Saturday, December 26, 2015

2015, all wrapped up

Yes, there are still 6 more days left in the year, and who knows what those will bring, but this will be the last blog post I make in the year known as 2015.

Back at the start of this year, I made some "resolutions." Now that 300-some-odd days have passed, let's check in, shall we?
Blog more. (Accomplished already!)
Yup, this one was a success. I decided to blog every 15 days, and, with this blog entry... mission accomplished!  (we'll overlook the one time I forgot, and the one time that Silas blogged for me, and the numerous times I had absolutely nothing to blog about...).

I also said that I wanted to:

Write at least 2015 words every month on a fictional story. I don't need to finish the story, I don't need to start it - it could just be outlining or working on a particular scene, and it doesn't have to be the same story each month. Just need to write something fiction, and have put in at least two thousand and fifteen words into it. (I realize this seems like setting the bar pretty low, since the total word count for the year would only be 24,180 - which is not even half of what the Nanowrimo goal is, but considering my writing output lately, I think it is a rather achievable target.)
I did write some fiction. However, I just did a word count on my super-secret blog, and, well, it's only up to 17.874. That's despite writing every Wednesday. There IS another Wednesday coming up, so if I can manage 6300 more words....

Watch as many movies as possible.
68 done. (I'll throw the list up at the end of this. I kept track of all my books & movies consumed this year, along with notes...) If I manage to watch any more films or finish any more novels, I'll add them to the list(s).

 Work on the Project (yes, the very same project I was mentioning on this blog back in [sigh] 2007.)
I did! It was ONE weekend out of the whole year, and for only about twenty minutes, but ...that counts, right?
Half-way win. For the first three months, I did a bunch of pushups, situps and jumping jacks daily. (Actually, 15 of each each day in January, 30 of each each day in February, 45 of each each day in March.) I would have kept going, but near the end of March it just got...exhausting. And after slipping three days in a row, I simply gave up. 2016 is right around the corner though, so maybe I'll start up again. (Without the "this many this month" gimmick.)

 Read at least half the amount of books that Stephanie reads this year. I'm pretty sure that she is shooting for a goal of 60. I think I can manage to read 30 books in 365 days. I always give my star-rating on, but I might start jotting down quick notes/thoughts about the books too.
 I hit 40. (And I'm nearly done with one more) I don't know how many Stephanie read. 40's pretty good, though.
And since that's everything, I'm now just going to end with the list of movies and books that I saw this year.
See ya'll in 2016!

Movies seen in 2015: (mostly spoiler free, but proceed with caution)

