Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reader Picks: Your favorite posts of 2016

As the year winds down, I always like to take a look back on the books that I read, and also the posts that my readers most enjoyed.

This year brought a serious uptick in views for this blog, particularly in the latter half, and for that, I thank everyone who is reading this right now. It also brought a very interesting list of reader picks.

This year's most viewed posts were not necessarily the big-name authors, though a few made it in. I reviewed a lot more self-published works, and many of those got quite a bit of traffic. There are a few authors who made the list twice, and the top pick is the most viewed post on this site since I switched over to the blogger format around 2007.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews that you had the most interest in for 2016:

10. "The Daylight War," by Peter V. Brett. Published June 10. So, finally, I'm caught up with Brett's series having read this one and "The Skull Throne" this year. I'm waiting on the next volume just like everyone else.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Memory Lane: "Equal Rites" by Terry Pratchett

After some work and holiday delays, I continue to my return tour of the Discworld with Terry Pratchett’s third book of the series, “Equal Rites” ($9.99, Harper Collins).

A dying wizard comes to the tiny mountain village of Bad Ass to visit the local blacksmith, an eighth son who is, that very night, expecting his eighth son. It’s a magical number, and as soon as the child is born, the wizard passes his power on to it. Then, he discovers that it’s a girl, and he has accidentally unleashed the first female wizard on the Discworld.

Eskarina Smith grows up under the close eye of the witch who will become, arguably, the greatest power on Pratchett’s Disc, Esme Weatherwax. Granny’s hope is to turn Esk into a witch, but it soon becomes apparent that the wizard magic has hold of her.

To help the girl, Granny will have to leave her mountain home and travel to Unseen University in Ankh-Morpork, where they’ll face the daunting task of getting the all-boys club to admit a woman into their ranks.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "The Black Cat"

Ah, a series that I started with best intentions that, like so many things the last few years, fell by the wayside. But rather than wall it up in some damp catacomb, I’m going to try to revive it, mainly because I really want to revisit these stories.

I’ll begin with a story that was one of my favorites in my first few years as a Poe worshipper – “The Black Cat.” On revisiting the story, it’s really no surprise how much I loved it back then. It bears a striking resemblance to my favorite tale, and the one that started me on the journey, “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

Our narrator, a condemned man, tells a harrowing story of his descent into alcoholism and depravity, which changed him from a meek, easy-going animal lover to a murderous monster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Review: "Senlin Ascends" by Josiah Bancroft

I read a lot of good books and an occasional few great books, but rarely do I find something that’s truly remarkable in just about every way. That’s just what Josiah Bancroft’s “Senlin Ascends” delivers, though.

“Senlin” first came to my attention as a runner-up in the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off, but it’s grown quite a buzz of late with reviewers and other authors praising Bancroft’s work. And it’s most worthy of that praise.

The story begins with a small-town teacher, Thomas Senlin, headed off on a great adventure with his new wife Marya. Senlin has always been fascinated by the great Tower of Babel, which looms over the landscape of his world. It’s a massive structure with each level being its own kingdom, or ringdom, as they’re called. No one is sure how many there are, and each is full of wonders. Or so the handy guidebook that he’s studied tells him.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Review: "Monster Hunter Alpha," by Larry Correia

Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter series came as a bit of a surprise for me. A quick glance at the covers and description, and I dismissed them as something that probably wasn’t for me. Then I read the first one and was immediately hooked. Now on the third book, “Monster Hunter Alpha” ($7.99, Baen), Correia throws another curve ball.

I’ve gotten used to the voice and attitude of his protagonist Owen Z. Pitt through the first two volumes, but this one switches up on us, instead following the story of the cranky old man of Monster Hunter International, Earl Harbinger.

The MHI leader’s former military commander gives him information that his arch-nemesis Nikolai Petrov has entered the country. Harbinger and Petrov, as we’ll learn through the course of the story, played a legendary and bloody game of cat-and-mouse during the Vietnam War. They’ve had a truce for years, but Harbinger knows that his old enemy’s presence in the U.S. can’t be a good thing.

Petrov’s trail leads him to Copper Lake, a small town in the upper peninsula of Michigan, where Harbinger's past and lost memories are destined to come back to haunt them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Review: "The Path of Flames" by Phil Tucker

I remember a time, not so incredibly long ago, when I wouldn’t even accept a self-published book for review consideration because I’d seen so many awful ones. But, as Dylan famously sang, the times, they are a-changin’.

Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve discovered a string of fantastic self-published books, the latest being Phil Tucker’s “The Path of Flames,” a finalist in the second edition of Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off.

I read a number of the finalists in last year’s contest and found some great books and writers, so I decided to get started with them a little earlier this year, and my first foray did not disappoint.

Asho is a Bythian, the lowest rank on the scale of Ascendancy, the major religion of Tucker’s world. After each lifetime, the belief is, that the people are judged for their actions and either sent up or down in class based on them, until they pass through either the White Gate to join the Ascendant or the Black Gate for their punishment.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Review: "The Fireman," by Joe Hill

I’ve never been disappointed by Joe Hill’s work, and despite some misgivings, that doesn’t change with “The Fireman” ($28.99, William Morrow).

A strange and horrifying virus is sweeping across the planet – Draco Incendia Trychophyton, or its common name, Dragonscale. The disease marks its victims with tattoo-like designs that are often beautiful, but just as deadly. Eventually, those designs will catch fire, burning the victim alive and usually anything within reach.

No one is quite sure where the spore that causes the virus came from or what to do about it, and as more and more people become infected, the world begins to panic.

Harper Grayson, a nurse with a penchant for breaking out in songs from “Mary Poppins,” is on the frontlines of the battle to save people from the disease, or at least make them comfortable, until she contracts it herself. That sets off a chain of events that destroys the life she knows and sends her into hiding from her husband and the cremation squads that arise in the chaos.

She escapes with the help of a mysterious man known as The Fireman, who leads her to a place where she just might be able to survive the end of the world.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Random Rants: Of Pokemon, dragons, magic and muggles

If my social media feeds are any indication, it seems that a large portion of the world population these days is filled with rage, sanctimonious indignation or pure nastiness. I guess some of that is to be expected in an election year, but this one seems worse than others in so many ways. This isn’t a political blog, and I have no desire to make it one, so that’s as far as I’ll take that line.

I bring it up, though, to point out how refreshing it is, from time to time, to be able to escape into some other world or perhaps pass a few minutes in some completely frivolous pursuit. Except even that has become cause for ridicule in some circles.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Review: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child" by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

I knew going in that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” ($29.99, Arthur A. Levine) was not really going to be the eighth tale of everyone’s favorite boy wizard, but I still had high hopes for a return trip to J.K. Rowling’s world.

But while “Cursed Child” might work well on the stage and maybe even in the film that’s almost sure to follow, on the printed page, it doesn’t.

The story focuses on Harry’s younger son, Albus Severus Potter, a boy saddled with a couple of names that give him a lot to live up to. He and Harry are somewhat estranged as Al begins his time at Hogwarts and become even moreso as the story goes on, leading to a disastrous conversation in which Harry says some things he deeply regrets.

The confrontation sets Albus on the path of attempting to undo what he sees as one of his father’s greatest failings – the death of Cedric Diggory. His attempt, though, could open the door for Voldemort’s return.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Review: "The Ballad of Black Tom" by Victor LaValle

Much has been made in recent years about H.P. Lovecraft’s racism and how it bled into his work, but none of that conversation has been nearly as poignant or entertaining as Victor LaValle’s response “The Ballad of Black Tom” ($12.99, Tor).

I’ll dispense with the elephant first. On the subject of Lovecraft’s racism, I certainly think it’s unfortunate, but I also don’t think you can hold anything from nearly 100 years ago to modern standards. Our heroes in any space are not often what we would like them to be, but does Lovecraft's racism destroy the legacy of his work? I don’t think so, and though he makes his misgivings plain in the dedication, I don’t believe LaValle does either.

"The Ballad of Black Tom” gives us a quite different take on Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook,” which has been singled out as one of his worst offenders when it comes to race. LaValle puts us in the shoes of Charles Thomas Tester, a hustler from Harlem who gets pulled into a strange and dangerous world after he acquires a book of the Supreme Alphabet for a mysterious woman in Queens named Ma Att.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Review: "The Wheel of Osheim" by Mark Lawrence

And so ends another tale of Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire. Much like the conclusion of his first trilogy, “Emperor of Thorns,” “The Wheel of Osheim” ($27, Ace) brings us a wild finale to the Red Queen’s War.

