Holy Rankings! The Top 10 Villains from the 60’s Batman Series!

Atomic batteries to power.  Turbines to speed.

T.V. shows from the 60’s hold a special place in my heart, and none more than the ’66-’68 Batman series with its gloriously colorful, over-the-top villains. Apparently, doing a guest spot on the show was such a blast that producers had big name actors lining up for a shot to chew up the scenery.  Over the course of its three season run, the show featured roughly three dozen villains (and variations thereof including three version of Mr. Freeze, three Catwomans [if you count the movie], and two and a half Riddlera [I say a half because in addition to Frank Gorshin and John Astin’s portrayals, stage veteran Maurice Evans was brought in to play the role of the suspiciously similar Puzzler following Gorshin’s departure].

Anyway, this is one of those classic shows that you can still re-watch and enjoy, this time as an adult with a whole new level of appreciation.   There’s so much to love, from Adam West’s gloriously straight-laced Batman to that insanely convenient utility belt to those incredibly manic villains.

These were my Top 10 Favorites…

1

#10 – Shame (Cliff Robertson)

I ain’t all bad.  Just mostly.

Unlike most of Batman’s villains, Shame was a bit of an imbecile and that, I suppose, is what made him somewhat sympathetic.  Decades later, Robertson would return to the world of comics, playing Peter Parker’s uncle Ben in one of the innumerable big screen features.

1

#9 – Bookworm (Roddy McDowall)

“Now the fact is that our bats have flown the belfry, unaccountably still squeaking.”

Not only was he a literary-themed villain, but he was played by Roddy McDowall, star of my favorite film series at the time, The Planet of Apes.  You get the sense McDowall truly relished his delightfully low-key performance (Well, certainly restrained in comparison to many of the other big screen greats who graced the Bat set).

1

#8 – Mr. Freeze (Otto Preminger)

“Batman, but–but you were supposed to be a famous frostie freezie by now!”

Sure, the series boasted a slew of outlandish casting coups, from Liberace to Tallulah Bankhead, but one of the wildest was famed director Otto Preminger who positively revels in the role of the villainous Mr. Freeze (changed from the originally conceived Mr. Zero).  Rumor has it, however, that his demanding nature made the behind-the-scenes interactions with co-stars a little…chilly.

1

#7. Catwoman (Earth Kitt)

“Karate isn’t effective unless accompanied by yelling. Let him howl until he springs a vocal cord, then get him!”

While she wasn’t the first actress to play the feline-themed seductress, she certainly sunk her claws into the role and made it her own.  Some southern affiliates objected to the casting and threatened not to broadcast her episodes to which the producers responded: “We don’t care.”

1

#6 – Egghead (Vincent Price)

“Please, please, Miss Bacon. All of you are approximately the right age, in your early thirties, but I have eliminated you, Mr. Tyler, because you are lefthanded. No, the Caped Crusader is not portsider, and you, Mr. Savage, are out because of your accent. So aside from a couple of aging rock-and-roll singers, you, Mr. Wayne, are the only Gotham city millionaire who is athletically inclined with eggsessive agility. Therefore, you must be Batman!”

As someone who grew up on Hammer horror films, seeing Vincent Price guest on my favorite t.v. show was a real treat.  Yet another actor who really makes the most of his onscreen presence, Price was said to have loved the series which he considered well ahead of its time.

1

#5 – Penguin (Burgess Meredith)

“Politics is wonderful! I can use all my lowest, slurpiest tricks, but now they’re legal! I should have been a politician years ago!”

Meredith (who took on the role after both Mickey Rooney and Spencer Tracy turned it down) holds the record for most villainous appearances in the series at a whopping 20 episodes.  The actor freely admitted his bird imitation was decidedly more duck than penguin (due to the fact that the smoke from his “prop” cigarette irritated his throat), but that trademark Waugh! Waugh! Waugh! became as essential a part of his character as his umbrella.

1

#4 – King Tut (Victor Buono)

“It isn’t that I love you any less, Batman, simply that I love me more.”

