevil (Kindle) - Two brothers steal a race horse and smuggle it from Canada to the United States - where things just get worse for them. There’s more to this novel than that brief summary; it starts slow and builds so you really get to know and understand the narrator and his brother, their motivations and how down-trodden life has become for them. It’s a great tale, and one I enjoyed more and more as it went on: A

18. The Hunger by Alma Katsu (Kindle) - A stunning novel based on the true story of the The Donner Party, a wagon train that became snowed in during their trek to the American West Coast in the 1840s. Katsu gives the events a terrifying, almost supernatural spin to explain what happened on the fateful journey, and in the process weaves a gripping tale I couldn’t put down: A

19. Groo: Fray of the Gods by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier - The hapless hero returns, this time finding himself caught between two kings, one of which is trying to gather followers for a new God. Another fun adventure for Groo: A

20. Groo: Play of the Gods by Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier - Groo is shipped off to a foreign land along with an invading force intent on forcing the natives to worship their own god. Needless to say, with Groo involved it all goes wrong. Another strong Groo adventure: A

21. Star Trek: The Motion Picture by Gene Roddenberry - Filling a gap in my collection of Star Trek movie novelisations, I found this pristine copy on eBay… And it’s a great read. The only published Star Trek novel that Roddenberry wrote brings an added dimension to the events of the slow-paced movie, making this a thoroughly decent novelisation: A

22. Star Trek: Discovery Annual - OK, so this is essentially just a slightly bigger comic book, but it has a spine and will sit on my bookshelf, so it counts as a book! This Discovery annual provides a compelling backstory for the character of Lt. Paul Stamets, and reveals more about the U.S.S. Discovery’s revolutionary spore drive. A quick read, but worthy for Discovery fans: B+

23. Doctor Who: Rose by Russell T. Davis - Admission: I was sent this book by the author, but regardless, this novelisation of the Ninth Doctor’s first television episode is a lot of fun, and adds more layers, depth and detail to the story on which it is based: A

24. Star Trek: The Next Generation - Mirror Broken - A well-crafted graphic novel that gives us a glimpse into The Next Generation crew’s Mirror Universe counterparts. It’s a good read, with plenty of scope for further adventures for this motley crew of 24th century scoundrels: B+

25. Lost Mars edited by Mike Ashley - A wonderful collection of vintage science-fiction stories focusing on the red planet. My sole complaint is that the tales within have clearly been scanned in using an OCR scanner and some words have gotten confused in the process; not enough to ruin this book, but enough to make it noticeable. Still, a wonderful read: A

26. Star Trek: The Next Generation - Unification by Jeri Taylor - I found a new copy of this novelisation of the two-part TNG story on Amazon for 70p and it was well worth buying! Taylor’s book adds extra nuances not only to the meeting of Spock and Picard, but also to the mission of the Enterprise crew that acts as the episode’s B-plot, helping to add greater clarity and detail to the events of the storyline. Well worth reading for Star Trek fans: A

27. Moonrise edited by Mike Ashley - A companion volume to the Lost Mars collection of short stories, this time focusing on vintage tales of the moon. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories contained within, although a number of small typographical errors slipped through as with the Lost Mars collection - but not enough to spoil it. Highly recommended: A

28. Jack the Ripper: Case Closed by Gyles Brandreth - An enjoyable novel in which Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle are set the task of discovering the true identity of the infamous Whitechapel murderer. Well written, with a plausible conclusion given that the ripper was never truly identified: A-

29. Only Human by Sylvain Neuvel (Kindle) - The third and final part of the trilogy that began with Sleeping Giants and continued in Waking Gods. This book picks up the ongoing threads from its two predecessors to close out the story of giant metal robots appearing on Earth. It’s a worthy climax, but one that lacked some of the thrills and excitement of the two previous books: B-

30. Dick Tracy: The Collins Casefiles, Vol. 3 by Max Allan Collins - A collection of Collins’ Tracy strips from the early 1980s, which returned Chester Gould’s iconic detective to the more gritty storytelling he was famed for in the 30s and 40s. Great stories and striking artwork made this a fun read. It’s just a shame the fourth and final volume in the series was never published to round out Collins’ time on the strip: A