  1. Guardians of the Galaxy – best movie I’ve seen all year. It was a little jarring at first with all the different aliens and locations trying to keep track of exactly what was supposed to be going on, but once it got rolling, the fun was just nonstop. Rocket and Groot, were, of course, standouts, but Drax and Peter “Star-Lord” Quill also brought the fun.  Even Gamora had hints of backstory and depth. Overall, a great ride.
  2. Tusk – horror/comedy movie that started off pretty great – the villain was genuinely creepy and engaging (the “protagonist” was a bit of an a-hole, though, and hard to root for, although even he didn’t really deserve his fate) . And then Johnny Depp showed up as ‘comedic relief’, but forgot to bring the comedy, and made the last half of the movie a chore to get thru.
  3. The Equalizer – Denzel Washington kicking ass.
  4. Noah – There aren’t that many movies made nowadays that are based on Biblical stories. This film kinda shows why.  It was interesting that they made Noah a jerkass who only followed God’s word (which came to him in visions).  But, it took me five tries to watch this without falling asleep, and in the end wasn’t worth having done so.
  5. Coherence – low budget sci-fi (with Nicholas “Xander” Brendan, who has definitely aged since his Buffy days) about a group of middle-aged friends who experience a …kind of fracturing of the multiverse during the passing of a comet. Wasn’t bad at all, but it really did end right as it was starting to pick up and get good.  
  6. Wish I Was Here – Zach Braff stars in this amazingly good drama (that he also directed and co-wrote with his brother) Just a nicely done movie about a Jewish family dealing with the father dying. Nothing really groundbreaking, but the performances and humor really made it a great journey.
  7. The Interview – if not for the brouhaha around this, I doubt I would’ve seen it. Wasn’t great, I think I laughed once or twice, but whatever. Completely forgettable.
  8. Lucy – meh. Was just an excuse for Scarlett Johansen to look cool and take out mafia goons.
  9. Parallels – this was decent enough (nothing really new or original – just a parallel earth story), but it ended on kind of a cliffhanger, which seemed odd for a movie. Doing a little research, it appears that this was actually a pilot for a television series, which makes a LOT more sense. If the series got picked up – and had a set # of seasons to tell its story – I’d probably watch it.
  10. Cinderella – the live-action version. Enjoyable!
  11. Big Hero 6 – this was pretty great. Kind of a kid-friendly Avengers, but set in some alternate universe where San Francisco & Tokyo combined into a mega city, and robots are commonplace.
  12. You’re Next – typical slasher film that had a twist in that one of the intended victims fought back and kicked some ass. Could’ve been better.
  13. Dumb and Dumber To – unnecessary sequel.  I went in with extremely low expectations. They were not met.
  14. Gone Girl – David Fincher makes pretty great movies.
  15. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part  1 –I don’t really remember ANYTHING from the book (except that I was disappointed, overall)  so …I guess the movie was better, because I did enjoy this, although it did seem like a whole lot of “set up”.  Which is the inherent problem with splitting a movie into two parts as has become the trend. Maybe I’ll just stop watching part 1s of these sorts of movies.
  16. Divergent – Started out fairly interesting (despite the super silly concept of separating society based on one singular trait), but this movie really was about 30 minutes too long. (And it’s the first of a trilogy! With, of course, the third part being split into two.)
  17. Interstellar – Honest Trailers called this “Christopher Nolan’s Contact”, which is hilarious and accurate.
  18. Annie –why??????
  19. Predestination – it’s turtles Ethan Hawkes all the way down.
  20. The Babadook – Australian horror movie that was pretty damn terrifying because mental illness can truly be scary. Amelia lives with her six year old son, Sam. Sam’s father, Oskar, was killed in a car wreck while driving Amelia to the hospital. Ameila is not dealing with the grief very well, and Sam is becoming more and more of a problem child as a result. When a strange picture book called “Mister Babadook” arrives in their house, things get worse. There are parts of this that were really tough to watch – great acting from both the mother and child – but overall, this was one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in a quite a while.
  21. Psycho – There’s a reason this is a classic. I was surprised at how little was actual Horror, and how overall it was a lot more of a mystery or suspense.  Anthony Perkins was pretty incredible. I actually liked Norman, despite knowing that he was a killer.
  22. Horrible Bosses 2 – nothing really to say about this one. It was about what I expected, and it wasn’t awful. I’d say it was about on par with the  first one, actually.
  23. The Voices – this was depressing.
  24. Killer Joe – sex, violence, swearing, murder, and fried chicken legs.
  25. Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) – meh. The acting was fine, the gimmick of having it appear as (mostly) one continuous shot was fine, the meta aspects were fine, but, somehow, overall,  it just …didn’t work for me.
  26. Nightcrawler – wow. Jake  Gyllenhaal plays Louis Bloom, who is a complete monster that doesn’t have a shred of humanity in him. Once Louis finds out about “nightcrawling” – filming crime scenes and selling the videos to the local news stations – he becomes obsessed with a) getting the best footage, and first, and b) with the news director Nina. He’s morally grey (well, light black, maybe) at that point – and then he decides to go a step further and start really breaking laws with a total disregard for anyone around. Only his footage matters. Extremely creepy performance and yet immensely watchable.
  27. Honeymoon – low budget horror flick about a young couple, Paul & Bea, on their honeymoon in a cabin in the woods.  Bea starts acting really strange after one night. Turns out it was alien abduction. A couple of really gross moments, and some creepiness, but with so much of the mystery not explained, it felt kinda frustrating – like, why? What’s the point of this? I felt like this came pretty close to being a great little gem, but fell short.
  28. The Maze Runner – decent adaptation of a decent YA novel. The book was more compelling than the movie (the movie was irritating in a “why don’t they just EXPLAIN things to him” sort of way – the book may have had elements of that, too, but I don’t remember.) Definitely a downer ending, though.
  29. Chappie – Short Circuit for the 21st century, I guess.  This certainly had potential, but it didn’t live up to it, sadly.
  30. Zombeavers – I don’t know, man. It was there. It was dumb. (Not that I was expecting otherwise). About the best I can say for this is that it was short.
  31. The Fault in our Stars – this was really good. Although there was a lot of dust in the room when we watched… Anyway, yes, Pretty People With Cancer was a pretty entertaining flick (although the indie-song soundtrack got to be a *little* much near the end), and I may read the book, just ‘cuz.
  32. Fermat’s Room – Spanish film about four mathematicians who get invited to “solve the world’s greatest enigma” by a mysterious stranger identifying him (or her)self as “Fermat”. Once there, they get locked in the room, and begin to receive math & logic puzzles that they have one minute to solve before the room starts to press together.  Not great, but not horrible.
  33. The Captive – Ryan Reynolds stars as a dad whose 8 year old daughter gets abducted, and spends 8 years looking for her. The acting in this was decent enough, the story wasn’t super-original, but it could have been a good movie overall, except that it was presented in a non-linear fashion. The jumps back and forth in time were EXTREMELY distracting and disorienting, and it was difficult to know what was happening. And there really was no reason for them to tell the story that way, as far as I could tell.
  34. Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever – Silas had this review: “I really enjoyed that! Well, the parts with Grumpy Cat were really funny, but the parts where they were just talking was kind of boring.” Spot on.
  35. Home Sweet Hell – a ‘dark comedy’ that didn’t have any laughs, sadly. The trailer made it look a lot more interesting than it turned out to be.