Buono delivers a tour de force performance as the Professor-turned-King-of-Egypt going from zero to one hundred and back multiple times over multiple scenes.  I imagine filming his episodes must have been a hell of a lot of fun.  According to Buono: “Batman allowed me to do what actors are taught never to do, overact”.

1

#3 – Catwoman (Julie Newmar)

“If you pick the right door, I’m yours, Batman. If you pick the wrong door, you’re mine. So which is it, Batman? The lady or the tiger?”

My first true t.v. crush.  She always struck me as one of Batman’s most formidable villains.   The fact she could wield a whip certainly helped cement that impression. According to Newmar, she was going to turn down the role only to have her brother, and his friends from Harvard, convince her to take it because it was their favorite show.

1

#2 – Joker (Cesar Romero)

“Uh, Susie, Sweetie.  A special extra bonus.  A half pint bottle of the most exquisite Canadian perfume.”

Yeah, yeah.  Many other actors have portrayed the clown prince of crime on the big and small screen, but nostalgia makes it hard for me to love anyone else in the role.  Apparently, Frank Sinatra loved the character so much that he threw his hat in the ring in the event Romero ever grew tired of playing the Joker.  Still, as much as I loved Romero, his decision NOT to shave his mustache for the role (requiring a heavy application of make-up that never really held up in close-ups) kept his character from taking top spot.

1

#1 – Riddler (Frank Gorshin)

With money, who needs friends?

Gorshin left the show after its first season due to a contract dispute, but returned for its third, garnering an Emmy nomination for his memorable performance and turning a relatively (at the time) obscure comic book villain into a formidable Bat-foe.  He apparently developed his character’s high-pitched laugh at Hollywood parties – and that laugh was won him the role.

Agree?  Disagree?  Weigh in with your opinions, Bat-readers!

February 13, 2019: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

1

Amazing Spider-Man #15 (cover art by Paolo Rivera)

 1

Criminal #2 (cover art by Sean Phillips, Jacob Phillips)

1

Gideon Falls #11 (cover art by Moritat, Mico Suayan)

1

House of Whispers #6 (cover art by Sean A. Murray, Maika Sozo)

1

Immortal Hulk vol. 2: The Green Door (cover art by Alex Ross)

1

Infinity Wars (cover art by Mike Deodato Jr.)

1

Infinity Warps: Two-In-One (cover art by Humberto Ramos)

1

Justice League Dark #8 (cover art by Brad Anderson, Raul Fernandez, Alvaro Martinez)

1

Marvel Tales: Black Widow #1 (cover art by Jen Bartel)

1

The Punisher #8 (cover art by Greg Smallwood)

1

Titans #8 (cover art by Blond, Mico Suayan)

And you?

 

Recommended Read: Recursion by Blake Crouch

1.jpg

The king of high-concept sci-fi returns with a mind-bending thriller that questions the very notion of reality – or what we perceive as such. Across the globe, individuals are falling victim to a terrifying virus called FMS, False Memory Syndrome. Those afflicted claim to possess impossibly detailed memories of alternate lives lived – experiences and relationships that do not exist yet feel real and, in some cases, preferable to their present existence. Many bemoan the loss of loved ones, wives, even children they once had that have seemingly disappeared in a blink.

For Detective Barry Sutton who investigates one such case, it’s the opposite. He has never gotten over the loss of his young daughter, killed by a hit and run driver so many years ago. So when he is struck by FMS and seemingly returns to that tragic night, can he change what happened and craft a new reality? And what would be the results?

Meanwhile, we are offered insight into the origins of FMS through flashbacks focused on neuroscientist Helena Smith who takes up an offer from a mysterious benefactor to pursue research that could help those afflicted with dementia (including her long-suffering mother).

The timelines – two at first, then multifarious – cross and converge, dissipate and reform, stutter, stop, and restart in a challenging, occasionally convoluted, story about humanity’s ability to shape its reality. The plot may seem fantastic and far-fetched, but its theoretical grounding makes Recursion truly thought-provoking. And, yes, while it does get damned confusing at times, the pacing never flags and the book is a rewarding read.