The book opens with our reluctant hero Prince Jalan Kendeth popping out of Hell through a portal into the middle of the desert with what may be one of the most literary monologues I’ve ever read, and it just gets better from there.

After his unwanted adventure, Jalan thinks he’s punched his ticket back to a comfortable palace life, but he returns home to find anything but. His grandmother, the Red Queen, is prepared to march against her long-time enemy, and she unexpectedly leaves Jalan in a position of power just as the Dead King turns his eyes toward Red March.

It doesn’t take Jalan long to realize how much his travels have changed him, and it’s a good thing because he may be the only person who can prevent the end of the world.

Friday, July 01, 2016

Review: "The Skull Throne" by Peter V. Brett

The would-be Deliverers are missing, and chaos descends on Peter V. Brett’s world of Thesa in “The Skull Throne” ($7.99, Del Rey).
Following their battle at the end of “The Daylight War,” Arlen Bales and Ahmann Jardir have withdrawn from the world, leaving power struggles in their wake.

In Krasia, the Skull Throne is vacant, and Jardir’s wife, the Damajah Inevera, tries to hold things together. But the Deliverer’s two eldest sons both make moves to try to stake their claim to the throne in his absence.

Meanwhile in the north, Leesha Paper and Rojer Inn have been summoned to Angiers with Count Thamos. The kingdom is in the midst of an attempt to form an alliance with Miln to defend against the Krasians, but the proceedings are strained at best.

Events get more heated when Rojer arrives with his Krasian brides and renews an old rivalry with fellow jongleur Jasin Goldentone, favored at the Angierian court. Thamos, unable to abide Duke Rhinebeck’s attitude, also sparks a new rivalry between the brothers that could lead to a disastrous escalation of Sharak Sun, the Daylight War.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Review: "The Daylight War," by Peter V. Brett

There’s still more history to learn, but business really starts to pick up in Peter V. Brett’s “The Daylight War” ($8.99, Del Rey), the third volume of the Demon Cycle.

Ahmann Jardir, the self-proclaimed Deliverer, continues his war of conquest in preparation for Sharak Ka, but the demons of the night, too, are ramping up their efforts, having for the first time in many years met resistance from their human foes. The Waning is coming, the time of the new moon, when the more powerful alagai princes are able to walk the world. These princes can unite the demon drones for strategic attacks the likes of which humans have not seen.

Arlen Bales, who has begun to unlock the secrets of the alagai and grown greatly in power, returns to Cutter’s Hollow to find it a changed place. A count, Thamos, has moved in with his army and taken control, and Arlen discovers that his friends Leesha Paper and Rojer Halfgrip have gone to treat with the enemy, Jardir, who wants Leesha to become his northern Jiwah Ka (first wife). Arlen must prepare the Hollow folk and himself for the biggest battle so far.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Review: "The Shepherd's Crown" by Terry Pratchett

With only a handful of books by the late Terry Pratchett that I haven’t read and only one of those in the Discworld, I’ve put off “The Shepherd’s Crown” ($18.99, HarperCollins) for months. Once I finished it, I knew that, on some level, this world that I’ve enjoyed exploring for the past quarter of a century or so has come to an end.

Eventually, though, you have to accept that reality, and so it was with mixed feelings that I finally cracked the cover on Tiffany Aching’s last adventure and Terry Pratchett’s final Discworld novel.

“The Shepherd’s Crown” begins with a major shift in the power on the Disc. The formidable Esme Weatherwax is preparing to meet Death for the final time. Part of that preparation, of course, is choosing her successor as the leader of the witches, though, of course, no one would suggest to the witches that they have a such thing as a leader.

To the surprise of all, Granny Weatherwax taps Tiffany Aching, the young witch from the Chalk, who has shown much promise.

But more challenges await Tiffany than just proving herself worthy to the other witches. The elves, long held at bay by Granny Weatherwax’s power, see her death as an opportunity to once again wreak havoc in the world. Tiffany will need the help of all of the witches, her fierce friends the Nac Mac Feegle and a strange new apprentice to stop them.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Review: "She Who Waits," by Daniel Polansky

After enjoying the first two books in the series, it took me a while to get around to Daniel Polansky’s “She Who Waits,” ($13.99, Hodder), the final volume of the Low Town trilogy.

For those unfamiliar, the books center on a character known as the Warden, a former war hero and government agent turned drug dealer. He owns the streets of his home, a grimy, impoverished and crime-ridden warren known as Low Town. But even in a place like Low Town, he can’t escape his past.