31. Out There Volume One: The Enemy Within by Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn - I first read Out There as individual comic books years ago, but this story of four teenagers fighting against a demon’s attempts to take over th Earth has long remained with me as one of my favourite comics series. This first volume contains the first six issues, and it’s every bit as enjoyable as I remember it being - brilliantly written and beautifully illustrated. A rare comics treat: A+

32. Out There Volume Two: Out of this World by Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn - The second volume of Out There marks the first time these issues have been collected in book form, and pick up the story from where it left off at the end of the first volume. A great continuation that sees the teenaged heroes continuing their battle to reclaim their town: A+

33. Out There Volume Three: Reunion by Humberto Ramos and Brian Augustyn - The final volume of Out There sees the kids in their final battle with the demon who seized their town. A brilliant conclusion to the series, but still one that ends on a final page that offers so much more ahead. A new epilogue gives a little closure to the series, but still… that chapter 18 cliffhanger…! A+

34. Whirlaway by Poe Ballantine (Kindle) - This new novel by one of my favourite writers tells the tale of Eddie Plum, who escapes from a psychiatric hospital and attempts to get his life back on track. I was initially a little underwhelmed by this book, but the closer I got to the end the more I came to enjoy it. Perhaps not the finest example of Ballantine’s work, but a great read nonetheless: A-

35. Star Trek: Boldly Go Vol. 3 - The third and final volume of the Kelvinverse comic book brings the adventures of Captain Kirk and his crew post-Star Trek Beyond to a close with a story that sees multiple Kirks facing one of their oldest friends in an epic battle. On all honesty, not my favourite collection of the new Star Trek comics, but this series has been consistently high quality, and this is by no means a bad tale to leave us with until the next big screen adventure of the Starship Enterprise: B+

36. The Vanishment by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - Another cracking horror tale from one of my favourite authors. A man’s life is thrown into turmoil when a summer get away with his wife leads to her disappearance and the secrets of an old house are finally brought to the fore. Thoroughly enjoyable and quietly spooky: A

37. Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - A genuinely chilling read in which a man’s life takes a terrifying turn after his young daughter goes missing. A brilliant, haunting page turner: A

38. The Twilight Children by Gilbert Hernandez and Darwyn Cooke - A collected edition of a four issue miniseries by Love and Rockets’ Beto and the late creator of DC: The New Frontier. This tale tells the story of a small town that is visited by mysterious orbs and a strange white-haired woman, and feels much like Beto’s Palomar stories with a little sci-fi twist and stunning artwork by Cooke. A quick, fun read: A-

39. Whispers in the Dark by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - A chilling tale about a young woman in the early 1900s whose well to do family falls on hard times. After a period in a workhouse, she subsequently finds herself living with rich cousins in an isolated Manor House where spooky goings on begin to manifest. Slower paced than Aycliffe’s other tales (the first hint of something haunting doesn’t really appear until a third of the way through the book), but that’s not a complaint; indeed, it helps the set the story up and make the rising evil even more of a mystery: A

40. Angels and Magpies by Jaime Hernandez - The latest book in the Love and Rockets library collection brings Jaime’s God and Science and The Love Bunglers together in one volume. Both stories are worth the price of the book alone, but The Love Bunglers in particular is a sublime, heart wrenching piece of art that ranks as one of the finest graphic novels I’ve ever read: A+

41. Grip: The Strange World of Men by Gilbert Hernandez - A collected edition of Beto’s four issue miniseries focusing on the mystery of a strange man who appears with seemingly no idea of his identity. A surreal adventure that’s nevertheless quite in: B+

42. Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele - A wonderful pulp sci-fi novel that revives the 1940s Captain Future character for the modern age. Great characters and a strong story - in which the titular captain finds himself infiltrating a conspiracy to destabilise the solar system’s government - make this a thrilling read: A

43. Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson - The latest book in the new series of collectors edition hardbacks sees the Moomins’ home valley flooded, and them escaping by jumping aboard a theatre adrift in the water. Another joyful Moomins tale, and a beautiful little book: A

44. Moominpappa at Sea by Tove Jansson - Another in the new hardback collectors series. In this volume, Moominpappa feels the need to uproot his family and move to an island in order to live in an abandoned lighthouse. Its a noticeably more somber, mature and melancholy tale than Jansson’s previous books, but nevertheless retains the considerable charms of this remarkable series: A

45. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson - This adult novel from the creator of the Moomins tells the tale of a young girl named Sophia, and her exploits and adventures on an island she shares with her Grandmother. Written in the form of short vignettes, this book is a beautiful, reflective work that I devoured in a day; it will remain with me much longer: A+

46. A Garden Lost in Time by Jonathan Aycliffe - A novel by my favourite horror writer that’s not on kindle and out of print, so I had to track a copy down on eBay. This story is about a young boy who is sent to live with well to do relatives in Cornwall during the First World War, only to find that the Manor House in which they love is home to ghosts and an old evil. Not my favourite of Aycliffe’s novels - not helped by some typos and instances of character’s names being swapped around - but still an effective read that I thoroughly enjoyed: A-

47. Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition by Tove Jansson - A huge slipcased book featuring all of Jansson’s Moomins comic strips from the fifties and sixties. Although the stories are more comical than Jansson’s Moomin novels, the same charm is there. The stories, artwork and roster of crazy characters make this book a pure joy: A

48. A Winter Book by Tove Jansson - A collection of beautiful short stories from the creator of the Moomins that run the full breadth of human experience from youth to old age. Wonderful tales with a unique charm and a wickedly dry sense of humour: A

49. Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 - An oversized collection of the newspaper strips that picked up the voyages of the Starship Enterprise after the end of The Motion Picture. Markedly better than it has any right to be, there are some genuinely great stories with beautiful illustrations in this volume: A

50. Star Trek: The Newspaper Comics Vol. 2 - The second and final volume of the Enterprise’s newspaper voyages is more of a mixed bag than the first. The stories are less compelling (aside from one that foreshadows the Borg on TNG) and the artwork becomes noticeably less accomplished as the strip nears its conclusion. There is nevertheless considerable charm to be found in this book: B 

51. Awakened by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth (Kindle) - A brand new underground network opens in New York, but with it comes the discovery of terrifying creatures living under the city and a global conspiracy led by a shadowy figure. I’d read good things about this book but after reading it I was a little bit underwhelmed. It so very much wants to be Aliens, but I just found much of the book lacking. A reasonable conclusion though, so I’d be tempted to pick up the next two novels when they’re released to see where the story goes: B-

52. Star Trek: Discovery - Fear Itself by James Swallow (Kindle) - The latest Star Trek: Discovery novel takes us back to a mission involving the U.S.S. Shenzhou, and Saru becoming involved in the forced relocation of alien refugees. It’s a good read, well-written and with the characters feeling much like their televisual selves. Of the three Discovery novels, this is probably the one I enjoyed most: B+

53. Four-Sided Triangle by William F. Temple - The latest book in the gorgeous series of British Library science fiction classics, following on from Lost Mars and Moonrise. This tale is something of a science fiction romance, with two young scientists creating a device that can replicate anything perfectly - even the beautiful woman they both adore. I thoroughly enjoyed this book: A-

54. The Matrix by Jonathan Aycliffe (Kindle) - The final book of Ayecliffe’s that I’d not read sees a university lecturer becoming entangled in a strange cult that seeks to raise the dead. In my opinion this is the least successful of Ayecliffe’s books, but having said that, it’s still an effective horror that stands out from the crowd with moments of chilling suspense: B+

55. Star Trek: The Entropy Effect by Vonda N. McIntyre - A classic Star Trek novel from the early 1980s in which Spock must travel back in time to prevent Captain Kirk from being murdered on the bridge of the Enterprise. A solid read, but in a Star Trek universe that has filled out more coherently in the intervening decades, there are some strange anachronisms in this book that was published a year before The Wrath of Khan was released: B

56. Star Trek: Ishmael by Barbara Hambly (Kindle) - Another classic Star Trek novel, and another that sees Spock traveling back in time. I was intrigued by the premise of this book being, as it is, effectively a crossover with an old Western TV show called Here Comes the Brides, and the suggestion that facsimiles of other famous genre characters pop up along the way, and, against all the odd… it works. Brilliantly so, in fact. This is a riveting tale - one of the most unusual and effective Trek novels I’ve ever read: A