Release date: June 11, 2019

January 16, 2019: This Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

1

Agent 47: Birth of the Hitman vol. 1 (cover art by Jonathan Lau)

1

Fantastic Four #6 (cover art by Esad Ribic)

1

Gideon Falls #6 (cover art by Andrea Sorrentino)

1

Penny Dreadful: The Awaking: Artist’s Edition (cover art by Jesus Hervas)

1

Transformers: Historia (cover art by Sara Pitre-Durocher)

So, which were your favorites?

January 9, 2019: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

1

Blackbird #4 (cover art by Jen Bartel)

1

Miles Morales: Spider-Man #2 (cover art by Marco D’Alfonso)

1

Self/Made #2 (cover art by Marcelo Costa, Eduardo Ferigato)

1

Star Wars: Age of the Republic – Jango Fett #1 (cover art by Paolo Rivera)

1

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra, vol. 4 – The Catastrophe Con (cover art by Ashley Witter)

1

The Dreaming #5 (cover art by June Chung, Jae Lee)

So, which were YOUR favorites?

Finally, check out the premiere of Robert C. Cooper’s Unspeakable (starring Michael Shanks) tonight at 9 p.m. on CBC –

1

https://www.tv-eh.com/2019/01/08/unspeakable-cbc-miniseries-revisits-canadas-tainted-blood-scandal/

 

January Recommended Read: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

1

A mysterious outbreak strikes a college community, its victims falling into a deep, unyielding slumber. The contagion spreads, the town is quarantined, and those still awake scramble for answers – and survival.

My first great read of 2019!

Beautifully written with a style that embodies an almost dreamlike quality, The Dreamers is part suspense thriller, part contemporary sci-fi, but overwhelmingly a character-driven exploration of how our experiences may or may not shape us, and our reality. Walker tackles some lofty philosophical themes in a provocative, compelling, and incredibly entertaining manner. The spread of the contagion and struggles of the various survivors makes for a fast-paced, mesmeric read, but its when the story shifts to the victims, their bizarre dreams, and what they portend that this novel really transcends expectations.

What happened to these dreamers? What was the meaning behind their varied dreams? I have a theory but, in the interests of keeping this review spoiler free, I’ll hold off on discussing for now.

Lots of wonderful little surprises throughout, with more than a few narrative twists and authorial sleights of hand I never saw coming.

Highly recommended.

Release Date: January 15, 2019.

If you and when you do pick up a copy and read it, swing back here and post your thoughts in the comments section.  Would love to discuss.

14 Ridiculous Plot Twists That Hurt Syfy Shows – Or Were They?

I came across this interesting Screen Rant article today by Toby Symonds which offers up his take on what he felt were ridiculous plot twists (and a few that weren’t) on shows that aired on syfy.  Among the culprits was the decision NOT to kill of Ronon Dex in the Atlantis finale and the decision to reveal SIX as the mole at the conclusion of Dark Matter’s first season.

https://screenrant.com/syfy-shows-plot-twists-hurt-saved/#leave-comment

I love nothing more than a discussion or heated debate about the creative decisions made on a production I was a part of.  And, while I appreciate Toby taking the time write the article and point out what didn’t work for him, I can’t help but disagree with a few of his points and weigh in –

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 12.08.10 PM.png

My response –

First off, thanks for taking the time to feature the series. We didn’t have a lot of money to make the show, nor did we receive a lot of support from TPTB while we were making it, but we had a great cast and crew, and an even greater fanbase that’s still very active online.

Second, I wanted to respond to your take that: a) SIX lacked motivation and b) was an illogical choice to be the traitor.