  36. It Follows – an extremely overhyped horror movie. This definitely had moments of creepiness, and the concept was intriguing (though flawed), and I enjoyed it, for the most part, but I wish I hadn’t had it built up to be “the best horror movie in over a decade”, since it…um..wasn’t. It was good, but not great.
  37. Taken 3 – ridiculous as hell, but still somehow watchable.
  38. Boyhood – This was almost like a documentary …of just your average kid. The director filmed the same boy (Mason, in the movie, but his real name is Ellar Coltrane) for TWELVE YEARS, from the age of 6 to 18. So we follow Mason and his family as he grows up more or less right before our eyes. Which is pretty incredible. There wasn’t much *story*, because it was just kind of …life. Which can be boring. And amazing. And …life. I’d actually be interested in seeing one of these types of films done focusing on other parts of the world. What is it like for a boy growing up in the Middle East, for example.
  39. Kung Fu Hustle – Roger Ebert described this film as “Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny.” Pretty much, yup. Wacky martial arts and physics defying stunts abound. Very enjoyable.
  40. What We Do In The Shadows – a mockumentary about 4 vampires living in modern day New Zealand, and dealing with everyday life. It was amusing throughout, and had a couple laugh out loud moments (most of the stuff with the werewolves, the “dark bidding” joke, pretty much anything with Petyr).
  41. Maggie – Very slow paced drama/thriller about a father and daughter dealing with the fact that the daughter has been bitten by a zombie, and her days are numbered.
  42. The Lazarus Effect – blah. If you are going to make a horror movie about someone being brought back from the dead and being brought back  wrong… you really shouldn’t make it so damn boring.
  43. Reclaim
  44. Pee Wee’s Big Adventure – classic.
  45. Soaked in Bleach – documentary made mostly by the Private Investigator that Courtney Love hired days before Kurt Cobain’s body was discovered.  Definitely makes Kurt’s suicide look a lot more questionable.  And absolutely does not paint Courtney Love in a good light at all.
  46. Jupiter Ascending – it looked pretty.
  47. Ex Machina – this was good. That ending, though… It wasn’t a bad ending, I just felt like there should have been more indicating that it might go that way.
  48. Insurgent – AKA The Divergent Series: Insurgent. I liked the first, but this one didn’t have enough going for it. The action scenes near the beginning were decent, but overall it just felt like “Dystopia By The Numbers”. Or maybe I’m just too old for these types of movies anymore.
  49. Hellraiser – To quote Saren (who watched this with me) after this was over: “Well, now I’ve seen that movie.”
  50. God bless America – It’s like Bobcat Goldthwait decided to combine Natural Born Killers and Falling Down, but amped up the bitterness.
  51. Time Lapse – pretty solid indie flick about a group of twenty-somethings that discover a camera that takes pictures of the future. It raised some questions about fate and pre-determinism, but then never really answered them. Which  is both cool, because it leaves it to the viewer to decide, and also frustrating because it leaves it to the viewer to decide.
  52. Drag Me To Hell – lots of jump scares. Lots of grossness. Not much else, really.
  53. Kingsman: The Secret Service – stylish and action packed and silly and cartoony (which makes sense, since it was based on a  graphic novel from Mark Millar). It was entertaining, but not great, and there was a “joke” near the end (see what I did there?)  that I found bothersome enough to sour the film.
  54. Run All Night – Liam Neeson as a retired hitman, Ed Harris as a mob boss. Corrupt cops and lots of chases, but this just didn’t click with me.
  55. Avengers: Age of Ultron – Epic comic book goodness. There was a LOT going on (too much, maybe? It did feel rushed in a lot of places) but this was an awesome popcorn movie that more than lived up to its job of entertaining me.
  56. Spy – Very, very funny.
  57. Cop Car – two ten year old boys run away from home, and stumble across an abandoned cop car. They take it for a joyride. The owner of said cop car is a corrupt sheriff played by Kevin Bacon. It’s absurd and intense and stupid and awesome.  
  58. Mad Max: Fury Road – This was a hell of a movie.  Just insane over the top action.  And characters that you cared about.
  59. Cut Bank  - sort of a Fargo Lite. Dwayne wants to get out of the little town of Cut Bank, Montana. After he films the murder of a postal worker, he plans on using the reward money (from turning in the film) to move. Things don’t go that easily, though, once the sheriff starts investigating. Not a bad little flick.
  60. Tomorrowland –Had some fun moments, but overall it sorta fell flat. Also, don’t know if this counts entirely, since I fell asleep during the last twenty minutes.
  61. Robot Overlords – Ben Kingsley and Gillian Anderson in a sci-fi movie about, well, robot overlords? Sign me up! …except, no. This was complete dreck.
  62. The Guest – Thriller (slash parody? – it got really ridiculous in the final twenty minutes, and I think it meant to) about a stranger who claims to have served in the military with the dead son of our hapless Everyfamily. There’s more – much more – to his guy than meets the eye, of course. DUN DUN DUNNNNNNN!  This was cheesy in a lot of ways, but sometimes cheese hits the spot.
  63. These Final Hours – solid flick about a meteor hitting the earth, wiping out all of humanity,  and the final hours in Perth.  
  64. Inside Out – Pure Joy.
  65. Beyond The Reach – pretty sparse thriller with Michael Douglas as a rich guy who accidentally kills someone while on a hunting trip out in the desert. He then attempts to murder his guide. The film was okay – nothing great, but I’ve definitely seen worse – and then they had the last ten minutes, which were just…dumb. Oh well.
  66. Get Santa – Santa goes to jail, and a father recently released from jail takes his son across the countryside trying to break him out and save Christmas. Sorta odd, but also somewhat charming.
  67. Terminator: Genisys – Well, obviously, I’m going to see any Terminator movie. I saw Salvation, after all, and while at the time I said that it was better than Rise of the Machines…it kinda wasn’t.  Anyway. This new one decides to pretty much ignore 3 and 4. And…then says that 1 and 2 didn’t really happen, either.  I mean, yeah, you can argue that it’s simply different timelines, and that means they all happened, but that makes things messy.  Anyway.  Things I did NOT like: a) This was convoluted and incoherent due to all the timey-wimey stuff going on (and too much of it was ‘explained’ by Ah-nuld…which doesn’t make sense, why would an infiltration ‘bot know so much about time travel?... of course, we never find out who SENT “Pops”, either, so having that mystery unexplained is the writer’s go-to ‘answer’ for any sort of problem that arises. Gives ‘em stuff to figure out in the sequels, right?)
  1. Jai Courtney. Oh. My. God.  Please, if there are sequels coming, get someone  else -ANYONE else- to play Cardboard Reese. I mean Kyle Reese.
  2. John Connor. I don’t know who was playing him this go around (and I do appreciate that they have kept up with the constantly changing actor for that role thing) but …ugh. He just didn’t have the right ‘feel’ for John Connor.
  3. Of course, they then flat out terminated his character, anyway, by turning him into the main villain.  And by not having Cardboard  & Sarah ‘mate’, John doesn’t exist anymore… right? That kinda saddens me, actually. So humanity doesn’t have a savior in the future?
All that being said, there were things I did like:
  1. Most of the action scenes were pretty well done.
  2. J.K. Simmons was awesome
  3. The callbacks/recreating of T1 in the first third of the movie were well done (although if you’re gonna digitalize young Arnold, why not digitalize young Bill Paxton, too??)
  4. They still kept the Terminator music.
  5. They left it open for future movies.
One thing that I would have liked to have seen  (and maybe explored in the future?) – 1973. Pops and young Sarah seems like it would be interesting to see. How did he explain everything to a terrified orphaned little girl? And what was her childhood like after that? Also, it was unclear as to whether the terminator that Pops saved her from in ’73 was the T1000 that was also in ’84? That was my understanding. So they were eluding that Terminator for 11 years, until Cardboard shows up, and that’s when they killed it? [shrug] I did enjoy it overall, just felt it could have been better (for one thing, all Terminator movies should be rated R) but I’m hopeful for any future installments.