57. How Much For Just the Planet by John M. Ford - Another old Star Trek novel, this time sourced secondhand from Amazon, and another slightly kookier adventure for Captain Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise as they descend on a planet to negotiate dilithium mining rights opposite a Klingon crew. This tale is farcical, broad comedy with, would you believe it, shades of musical theatre… and like Ishmael, it does work. It’s bonkers - but brilliant: A

58. Star Trek: Demons by J.M. Dillard - Another older Star Trek novel, this time by the author of some of the Star Trek movie novelisations. In this book the crew of the Enterprise and the people of the planet Vulcan are possessed by alien life forms that turn them into crazed murders, and only Spock, McCoy and a woman with extraordinary psychic abilities can stop them. It’s a fun read, and rather dark for a Trek novel: A-

59. Star Trek: Mindshadow by J.M. Dillard - In this older Star Trek novel Spock suffers a serious injury while trying to protect a planet from aggressive pirates, and the amnesia he subsequently experiences prevents him from warning the crew of the Enterprise about Romulan involvement in the plot. Not one of the better Trek books I’ve read recently, but a decent Trek read nevertheless: B+

60. Star Trek: Discovery - The Light of Kahless - This graphic novel tying into the new Star Trek series details the rise to prominence of the Klingon T’Kvuma. It’s a solid read that adds detail to the show’s backstory and the Klingon culture of Discovery’s era: B+

61. Dick Tracy: Volume 2 by Chester Gould - The second volume collecting newspaper strips dating back to 1933-1935. Gould’s work becomes more assured in this book, his stories more involved and his artwork more confident. Like the first volume, the best Tracy stories are not to be found here, but they’re still engrossing tales: A

62. Star Trek: Bloodthirst by J.M. Dillard - Effectively a vampire story set aboard the Enterprise, this is the least satisfying of the three novels by Dillard that I’ve read recently. The tone of the characters feels a little off, and the plot spread a little too thinly. It’s still entertaining enough, if not terribly memorable: B

63. Star Trek: The Lost Year’s by J.M. Dillard (Kindle) - A novel that reveals what happened following the Enterprise’s five year mission. A bit of an odd Star Trek book. The characters seem barely recognisable from the ones we see in the show - as if they’re being forced into the way they’re seen in The Motion Picture simply to create connective tissue - and the plot seems to want to focus more on the supporting characters; Uhura and Sarek are present, for example, but for no real reason. Combined with several not terribly interesting plot strands, The Lost Years left me somewhat cold: C+

64. The Predator: Hunters and Hunted by James A. Moore - A prequel novel to the new Predator movie, telling the story of group of soldiers specially trained to battle the deadly aliens. This book knows exactly what its purpose is - adding a little extra detail to the events of the movie and telling a decent if not wholly original Predator story. And this it does very well. A brisk read and and entertaining tale: A-

65. Shoot for the Moon by William F. Temple - The latest in the British Library classic sci-fi series is a 1960s novel detailing the events of the first British mission to the moon in an atomic-powered spacecraft, and the murders that subsequently take place on the lunar surface. A great read with a surprisingly rich humorous thread running through it. Thoroughly enjoyable: A

66. Captain Future and the Space Emperor by Edmund Hamilton (Kindle) - After reading Allen Steele’s Avengers of the Moon I thought I’d go back and read the original Captain Future novel - and I wasn’t disappointed. In this book, Captain Future travels to Jupiter to discover how a new villain is transforming ordinary men into dangerous beasts. A fun, pulpy sci-fi romp: A

67. Garfield: Complete Works Vol. 1 - 1978 & 1979 by Jim Davis - A new collection bringing all the Garfield newspaper strips together in beautiful hardback books. I loved rediscovering so many classic strips, discovering ones I’d never read before, and seeing the origins of these classic characters in this first book of the series, and can’t wait for future volumes: A+

68. The Predator by Christopher Golden and Mark Morris - This novelisation of the recent Predator movie is a solid read - brisk and entertaining, and yet the one thing that struck me upon finishing it is how it lacks a significant part of the movie’s storyline - the notion that the Predators are increasing their visits to Earth as a result of global warming, and the rogue Predator bringing something to help humanity fight his people - as well as *that* ending. Worth a read if you’re a fan, though: B+