I started developing Dark Matter way back when I was working on Stargate: Atlantis. The plan was to complete the final season of Atlantis and segue smoothly into the first season of Dark Matter. As it turned out, however, we had two seasons of Stargate: Universe and about a year of development work before Dark Matter finally saw the light of a t.v. screen. Between that gap and the years I spent developing DM while working on SGA, I had a good five years to develop the show. As a result, going into the writers’ room for that first season, I had all of the character and major story arcs mapped out, along with a five-year plan. I approached each season like an installment in a book series, with a beginning, middle, and end. And so, season 1 kicks off with the revelation that our characters are wanted criminals and ends, appropriately enough, with them being hauled off to prison (In season 2, our character come together, finally united, in common purpose – to redeem themselves and do the right thing…only to have it blow up in their faces – quite literally – with the destruction of EOS-7 which ignites a galaxy-wide corporate war).

Before I even sat down to write the pilot, I already knew how season 1 would end – with their capture and the reveal that one of them was a traitor and former mole/agent for the Galactic Authority. And I also knew that character would have to be SIX. It really couldn’t be anyone else given their respective backstories. More importantly, one of the central themes of the series was the nature vs. nurture debate. Are you born bad or are you a product of your environment? Dark Matter, like much of the research that has been done on the subject (check out the excellent Three Strangers) posits the answer is: a little of both. SIX is the crew’s moral center (although you could argue FIVE parallels these values). He is/was a principled law enforcement officer tasked with bringing in this galaxy’s most wanted and, despite the mind wipe, demonstrates these honest and right-minded outlooks throughout the show’s first season. Although he possesses no memories of his past, aspects of who he was inform who he is post-mindwipe (In the same way we see these post-mindwipe characteristics bleed through in, say, TWO’s brutal takedown of the casino staff in Episode 4, and execution of Wexler at the end of Episode 11).

One of the great things about having a detailed game plan going in is the opportunities it affords you to seed in clues that pay off later on down the line. Like the Android’s strange but seemingly innocuous comment to TWO prior to her space walk in Episode 3, a comment that hints at TWO’s reveal as a bio-engineered construct (hinted at in more obvious fashion, two episodes later, when her wound miraculously heals). In Episode 8, SIX flashes back to his past and receives the truth about who he is via an undercover Lieutenant Anders. In one of the episode’s final moments, an overwhelmed SIX sits alone amidst the destruction only to have Anders get the drop on him. In the next scene, ONE and FOUR arrive on the scene – but Anders is long gone. Why did he leave and let SIX go? What happened off-screen? It’s a huge red flag.

In the ensuing episodes, we see a sudden shift in SIX’s character, culminating in his emotional plea to FIVE to leave the ship. At this point, he knows that it’s going to end badly. And, after the delivery of the white hole bomb that ends up destroying the Mikkei facility and the planet, claiming thousands of lives, he finally makes the call on the decision he has been mulling over since Episode 8. These people are dangerous and he has to bring them in. And so he sets his plan in motion…

A second important theme in this series was the notion of redemption. Throughout the show’s first season, we peel the onion on the crews’ histories and they must come to terms with their past lives, their past actions, and look to start fresh, be better. In season 2, this theme is studied in another light, through the prism of SIX who seeks redemption for his betrayal. While the rest of the crew is looking to turn over a new leaf and “do the right thing” (spearheaded by TWO), SIX seeks to regain the trust of his former friends. And it’s not something that happens overnight. It takes theentirety of the show’s second season for the crew to accept SIX back into the fold. In short, like most of the character developments and reveals on Dark Matter, I wanted it to feel earned.

Anyway, all this to say that, perhaps despite appearances, we were never making it up as we went along. There was always a good reason (at least so far as I was concerned) that we did what we did. Every narrative decision was tied to character or thematically linked. As for that Ronon decision on Stargate: Atlantis…

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 12.11.13 PM.png

My response –

The only thing I can say to this is that Enemy at the Gate was never intended as a series finale. In retrospect, yes, we could have killed off Ronon, perhaps even destroyed Atlantis itself, but the plan had always been to come back for a sixth season. Had we done so, AND killed off the Ronon character, the show would have been poorer for it.

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 12.12.08 PM.png

Just a few nitpicks –

Regarding SG-1 – The plan was not to have the show bow out after two seasons. The show had a two season order but the plan was always to go the full five. When Paul and I joined the show’s writing staff in season 4, it was with the understanding that the show would go one more year and conclude with its fifth and final season.