There’s a new drug on the market, called Red Fever, which can induce violent rages. The users are often aware of the horrific acts they’re committing, but unable to stop themselves. It’s a calling card that’s familiar to the Warden from his days in secret police unit Black House.

Meanwhile, a religious organization, the Sons of Sakra is making a play for Black House’s power. The Old Man, leader of Black House, calls on his former agent to infiltrate the Sons and find out their plan, but the Sons have also called on the Warden for information on Black House. It finds the Warden doing a dangerous dance as a double agent that puts him and everyone that he cares for in jeopardy.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: "The Thief Who Spat in Luck's Good Eye," by Michael McClung

I read Michael McClung’s “The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids” a month or so ago when it won the Self Published Fantasy Blog Off, and I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t wait to dig into the second volume, “The Thief Who Spat in Luck’s Good Eye.”

The second book is a bit of a different creature from the first as the stage and story get bigger.

Amra Thetys and Holgren, who we met in the first volume, make an odd couple. Holgren is a mage who dislikes the use of magic, and while Amra does seem to enjoy her work as a thief, she works by her own moral code.

When a giant reward is offered for anyone who can retrieve the secret of immortality from the ancient lost city of Thagoth, Holgren convinces the reluctant Amra to help him claim it, even though they're not really sure what they're looking for or where it is. If they can discover the location of the city, Holgren can open a gate to get them there well ahead of the other adventurers seeking the reward who will have to travel by more conventional means. They can claim the prize and be back before their competitors really get started.

Monday, April 04, 2016

Review: "Road Brothers," by Mark Lawrence

Just when you thought that Jorg Ancrath’s story had come to an end, Mark Lawrence delivers “Road Brothers: Tales from the Broken Empire” ($5, self-published).
This collection brings together 10 tales of Jorg and his road brothers, some of which have appeared elsewhere and some of which are new for this volume. Over the course of these stories, we get some further insight on Jorg’s character, as well as some of his companions that, perhaps, haven’t gotten as much ink.

If I had to choose a favorite from the stories, it would probably be “Bad Seed,” a tale of the former Alann Oak, who most Broken Empire fans will know better as Red Kent. The tale tells the story behind the nickname of the man who is, perhaps, Jorg’s most violent brother. More interestingly, though, it gives us a deeper look inside a man who is deeply conflicted about his nature.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: "Sorcerer to the Crown" by Zen Cho

Often, when I see a book I haven’t read on a whole bunch of year-end lists, I’ll add it to my stack. Sometimes I’m happy I did, other times, I discover it’s just not for me. That’s what happened with Zen Cho’s “Sorcerer to the Crown” ($26.95, Deckle Edge).

Zacharias Wythe, the adopted son of Royal Sorcerer Stephen Wythe, is already out of place in London’s magical circles because of the color of his skin. It’s a bit of an old boys club, where they believe people of color are not capable of magic and women’s frail bodies can’t withstand its effects.

The problem becomes amplified when Stephen dies mysteriously, and Zacharias inherits the staff of Royal Sorcerer. Though those in the magical community can’t deny that the staff chose Zacharias, they can certainly doubt his abilities and leadership. He’s blamed for the declining amount of magic in England, even though the problem has existed for years before he assumed the role, and some of his rivals even whisper that he murdered his adopted father and mentor to obtain the staff.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Review: "Alice Cooper, Volume I: Welcome to My Nightmare"

Though I was at one time an avid comic collector and reader, and I’m a lifelong fan of hard rock and metal, I had never read the Alice Cooper comic series. Recently, a co-worker, knowing my proclivities for both comics and rock, gifted me with “Alice Cooper, Volume I: Welcome to my Nightmare” ($24.99, Dynamite).

The first thing that struck me about this collection was that it was a gorgeous presentation. The hardcover collects the first six issues of the Dynamite Alice Cooper comic, along with a bonus featuring Alice’s first comics appearance with Marvel in the 1970s.