69. Star Trek: Final Frontier by Diane Carey - One of the older ‘giant’ Star Trek novels, this one tells the story of Captain Kirk’s father George being called on to join a mission with Captain Robert April aboard the starship that will eventually become the Enterprise - a mission that takes an unexpected detour to Romulan space. A cracking adventure that I thoroughly enjoyed! A

70. Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky. Chambers (Kindle) - The third instalment of the Wayfarers series. This tale features a number of interwoven storylines and Chambers’ trademark quality storytelling, and yet I felt it took a while to actually get going and for the most part seemed like just a glimpse into the future human society the author has created. Eventually a plot point occurs that draws the storylines together and then it gets interesting... A decent read, but the previous books in the series are stronger: B+

71. Star Trek: Best Destiny by Diane Carey (Kindle) - A semi-sequel to Final Frontier, this book features a storyline in which George Kirk takes his teenage son Jimmy into space, bookended by events that take place after the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. I thought this was a good read, if not quite as strong as its predecessor: A-

72. Dick Tracy Volume 3 by Chester Gould - The third collection in this series sees Tracy fighting more 1930s gangsters, and hints of some of the more outlandish characters and plot lines that will become Gould’s trademark in later years beginning to seep in. Great stuff: A-

73. Moominvalley in November by Tove Jansson - The final Moomins novel sees a number of different characters visit Moominvalley in search of the friendly Moomins, but they are no longer there. Like the previous book in the series, Moominpappa at Sea, there’s a melancholy feel to this book but one that’s tinged with hope. It’s a delicate read with crisp prose and gentle humour and I loved every page: A+

74. Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson - Closing out Sort Of Books’ series of Moomins collector’s editions hardbacks is this gorgeous collection of short stories. Imbued with a sharp wit and not afraid to stray into darker territory, each and every tale is a delight, and I’m delighted to add this volume to my collection. I’m sure I’ll be revisiting all Jansson’s Moomin books again in the years ahead: A

75. Slender Man (author unknown) - A surprisingly chilling tale, told in the form of text messages, emails and journal entries about a missing girl and the efforts of her friend to locate her, all while the legend of the Slender Man grows ever more present... Against my expectations, this was a decent little ghoulish tale: B+

76. Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge (Kindle) - In contrast to the above, this spooky novel (which has been highly praised) proved something of a disappointment. Every Halloween in a small American town, a creature known as October Boy rises from the cornfields and races into town, where it is summarily slaughtered by the town’s teenage males. For me, too much insight was given to the October Boy, stripping him of mystery and a degree of threat, and I found the main protagonist somewhat unlikeable. It’s a decent read, but for me, one that failed to live up to its potential: B-

77. Unexplained by Richard MacLean Smith (Kindle) - A book based on the Unexplained podcast I had begun binging on just prior to reading it. The book, and indeed the podcast, explore the interesting stories across such strange phenomena as UFOs to ghosts and everything in between, and this prose version provides the author with space to delve more deeply into 10 unsettling encounters. I thoroughly enjoyed this exploration of the unknown. Recommended: A

78. Help the Witch by Tom Cox (Kindle) - A cracking collection of short stories, some ghostly, some a little more experimental and out there, but all evoking a sense of the unusual. I very much enjoyed this book: A

79. Ultimate Invincible Vol. 12 - The final hardback collection of the Invincible superhero comic book. While I feel the last few volumes have lost a little of the momentum built by the earlier books in the series, this is still a great read and one of the most enjoyable superhero books of recent years. While it doesn’t quite recapture the feel of Invincible’s best stories, it does manage to wrap the series up in a more than satisfactory way: A-

80. A Map of Days by Ransom Rigg - The fourth book in the Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children series begins a new trilogy of stories featuring Jacob Portman and his gifted friends. This book starts slowly as it reintroduces readers to the Peculiar world and felt like it probably could’ve been edited a bit more thoroughly, but once it gets going (admittedly after about 120 pages) things pick up steam and it becomes quite a page-turner. Ends on a decent cliffhanger that left me looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next book: A-