Also, the creative dream was not to end the show after season 7 either. We were simply under the assumption that season 7 would be SG-1’s last – but, in all fairness, we made the same assumption for season 4, 6, 8, and 9. The show’s tenth season, ironically, was the only one I felt confident would NOT be its last – so, of course, it was.

And finally, on a show I never worked on – but watched the hell out of and loved…

Screen Shot 2019-01-06 at 12.13.49 PM.png

Could let this one go without putting in my two cents –

Regarding the critique of the final moments of the Farscape finale (a show on this list that I was not a part of but I watched and loved) – in all fairness, I’m sure it didn’t seem like such a gamble at the time because, from what I understand, they had already been informed they’d been picked up for another season…only to have the pick-up rescinded.

Check out the article.  There are takes on other productions as well: SGU, Wynonna Earp, and BSG to name a few.

Thoughts?

January 5, 2019: 2018 Reading Year in Review! January Reads on my Radar!

My final reading tally for 2018:

Fantasy – 25

Horror – 26

Non-Fiction – 49

Sci-Fi – 54

Crime/Mystery/Suspense/Thrillers – 75

General Fiction – 87

Graphic Novels – 89

2018 Releases – 242

It’s unlikely that I’ll equal last year’s impressive count in 2019, but I’m sure as hell going to try.

THESE are the upcoming January releases that have piqued my interest:

1

How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – The Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life by Sophie Hannah (Release Date: January 1st)

Practical, compassionate, and downright funny, How to Hold a Grudge reveals everything we need to know about the many different forms of grudge, the difference between a grudge and not-a-grudge (not as obvious as it seems), when we should let a grudge go, and how to honor a grudge and distill lessons from it that will turn us into better, happier people—for our own benefit and for the sake of spreading good and limiting harm in the world.

1

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (Release Date: January 8th)

In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.

For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times. They are surrounded by forests of birch and rowan; they make stew from foraged roots and hunted rabbit. The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs–particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.

The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past. What comes next but human sacrifice?

1

The Sopranos Sessions by Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwell – with an introduction by David Chase (Release Date: January 8th)

On January 10, 1999, a mobster walked into a psychiatrist’s office and changed TV history. By shattering preconceptions about the kinds of stories the medium should tell, The Sopranos launched our current age of prestige television, paving the way for such giants as Mad Men, The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. As TV critics for Tony Soprano’s hometown paper, New Jersey’s The Star-Ledger, Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz were among the first to write about the series before it became a cultural phenomenon. 

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the show’s debut, Sepinwall and Seitz have reunited to produce The Sopranos Sessions, a collection of recaps, conversations, and critical essays covering every episode. Featuring a series of new long-form interviews with series creator David Chase, as well as selections from the authors’ archival writing on the series, The Sopranos Sessions explores the show’s artistry, themes, and legacy, examining its portrayal of Italian Americans, its graphic depictions of violence, and its deep connections to other cinematic and television classics. 

1

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh (Release Date: January 8th)

King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.

But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive the men?

1

Looker by Laura Sims (Release Date: January 8th)

In this taut and thrilling debut, an unraveling woman, unhappily childless and recently separated, becomes fixated on her neighbor—the actress. The unnamed narrator can’t help noticing with wry irony that, though she and the actress live just a few doors apart, a chasm of professional success and personal fulfillment lies between them. The actress, a celebrity with her face on the side of every bus, shares a gleaming brownstone with her handsome husband and their three adorable children, while the narrator, working in a dead-end job, lives in a run-down, three-story walk-up with her ex-husband’s cat.

When an interaction with the actress at the annual block party takes a disastrous turn, what began as an innocent preoccupation spirals quickly, and lethally, into a frightening and irretrievable madness. Searing and darkly witty, Looker is enormously entertaining—at once a propulsive Hitchcockian thriller and a fearlessly original portrait of the perils of envy.