  1. Jurassic World – Chris Pratt, dinosaur chaos, velociraptor motorcycle gang…what more could you want? (less one dimensional characters and less sexism would be nice.)

    AND books...

    A word about the sentence in parenthesis after each. A long time ago Harper used to ask me about every book I read, "What was the last word?" So, for each of these books, I wrote down the final SENTENCE of the book. I'll put the entire thing in spoiler tags - except for the last word. 
    If the final sentence of the book was just a single word (it happens, you know), then I'll spoil-tag the entire word.  Onward!
    Books read in 2015:
    1. Revival by Stephen King –I enjoyed this, but felt that it probably would’ve been better as a short story, or maybe a novella. It’s a pretty short (for King) novel anyway, but after it was over (and the ending was absolutely the most memorable part – it’s stuck with me for weeks) I felt like a lot of the leadup to it was …unnecessary, maybe?  (I will come to Mother) 

    2. Yes Please by Amy Poehler – part memoir, part book of essays. Mostly good stuff, although a lot of the name-dropping famous part was kinda just bleh. Greatly enjoyed her essays & early life stuff. (Yes Please Thank you Sharita) 

    3. The Walking Dead volume 22: A New Beginning  by Robert Kirkman – the latest in the graphic novel series that just keeps on going. This one had a time-jump after the last one, and while not a lot happened, it definitely set up a lot of new plotlines, and also gave the writers the opportunity to do flashbacks to stuff that was skipped (Michonne? Where art thou??). I’m still holding out hope that Rick is somehow the key to the whole zombie plague, but I doubt they’ll end up going there. Still, it’s interesting to have them more or less reboot the whole series at this point. (Don’t move.) 

    4. Mort(e) by Robert Repino – This was crazy. In a good way. Ants – or rather, one insane Queen Ant – decides to eradicate humanity, and genetically mutates all the lesser animals in order to help be her warriors. Mort(e), a housecat formerly known as Sebastian, becomes a war-hero (to the animals – humans have a reason to fear this killing machine) whose sole purpose is tracking down his best friend, Sheba, a dog he knew before the Change. The novel wasn’t perfect (I would’ve liked more pre-change Sebastian, and more of his time in the war) but it was unique enough that I will absolutely look for more from this author. (Sheba trotted beside him.) 