81. Star Trek: The Art of John Eaves by John Eaves and Joe Nazzaro - A lavish coffee table book full of Eaves’ stunning illustrations, and telling the story of his association with the Star Trek franchise from Star Trek V to the latest series, Discovery. It’s a beautiful book, spoilt only by captions that barely give any detail to what they’re describing and a rather high number of typos. Ignore those and just enjoy the artwork, though: A

82. The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson - Another adult novel from the creator of the Moomins. In this tale, a brother and sister worm their way into the life of an elderly artist, in the process having a profound effect on the life of the other. Beautifully crisp and precise in its writing, with not a word being wasted, this is a gentle story of how intersecting lives can influence one another: A

83. Dead Mountain by Donnie Eichar (Kindle) - A riveting exploration of the unsolved mystery that claimed the lives of nine Russian hikers in early 1959. A thought-provoking and absorbing book that does a good job of considering and dismissing various theories from escaped prisoners to UFOs, before presenting a sound idea of what exactly may have taken place. Utterly fascinating, while at the same time respectful of those that died: A

84. Mr Godley’s Phantom by Mal Peet - A young man comes back from war and accepts a job working for an old man at a secluded country home. And then the old man goes missing... Part ghost story, part detective tale, I loved this book: A+

85. Three Sisters by Gilbert Hernandez - The latest collection of Beto’s Love and Rockets work delves into the lives of the three sisters Luba, Petra and Fritz, along with the giant cast of familiar recurring characters. A solid collection of what remains my favourite comic book: B+

86. Spirits of the Season edited by Tanya Kirk - I wanted a collection of Christmas ghost stories and this British Library volume of vintage spooky tales more than ticked the box. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in this book and devoured it in a matter of days: A

87. Glimpses of the Unknown edited by Mike Ashley - Another British Library collection of spooky tales, this volume featuring mostly unknown or forgotten authors. I found this collection somewhat more of a mixed bag than Spirits of the Season, but for the most part enjoyed the tales within: B+

88. Mortal Echoes edited by Greg Buzwell - Another British Library collection of spooky tales, this one focusing on encounters with the end. There’s some real gems included in this collection, but also some that didn’t hold my attention so well. Still, a good read nevertheless: B-

89. Star Trek: The Next Generation - Through the Mirror - A great graphic novel follow-up to the earlier TNG Mirror Universe story in which the alternate universe Enterprise-D crew begin their infiltration of the Federation. Great fun: A

90. Star Trek: Discovery - Succession - A cracking graphic novel that picks up the story of the Mirror Universe Discovery characters after the events of the show’s first season. Strong art and some good twists and turns, plus an ending that leaves plenty of scope for future stories: A

91. The Adventures of Tintin: Vol. 1 by Herge - The first book in a beautiful boxset featuring all the Tintin adventures includes Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in America. The first tale is one of the earliest stories, but although feeling a little like a work in progress, it remains an enjoyable read: B- Tintin in America is more like the familiar stories of the young reporter, albeit without the much-loved supporting cast we come to meet in later books, as Tintin tracks gangsters across the United States: B+

92. The Adventures of Tintin: Vol. 2 by Herge - The second book includes: Cigars of the Pharaoh in which Tintin finds himself on the trail of opium smugglers (B+), The Blue Lotus, which continues the story as Tintin travels to China (B), and The Broken Ear in which Tintin and Snowy track a stolen statue (B-). All are good stories, though the first was the most compelling of the three in this volume.

There we have it then, 92 books! Although depending on whether you want to count the Tintin books as their original album format rather than these collected editions, it could be 95. However you look at it, though, it's a helluva lorra books - GOLD STAR FOR ME!

All that's left now is for me to make my usual hollow promise to blog more in 2019:

Hey, maybe I'll actually get back to writing this blog in the coming 12 months!

And to wish you a Happy New Year:

Hope you all have a healthy, happy and brilliant New Year!

1 comment:

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Oh, how quaint. Clicking on "Post a comment" opens up a new, special little window just like the old days.

Anyway, a very impressive list. Aside from some of the old Trek novels, I haven't heard of - never mind read - most of these, except "Record of a Spaceborn Few (I agree with your assessment of it), and some of the Moomin books (many, MANY years ago). Where do you find the time to read so much??

Happy New Year, Timmeh!!!11!!!1!!! (remind you of anyone?)

And I'm sitting at the front to get a better view, not at the back...