The story arc of the newer comics features Alice as the Lord of Nightmares. Trapped in a bad contract by a trio of devilish agents known as Clan Black, he has fallen into obscurity. That is, until a young man who is being bullied discovers Alice’s music and accidentally summons him from the Nightmare Place for help, freeing him from his contract with Lucius Black, but opening Alice and the young man, Robbie, up to danger from the other two members of the clan.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Review: "Bloodrush" by Ben Galley

If it’s accomplished nothing else, Mark Lawrence’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off has certainly gone a long way toward changing the way that I view self-published books. I used to have a strong rule against accepting them, along with a snarky comment in my submission guidelines (Trust me, it was for good reason). But as I make my way through the finalists of the competition, I’m finding some truly deserving books. The latest being Ben Galley’s “Bloodrush,” which finished second with an overall 7.75 out of 10.

I truly think that the Old West milieu is underused in fantasy. I’m a sucker for a good old-fashioned, hard-nosed gunslinger protagonist – Stephen King’s Roland Deschain, David Gemmell’s Jon Shannow. There just aren’t enough of them.

So, the setting and cowboy cover of “Bloodrush” alone were enough to get me interested, but Galley delivers so much more.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Review: "The Walking Dead: Compendium Two"

It took me a while to get through “The Walking Dead: Compendium Two” ($59.99, Image Comics) because I put it on pause for a while, debating whether I wanted to go beyond what I’d seen on the television version.

As I mentioned in my review of the first volume, reading through this is something of a different experience for me. Usually, I’m very familiar with the literary basis before I watch the film adaptation, but my introduction to The Walking Dead came via the AMC show.

Adding to that is the fact that I haven’t had cable in a number of years, so I’m running a season behind everyone else on the TV show. So I stopped at the pivotal moment in Alexandria that ended the last season. Ultimately, I decided to push on, and I’m glad I did because some of my friends who are current with the TV show would have spoiled a big plot point for me if I hadn’t.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: "The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble's Braids" by Michael McClung

Even though the event officially ended this weekend, I’m still continuing my journey through the finalists in Mark Lawrence’s Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off. So far I’m 1-for-1, having really liked David Benem’s “What Remains of Heroes” and having an enjoyable, but ultimately unsatisfying experience with Matthew Colville’s “Priest.”

As luck would have it, I started reading Michael McClung’s “The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids” last week, and it was just named the winner of the contest on Saturday. The book received an average score of 8/10 from the 10 participating blogs with a high score of 9 and a low of 6.5.

As far as I’m concerned, “The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids” represents exactly what the Self-Published Fantasy Blog Off was created to discover – self-published fantasy novels that are every bit as good as anything coming from the big publishing houses.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: "Morning Star," by Pierce Brown

I don’t know that there’s been a book in years that I anticipated more than Pierce Brown’s “Morning Star” ($27, Del Rey).

I thought the first book in the trilogy, “Red Rising” was outstanding, but the second book “Golden Son,” completely blew me away. I read “Golden Son” in January of last year and knew at that point that it would be my favorite book of the year. It was, pretty easily.

Now Brown returns to the story of Darrow of Lykos at a low point. The former Red miner who rose to the top of the Gold ranks in an effort to overthrow an oppressive caste system is imprisoned in darkness. His execution was broadcast across the Society and most people believe him dead. But the execution was faked, and his greatest enemy, Adrius au Augustus, also known as the Jackal, holds him chained and tortured. The once-powerful Reaper of Mars’ body is now ravaged and weak.

Darrow believes he’ll never see the light again, but then the Sovereign, Octavia au Lune, sends two of her Olympic Knights to retrieve him from the Jackal. That provides an opening for the Sons of Ares to stage a daring rescue attempt that puts the Reaper back at the forefront of the revolution. But the game has changed dramatically while he’s been imprisoned, and it will take more than his fearsome reputation to put the pieces back together.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Review: "Staked" by Kevin Hearne

In “Staked” ($27, Del Rey), Kevin Hearne proves that his three druid protagonists are better when they’re together.

Coming on the heels of the somewhat disappointing “Shattered,” “Staked” follows much the same path. Atticus, Granuaile and Owen are separated, each running their own storyline. Atticus ramps up his war on the vampires, as he goes after Theophilis, the oldest of the monsters. Granuaile visits Asgard to have Loki’s mark removed and find a way to shield herself from the sight of the Trickster god. Owen settles in with his adopted pack of werewolves and begins to consider training a new generation of druids.

The result, much as in “Shattered,” is a disjointed group of tales that spend a large portion of the book not seeming to move the story forward very much. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Review: "Monster Hunter Vendetta" by Larry Correia

After facing down the end of the world at the hands of some Lovecraftian aliens, Owen Pitt has settled into a more normal life in Larry Correia’s “Monster Hunter Vendetta” ($7.99, Baen).