    5. Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt – short quick read about how Patton OSwalt spent the last half of the 90s addicted to seeing movies in the theater.  (We’ll see.) 

    6. Holy Cow: A Modern-Day Dairy Tale by David Duchovny – This was a quick breezy read that, to be honest, if hadn’t been written by Fox Mulder probably wouldn’t have been published to begin with. It most certainly wouldn’t have gotten the attention it’s getting. I liked Elsie. Her compatriots not nearly as much. Also, the ending really felt like David just ran out of steam. This seemed almost like a children’s book (and was mentioned in-story that it probably would be) but there were bits that were completely out of place as such (all of the  Israel bits , and some of the parts about animal slaughter).  It was simply okay, but I don’t know if I’d recommend it. (Moo) 

    7. The Martian by Andy Weir – Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it’s cold as hell. And there’s no one there to raise them if you didn’t. And all this science, I don’t understand. It’s just my job five days a week. Can’t wait for the movie. (This is the happiest day of my life.) 

    8. Wizzywig: Portrait of a Serial Hacker by Ed Piskor – Graphic novel that told the story (kinda hobbled together of real-life stories of multiple individuals) of Kevin “Boingthump” Phenicle, a kid who has perfect pitch, a knack for logic & computers, and a very out of whack moral compass. Very interesting, and compelling read, the ending felt…incomplete, though. (Whoa!!) 

    9. Life or Death by Michael Robotham – Audie Palmer breaks out of prison the day before he was going to be released, and therefore goes on the run. He’s been imprisoned for the past decade for being involved with a botched armored truck robbery, wherein several people (including most of the gang) died, and Audie’s brother got away with 7 million dollars. This started out really great, but sort of dragged near the middle, and I was actually bored by the end.  (Live like there’s no tomorrow.) 

    10. Touch by Claire North – Great premise, and there were absolutely stunning sections of this, but overall the book just didn’t gel for me.  This was about a group of people who live among us known as “ghosts” – who have the ability to transfer their consciousness into any body that they touch. If they “wear” you, then YOUR consciousness simply blacks out until the jump out. There are people who know about the existence of these ghosts, and are hunting them in an attempt to kill them all. This would most likely make an amazing movie (in the right hands) and perhaps if the novel were tightened up some (it was just over 400 pages, it could’ve easily been knocked down a hundred or so), it would have been spectacular, but as it stands it was really good, but not as excellent as her other work, “The First 15 Lives of Harry August”. (I am you.) 

    11. Saga (volume 4) by Brian K. Vaughn – this was just average – for Saga. Which is miles ahead of most everything else.  (Sir, we need your help finding our families.) 

    12. Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the truth beyond Blackfish by John Hargrove with Howard Chua-Eoan – John Hargrove was an employee of SeaWorld for 15 years, and worked with the orcas that they have there, so he’s seen the effects that being in captivity has had on these highly intelligent, highly social animals. He’s also seen firsthand the soullessness of SeaWorld corporation. A great companion piece to the Blackfish documentary. (Like Takara and her mother and the other orcas.) 

    13. The Deep by Nick Cutter – A mysterious plague has started affecting the world. Nicknamed “the ‘Gets”, it’s a sort of rampant Alzheimer’s – at first you start forgetting little things – where you left the keys, the last digit of a phone number – but as it progresses you forget more vital stuff – like eating. Or why you shouldn’t touch fire. Eventually you forget to breathe.  A possible cure (called Ambrosia) has been discovered at the bottom of the ocean, and a high-tech deep sea lab has been set up to mine the stuff. But the Ambrosia is not all that it seems…  This was terrifying, at least at first. It did get a little much, eventually. If it had been trimmed by 100ish pages (or perhaps a better resolution to the mystery of the Ambrosia), it would have been perfect.   (What shambled forth was unspeakable.) 

    14. The Last American Vampire by Seth Grahame-Smith – sequel to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. This was a sort of Forrest Gump with vampires, which sounds ridiculous, and it was, but it was also really enjoyable. I actually enjoyed it a little more than the first one, since this covered more of America’s history.  We find out the true fate of the Roanoke Colony!  And how and why the Hindenburg exploded. And meet some famous vampires along the way too. Interesting, though, that Henry laid low for a good portion of RECENT history. Perhaps leaving room for another sequel? I’d be game. (It was Alexei Romanov’s card.) 

    15. Creep by Jennifer Hillier – this read like a novel written during NaNoWriMo. Fast-paced, but ultimately fluff.   (Looking up, she caught a glimpse of tight jeans on a Triumph before it sped away.) 

    16. The Planetary Omnibus by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday – this epic doorstopper (over 800 pages!!) collects all 27 issues of the Planetary comic along with three crossover issues (with “Authority”, “JLA” and “Batman”). I enjoyed the main series quite a bit. It was about a group of “archeologists” who discover all sorts of strange secrets from the 20th century, and also have powers themselves. (The Drummer can talk to machines, Jakita Wagner is super strong & super fast, Elijah Snow can freeze things). They started out as stand-alones, but once the conspiracy of The Four and Elijah’s idea of extracting revenge on them kicked into action, it really got good. Then, there were the crossovers at the end --The Authority crossover bored me (I tried to read the Authority series a while  back and couldn’t get into it). The JLA crossover was interesting, although a bit jarring since it sorta turned Planetary on it’s head – Bruce Wayne colored them as villains. Heh. And the Batman crossover was just silliness and dumb. I really kinda wish that the collection had just ended with the main series.If it had, it would have been this: (It’s taken a long time to get here, but you and me and her and him – we’re just getting started.) Since it ended with the Batman crossover, the ending was this: (This town is insane.) 