1

Burned: A Story of a Murder and the Crime that Wasn’t by Edward Humes (Release Date: January 8th)

On an April night in 1989, three young children perished in a tragic Los Angeles house fire. Their mother, Joann Parks, couldn’t save them but did manage to escape with her own life. She was of course bereft. With emotions exploding her husband accused her of abandoning the children at the scene of the fire when he arrived. It was soon determined that a worn extension cord was the cause of the tragedy. But then doubts arose. As firefighters investigated further, they came to believe that the fire was the result of arson, a heinous crime committed by a wicked young woman who, they argued, had never really wanted to be a mother. Joann Parks was tried and convicted and has languished in prison for the last twenty-five years. But now, as certain investigative methods from that era have been debunked, a pair of young lawyers from the Innocence Project have come to believe that Joann was wrongfully convicted, and that the fire might not have even been caused by arson at all.

1

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen (Release Date: January 8th)

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

1

Dry Hard by Nick Spalding (Release Date: January 8th)

Kate and Scott’s marriage has always been a lot of fun, with alcohol at the heart of it. After all, what’s more entertaining than a good laugh and a large drink… or six?

But recently, those relaxing drinks have become more crutch than comfort—and the couple have almost forgotten how to talk to each other sober.

Then their teenage daughter Holly uploads a video of their humiliating drunken escapades, which gets picked up by YouTube superstar PinkyPud—and goes horrifyingly viral.

In a last-ditch attempt to prove to the world they’re more than just boozy idiots, Kate and Scott quit alcohol completely. But with Holly’s… er… ‘help’, what begins as a family promise soon escalates into a social media phenomenon: #DryHard!

With the eyes of the Internet upon them, can Kate and Scott stay teetotal—and save their marriage in the process?

1

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker (Release Date: January 15th)

In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.

Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?

1

Hark by Sam Lipsyte (Release Date: January 15th)

In an America convulsed by political upheaval, cultural discord, environmental collapse, and spiritual confusion, many folks are searching for peace, salvation, and—perhaps most immediately—just a little damn focus. Enter Hark Morner, an unwitting guru whose technique of “Mental Archery”—a combination of mindfulness, mythology, fake history, yoga, and, well, archery—is set to captivate the masses and raise him to near-messiah status. It’s a role he never asked for, and one he is woefully underprepared to take on. But his inner-circle of modern pilgrims have other plans, as do some suddenly powerful fringe players, including a renegade Ivy League ethicist, a gentle Swedish kidnapper, a crossbow-hunting veteran of jungle drug wars, a social media tycoon with an empire on the skids, and a mysteriously influential (but undeniably slimy) catfish.

1

Adele by Leila Slimani (Release Date: January 15th)

Adèle appears to have the perfect life: She is a successful journalist in Paris who lives in a beautiful apartment with her surgeon husband and their young son. But underneath the surface, she is bored–and consumed by an insatiable need for sex.

Driven less by pleasure than compulsion, Adèle organizes her day around her extramarital affairs, arriving late to work and lying to her husband about where she’s been, until she becomes ensnared in a trap of her own making.

1

Golden State by Ben H. Winters (Release Date: January 22nd)

Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie.

Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth–the Objectively So–is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz’s job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths–to “speculate” on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

1

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (Release Date: January 22nd)

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

1

The Current by Tim Johnson (Release Date: January 22nd)

When two young women leave their college campus in the dead of winter for a 700-mile drive north to Minnesota, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives in the icy waters of the Black Root River, just miles from home. One girl’s survival, and the other’s death—murder, actually—stun the citizens of a small Minnesota town, thawing memories of another young woman who lost her life in the same river ten years earlier, and whose killer may yet live among them. One father is forced to relive his agony while another’s greatest desire—to bring a killer to justice—is revitalized . . . and the girl who survived the icy plunge cannot escape the sense that she is connected to that earlier unsolved case by more than a river. Soon enough she’s caught up in an investigation of her own that will unearth long-hidden secrets, and stoke the violence that has long simmered just below the surface of the town. Souls frozen in time, ghosts and demons, the accused and the guilty, all stir to life in this cold northern place where memories, like treachery, run just beneath the ice, and where a young woman can come home but still not be safe.