That is, if a guy that makes his living killing monsters that most of the world doesn’t think exist can have a normal life.

He’s engaged to monster-hunting partner Julie Shackleford and making a lot of money for Monster Hunter International doing what he does best. He thinks the threat of the Old Ones is behind him, until an assignment in Mexico goes sideways.

While resting after a successful hunt, Owen is attacked in his hotel room by a seemingly unbeatable necromancer. When he escapes, the wizard sends hordes of zombies at the hotel, resulting in an ugly incident and Owen’s arrest.

He soon discovers that the necromancer is working for the Old Ones, and that he has a connection to MHI. Owen must figure out who he is and how to stop him before he brings eternal darkness to the world.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Random Rants: Where does your suspension of disbelief end?

As fantasy, science fiction and horror fans, our realities, perhaps, stretch a little farther than the average earthling. I know people who are unable to watch most science fiction movies because they innately pick them apart and drive the people around them crazy. One of those people, oddly, is also a huge "Doctor Who" fan, who has no problem with an immortal time traveler using his time machine to drag the Earth through space, so go figure.

Anyway, most of us who hold the speculative genres dear have accepted that there are some things we just have to accept in order to enjoy our chosen genres. If you spend all of your time picking apart what's not possible or whether or not the science the author/screenwriter used is sound, that doesn't leave you time to get lost in the story.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Review: "The Aeronaut's Windlass," by Jim Butcher

With “The Aeronaut’s Windlass” ($27.95, Roc) Jim Butcher introduces us to a very different world from the ones he’s worked in before.

In this world, people no longer live on the surface because it’s too dangerous. Instead they live in spires, which rise high above those dangers. Travel and trade between the spires is done in airships powered by lift crystals. One of those belongs to Captain Francis Madison Grimm, a disgraced naval officer of Spire Albion turned privateer. Grimm starts the story a bit down on his luck with a busted ship and limited ways to repair it.

Bridget Tagwynn is the last heir of a once-mighty family that has now fallen into obscurity. When she joins the Spire Guard for a year of mandatory service required for children of the aristocracy (along with her cat protector Rowl), she runs afoul of a son of a powerful family, and finds a pair of unlikely allies in Gwendolyn Lancaster and her warrior-born brother Benedict Sorrelin Lancaster, children of one of the spire’s strongest families.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: "The Walking Dead: Compendium One"

I received “The Walking Dead: Compendium One” as a Christmas gift, and mowed through it thanks to an unfortunate cold that kept me laid up during the New Year holiday weekend.

It was a very interesting experience for me, backwards from the usual. In most cases, I’m very familiar with the source material before I go into TV and movie adaptations. This time, I had about five seasons of the TV show under my belt without having read the comics.

SPOILER ALERT: Before I go any further, I’ll tell you that if you haven’t read the comics or watched the first few seasons of the show and plan to, you may want to stop here. I’ll be discussing the similarities and divergences between the two, and you may learn some things you don’t want to know.

Now that’s out of the way, I’ll start by saying that I was a little surprised at how very different the two are. Though they follow the same basic story arc, so much has been changed. I wondered constantly while reading this whether I would have the same appreciation for the show if I had read it before or if I would have been angry about some of the changes.

Monday, January 04, 2016

My favorite reads of 2015

So another year has come and gone, along with a number of books -- not as many as I wanted, of course, but that's always the case. I'll start 2016 by looking back at some of my favorite reads of 2015.

As always, I'll remind you that this is, by no means, a "best of" list, just a collection of my favorite things that I read. Some of these books were released in 2015, some are older, and I certainly didn't read enough books this year to remotely qualify as an expert on everything released.

The first three entries are my favorite picks of the year, the ones that I would most recommend if asked. Beyond that, the order is random -- pretty much reverse chronological of when I read them.

"Golden Son," by Pierce Brown. When I reviewed this second volume in Brown's Red Rising Trilogy back on January 8, I asked if it was too early to call book of the year. Apparently it wasn't. Though I found some fantastic reads later in the year (the next two on this list, in particular), nothing rose above Brown's continuing gripping account of a low-born miner who has, through deceit and the aid of a group called the Sons of Ares, risen to a position of power where he may be able to take down an oppressive galactic caste system. The finale of the series is, far and away, my most anticipated book of 2016.