    17. The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie with B.K. Evenson – Rob needs to stick to music.  And movies? I actually haven’t seen any of his films. But definitely no more novels. The sad thing is, this seemed like it *could* have been good. The idea of there having been actual witches in Salem, Massachusetts back in the day, and they perform a curse that goes into effect 300 years later could be a really cool story.  This was not. Oh well. The final word was END. Not even THE END, just END. The final sentence – (Soon they were dancing.) 

    18. Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne – a young adult end of the world tale. After a volcano erupts on the other side of the world causes a massive earthquake and hail storm in Monument, Colorado, a group of children (ranging from some 1st graders up thru some high school seniors) have to survive trapped in a giant box warehouse store.  This was definitely a quick read, and it had enough drama to keep me intrigued to the end, but, man, the writing could have been so much better.  There’s another two in the series, but I don’t think I’ll pick ‘em out. (We were five.) 

    19. Finders Keepers by Stephen King – This was the second in the planned trilogy of Retired Detective (Ret-Det) Bill Hodges. (The first was last year’s Mr. Mercedes). I enjoyed Mr. Mercedes, but didn’t see how it could be a trilogy. I shouldn’t have worried. This installment was, in my opinion, even better than the first. The book had a different “case” (mostly) than Mr. Mercedes. (Although the actions of Brady have an impact on everyone in this story too….and it looks like the 3rd book should as well.) This one was about Morris Bellamy, who was a supremely deranged fan of author John Rothenstein’s works. In 1978, Bellamy murders Rothstein (and his two accomplices), and steals some unpublished books and about $20,000. Then he hides it all in a trunk in the woods, and gets arrested for a different crime.  Flash forward 30 years, and the books and money are found by Peter Saubers, whose family is going thru some rough times, in part due to the fact that Peter’s father was one of the victims (that lived) from Brady’s joyride in Mr. Mercedes. Pete uses the cash to help his family, and holds on to the novels. Then Bellamy gets out of prison, and comes looking for the trunk.  King sows some seeds for the  third novel as well, which is due out next year, and I’m pretty excited about that one. (Clack.) 

    20. The Walking Dead volume  23: Whispers Into Screams by Robert Kirkman – the most Rick-less collection to date, the focus of this volume moved on to Carl, which is fine, since I find the generation of kids growing up in this world to be sorta fascinating. I don’t know how the Whisperers’ plot line is going to resolve,  but I’m in for the long haul with this series.  (Yes, Alpha.) 

    21. Resident Alien volume 1: Welcome to Earth!  By Steve Parkhouse and Peter Hogan – an alien crash lands on earth, and while waiting to be rescued by his home planet, he blends into a small town by masquerading as their doctor, and solving murders. This was a quick read, and largely introductory – not a lot of story happens, and there’s not much conflict or suspense that he’ll be discovered. But it did seem like it may payoff in later volumes. I just don’t know if I’m interested enough to check them out. (It’s beautiful, wherever it is… and everything else can wait.) 

    22. Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines – How this hasn’t been turned into a summer blockbuster yet is beyond me. It’s a typical zombie apocalypse, with superpowered humans thrown into the mix. This story focused on survivors in the Hollywood area who take on a gang whose leader has the power to control the zombies. It was fun. There are, evidently, at least three more books in the series. But I may just let it rest with one. Sometimes less is more. I could see getting burned out on the idea. (We have work to do.) 

    23. Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson – The first collection of a comic strip called “Phoebe and Her Unicorn” that is absolutely the spiritual successor of Calvin and Hobbes. Phoebe meets a unicorn (Marigold Heavenly Nostrils) when she skips a rock across a pond and bams Marigold in the face (thus stopping Marigold from staring at her reflection and dying ala Narcissus). One wish for a ‘best friend’ later, and Phoebe and Marigold’s adventures begin.  This book was charming, colorful, and very funny (I laughed out loud at least four or five times). Without a doubt, a great find.  (Purrrrrr.) 