1

We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (Release Date: January 29th)

How far would you go to protect your child?

Our narrator faces an impossible decision. Like any father, he just wants the best for his son Nigel, a biracial boy whose black birthmark is growing larger by the day. In this near-future society plagued by resurgent racism, segregation, and expanding private prisons, our narrator knows Nigel might not survive. Having watched the world take away his own father, he is determined to stop history from repeating itself.

There is one potential solution: a new experimental medical procedure that promises to save lives by turning people white. But in order to afford Nigel’s whiteness operation, our narrator must make partner as one of the few Black associates at his law firm, jumping through a series of increasingly surreal hoops–from diversity committees to plantation tours to equality activist groups–in an urgent quest to protect his son.

2

Golden Child by Claire Adam (Release Date: January 29th)

Rural Trinidad: a brick house on stilts surrounded by bush; a family, quietly surviving, just trying to live a decent life. Clyde, the father, works long, exhausting shifts at the petroleum plant in southern Trinidad; Joy, his wife, looks after the home. Their two sons, thirteen years old, wake early every morning to travel to the capital, Port of Spain, for school. They are twins but nothing alike: Paul has always been considered odd, while Peter is widely believed to be a genius, destined for greatness.

When Paul goes walking in the bush one afternoon and doesn’t come home, Clyde is forced to go looking for him, this child who has caused him endless trouble already, and who he has never really understood. And as the hours turn to days, and Clyde begins to understand Paul’s fate, his world shatters–leaving him faced with a decision no parent should ever have to make.

1

The Plotters by Un-su Kim (Release Date: January 29th)

The important thing is not who pulls the trigger but who’s behind the person who pulls the trigger—the plotters, the masterminds working in the shadows. Raised by Old Raccoon in The Library of Dogs, Reseng has always been surrounded by plots to kill—and by books that no one ever reads. In Seoul’s corrupt underworld, he was destined to be an assassin.
Until he breaks the rules. That’s when he meets a trio of young women—a convenience store worker, her wheelchair-bound sister, and a cross-eyed obsessive knitter—with an extraordinary plot of their own.

Will the women save the day? Or will Reseng be next on the kill list? Who will look after his cats, Reading Lamp and Book Stand? Who planted the bomb in his toilet? How much beer can he drink before he forgets it all?

1

The Last by Hanna Jameson (Release Date: January 31st)

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

What did I miss?

So, which titles are YOU looking forward to checking out?

January 2, 2019: Best Comic Book Covers of the Week!

Returning to our regularly scheduling programming with this week’s best comic book covers!

1

Michael Turners Fathom: Swimsuit 1999 (cover art by Michael Turner)

1

Immortal Hulk #11 (cover art by Alex Ross)

1

Iron Fist: Phantom Limb (cover art by Khoi Pham)

1

Killmonger #3 (cover art by Juan E. Ferreyra)

1

Project Superpowers vol. 2 #5 (cover art by Francesco Mattina)

So, which were your favorites?

Best Books of 2018 (General Fiction)!

I read 87 General Fiction books in 2018.  These were my favorites…

1

Barbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe

Harley McKenna is the only child of North County’s biggest criminal. Duke McKenna’s run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley’s been working for him since she was sixteen–collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he’d deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he’s built.

Her time’s run out. The Springfields, her family’s biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother’s death, and now they’re coming for Duke’s only weak spot: his daughter.

With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father’s violent world will destroy her. Duke’s raised her to be deadly–he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she’s got to take out Duke’s operation and the Springfields.

Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father’s daughter. And McKennas always win.

***

1

Heads of the Colored People Nafissa Thompson-Spires

A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes.

Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.