    24. Chew Vol. 9: Chicken Tenders by John Layman – IT could be argued that this issue was doing a lot of placeholding until the very end, and while that may be true, it was still highly entertaining placeholding. The ending though! Oh. My. I have a theory, however. One which I’m going to Rot13 so that  anyone who hasn’t caught up, but wants to (and, really, Chew is a fantastic read, you should all read it!) won’t be spoiled by this issues twists. So. Znlor V’z whfg va qravny, ohg V qba’g oryvrir gung Pbyol xvyyrq Cblb. Gurer jrer gjb vafgnaprf jurer jr ner gbyq “gung vfa’g Cblb. Vg’f n qbhoyr.” – juvpu …zrnaf znlor ur qvqa’g ernyyl xvyy uvz?  Ohg… abj gung V guvax nobhg vg, jul jbhyq Pbyol qb gung? V svther gung ur vf cynaavat ba srrqvat Cblb gb Gbal…fbzrubj. Ohg vg frrzf yvxr gung pbhyq unir orra qbar zhpu zber jvyyvatyl. Creuncf ur’f tbvat gb srrq uvz gb gur Pbyyrpgbe sbe fbzr ernfba? V qba’g xabj.. I guess I’ll just have to wait until volume 10 to find out. (Crack) 

    25. Disclaimer by Renee Knight – One of those popcorn thriller novels that compelled me to finish, despite it not being very well written, or, in post-reveal scrutiny makes a lot of sense. I’m sure it’ll be made into a movie at some point, and, depending on how well it’s done, will make millions. When I first started reading it, I was going to recommend it to Steph, but as I got closer to the end, I realized that I couldn’t.  Oh well. For posterity’s sake, here’s the basic plot: Catherine starts reading a book she does’nt remember ordering, and discovers that the book is about a secret she’s been keeping for 20 years. We find out that the book was written (and delivered to her home) by Stephen Brigstone - the parent of someone that Catherine met 2 decades prior. Stephen is a genuinely creepy nutcase, and a lot of what was compelling to me were his chapters (it cuts back and forth between him and Catherine’s POV). Anyway, lots of twists, and lots AND lots of characters reacting to things that they don’t know the entire story to. Catherine’s husband is an extreme case. Really, dude? You’ve been married for nearly thirty years and you’re not going to even TALK to your wife about these things?? Sigh. (He allowed her to stroke his back and hold his head, and she was overcome with gratitude for the chance he was giving her to get to know him at last.) 

    26. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – Like a lighthearted Otherland. With tons and tons and TONS of 80s references.  This was just overall a fun read. (It occurred to me then that for the first time in as long as I could remember, I had absolutely no desire to log back into the OASIS.) 

    27. Rover Red Charlie by Garth Ennis – Graphic novel from the creator of Preacher,  The Boys, and Crossed (among others). This was a pretty short tale – told the story of an apocalypse –but through the eyes of three dogs. Rover, Red, and Charlie. Humanity for whatever reason (the dogs, of course, never find out the “why” or the “how” – and it doesn’t really matter) start killing themselves and each other. (Which, I suppose, could mean this was a crossover with the Crossed comics – but the humans didn’t have the scars from that book, so I doubt it’s meant to be) Anyway, Rover & Red & Charlie find themselves in a world without “feeders” (the Dog word for their human caretakers). Other dogs tell them about possible feeders still living out by “the Bigger Splash”, so they therefore decide to make their way out of New York City and cross the country. Only 6 issues, so it was easy to read this in an afternoon, and it was pretty good. (I’m a dog.) 

    28. The Dark Half by Stephen King – I’d read this years ago, figured it was time to reread it. I remember really having enjoyed it back when I first read it in ’90 or ’91, and it was enjoyable this time around, but not as great as I had thought it was. Stark – whatever he was -  was simply too cartoony (he starts as an unstoppable killing machine terminator type (who somehow managed to get the upperhand on at least 4 different police officers!) and winds up …just a joke). The intriguing parts about how much of Stark Thad had in him, and how this whole thing would impact his relationship with his wife were teased at near the end, but …that was the end. I’d almost like to have a sequel to THIS rather than to The Shining, because it would be interesting to read about the fallout from all of the Dark Half’s events.  (He stood there like that for a long time.) 

    29. The New World by Chris Adrian & Eli Horowitz – This was a strange little book. Only 200 pages long, and some beautiful and witty musings about life and love and marriage, but, man, the final half of the book was ambiguous. The novel was about Jim and Jane, a married couple. Jim dies, Jane goes to the hospital to ID his body, and discovers that unknown to her, Jim has signed up with a cryogenic corporation called Polaris, and Polaris has removed Jim’s head. We then alternate chapters for a bit between Jane in the present, and Jim waking up in the future and having to adjust to the new world. This was the beginning half of the book, and it was pretty great. Jane focuses her grief and anger toward Polaris and wanting to get her husband’s head back, while Jim is told he has to forget about his past life in order to move on to his new one. The two storylines actually intertwine, and then the last half of the book is… flashbacks? Alternate realities? I don’t even know.  Certainly an interesting book, but I don’t know if it was “good”. (I’ll love you every moment of this life, but everything will change, even beyond death, and nothing will be different, never apart, and everything will change, every moment of this life, and nothing will  change, even beyond death, and everything will be different, always together, and nothing will be different, even beyond death, and everything will change, every moment of this life, and nothing will change, never apart, and everything will be different, always together, and nothing will be different, even beyond death, and everything will change, every moment of this life, and nothing, absolutely nothing, will ever change.) 

    30. The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka – This was great. A sci-fi thriller about a science experiment with world-changing ramifications. Eric Argus is a brilliant, but deeply troubled, quantum physicist. He conducts an experiment that eventually winds up proving that humans have souls. (Or, at least, that’s one way of interpreting his experiment’s results) This alone would have some pretty major impact on the world (and the novel touches on it, some), but things get really bad for Eric when he and his team discover that not ALL humans have souls… This book had the perfect mixture of action and thought-provoking ideas about the nature of the universe and reality. Good stuff. (I began to write.) 

    31. Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson – second collection of the Phoebe & her Unicorn comics. This was maybe just a smidge less special than the first collection, but still extremely delightful and enjoyable. (Please say we won’t be doing this until September.) 

    32. The Flight of the Silvers by Daniel Price -  Holy cow. This was AWESOME. 600 pages of timey wimey goodness. A pair of mysterious time travelers give 9 strangers silver bracelets that protect them from the end of our world. The “Silvers”, as they are dubbed, then find themselves in a parallel world that is similar to ours, but also vastly different. This all takes place in the first 50 pages or so. The rest of the book deals with the Silvers learning about their new home, and realizing that not everyone is happy to have them there. This book could probably be used as a ‘how-to’ guide on world building.  And foreshadowing. Oh, man. SO MUCH foreshadowing. In fact, I’d say it was more like fiveshadowing. (ha ha! It’s funnier if you’ve read the book). This was the first in a planned trilogy, which is both good and bad. I would’ve liked to have it resolve more, but at the same time, if the epicness can continue, I’m fine with two more novels set in Altamerica. (She had time.) 

    33. Alive by Scott Sigler – Disappointing. Sigler has written some amazing stuff – the Infected trilogy was creepy, well written, and enjoyable. Nocturnal had some issues, but overall was good, too. Now Scott has written the first in a trilogy that is being pushed as a YA series….and the writing is subpar, and there are lots of YA clichés thrown in. I’ll still (probably) end up reading book 2 and 3, because I know that Sigler can do better, and this series has potential, I just wish that this book had been as good as his other stuff. (We fly.) 

    34. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day – Felicia Day is a national treasure. Super breezy (and highly funny!) memoir that was an absolute joy to read. (Good talk, OXXO Felicia) 

    35. A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay – Impressive. Disturbing. Heartbreaking. Great characters. Definitely recommended. The story is about the Barretts, an average American family of mom, dad (recently unemployed) and daughters Marjorie (14) and Merry (8). Marjorie begins to display signs of mental illness – when psychiatrists don’t seem to be helping, dad turns to a local priest. The priest convinces the father that Marjorie is being possessed by a demon, and is in need of an exorcism. That’s bad idea #1. Bad idea #2 is bringing in a film crew to document it as a reality show. It sounds cheesy when I’m writing it out, but it doesn’t play that way at all. This one is gonna stick with me for a while. (After an awkward silence, and after Rachel and I say our good-byes again, it’s cold enough that my breath is a visible mist.) 
    36. The Last Policeman by Ben H Winters – A comet is on it’s way to collide with the earth, and wipe out most everyone on it. With the end of the world looming, humanity is reacting in the typically expected ways – suicides galore, crimes skyrocketing, mass orgies… but what about the cops that choose to keep doing their jobs? Detective Hank Palace investigates a suicide that his spider-sense is telling him is actually a murder. This was a pretty good read, although very heavily melancholy, given the setting. It’s the first in a trilogy, I’ll probably read the other two.(I close the door.) 
    37. 14 by Peter Clines – Started out intriguing – average Joe moves into a new apartment in LA, starts discovering weirdness in the building, but was overlong. The big reveal of what the apartment was for was neat, but I was ready to check out of the story much sooner. (He turned the knob and opened the door to his new apartment.) 
    38. The Walking Dead volume 24: Life and Death by Robert Kirkman – somehow, every single character is unlikable.  I used to care about Rick and company, but this volume did it’s best to remedy that. The cliffhanger it ended on was pretty drastic, but I hope that my attitude toward the protagonists improves. (Rick…what do we do now?) 
    39. Fair Coin by E.C. Meyers – Young Adult novel about sixteen year old Ephraim finding a magic quarter that seems to grant wishes – with consequences, of course. I wanted to like this more than I did. The premise was intriguing (especially once the plot really got going, and certain secrets of the coin were revealed) but it just didn’t quite connect with me. I don’t know if I’ll read the sequel – this was self-contained and wrapped things up enough.  (“Heads.”) 
    40. Countdown City (The Last Policeman Book II) by Ben H Winters – further advenures of Hank Palace as the comet looms nearer. This had a little bit of ‘middle book’ syndrome going on, where the ‘case’ that Hank was working (locating a man that has gone missing) dragged a bit, but overall this series is pretty great. The world-building (of, um, the world ending.) is outstanding, in a heartbreaking sort of way, and I just find Hank a great character to spend time with. I’m looking forward to (and simultaneously dreading) the final book in the series. (What if?)

I also kept all the spare change I found on the ground through out the entire year. Grand total?
8 quarters
18 dimes
8 nickels
115 and a half pennies
for a total of five dollars and 35 and a half cents. Not too shabby!