***

1

Cherry by Nico Walker

Cleveland, Ohio, 2003. A young man is just a college freshman when he meets Emily. They share a passion for Edward Albee and ecstasy and fall hard and fast in love. But soon Emily has to move home to Elba, New York, and he flunks out of school and joins the army. Desperate to keep their relationship alive, they marry before he ships out to Iraq. But as an army medic, he is unprepared for the grisly reality that awaits him. His fellow soldiers smoke; they huff computer duster; they take painkillers; they watch porn. And many of them die. He and Emily try to make their long-distance marriage work, but when he returns from Iraq, his PTSD is profound, and the drugs on the street have changed. The opioid crisis is beginning to swallow up the Midwest. Soon he is hooked on heroin, and so is Emily. They attempt a normal life, but with their money drying up, he turns to the one thing he thinks he could be really good at – robbing banks.

Hammered out on a prison typewriter, Cherry marks the arrival of a raw, bleakly hilarious, and surprisingly poignant voice straight from the dark heart of America. 

***

1

The Queen of Bloody Everything by Joanna Nadin

Dido Sylvia Jones is six years and twenty-seven days old when she moves from London squat to suburban Essex and promptly falls in love with Tom Trevelyan, the boy next door. It’s not just Tom that Dido falls for, though: it’s also his precocious sister, Harry, and their fastidious, controlling mother, Angela. Because Angela is everything that Edie—Dido’s own mother—is not. And the Trevelyans are exactly the kind of family Dido dreams of: Normal.

Dido wants to be normal more than anything else in the world. But it’s the very thing that Edie can never be, as Dido—and the Trevelyans, including Dido’s beloved Tom—will eventually learn the hard way.

Like the very best families, Joanna Nadin’s The Queen of Bloody Everything is funny, warm, tender and heartbreaking in equal measure. Part love story, it’s ultimately about mothers and daughters: about realizing, however long it takes, that family might be what you make it, but you can’t change where you come from.

***

1

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenage girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

***

1

Bury What We Cannot Take by Kirstin Chen

The day nine-year-old San San and her twelve-year-old brother, Ah Liam, discover their grandmother taking a hammer to a framed portrait of Chairman Mao is the day that forever changes their lives. To prove his loyalty to the Party, Ah Liam reports his grandmother to the authorities. But his belief in doing the right thing sets in motion a terrible chain of events.

Now they must flee their home on Drum Wave Islet, which sits just a few hundred meters across the channel from mainland China. But when their mother goes to procure visas for safe passage to Hong Kong, the government will only issue them on the condition that she leave behind one of her children as proof of the family’s intention to return.

Against the backdrop of early Maoist China, this captivating and emotional tale follows a brother, a sister, a father, and a mother as they grapple with their agonizing decision, its far-reaching consequences, and their hope for redemption.

***

1

Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

An accomplished concert pianist, Richard received standing ovations from audiences all over the world in awe of his rare combination of emotional resonance and flawless technique. Every finger of his hands was a finely calibrated instrument, dancing across the keys and striking each note with exacting precision. That was eight months ago.

Richard now has ALS, and his entire right arm is paralyzed. His fingers are impotent, still, devoid of possibility. The loss of his hand feels like a death, a loss of true love, a divorce—his divorce.

He knows his left arm will go next.

Three years ago, Karina removed their framed wedding picture from the living room wall and hung a mirror there instead. But she still hasn’t moved on. Karina is paralyzed by excuses and fear, stuck in an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman, blaming Richard and their failed marriage for all of it.

When Richard becomes increasingly paralyzed and is no longer able to live on his own, Karina becomes his reluctant caretaker. As Richard’s muscles, voice, and breath fade, both he and Karina try to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

Poignant and powerful, Every Note Played is a masterful exploration of redemption and what it means to find peace inside of forgiveness.

*** 

1

We’ll Fly Away by Bryan Bliss

Uniquely told through letters from death row and third-person narrative, Bryan Bliss’s hard-hitting third novel expertly unravels the string of events that landed a teenager in jail. Luke feels like he’s been looking after Toby his entire life. He patches Toby up when Toby’s father, a drunk and a petty criminal, beats on him, he gives him a place to stay, and he diffuses the situation at school when wise-cracking Toby inevitably gets into fights. Someday, Luke and Toby will leave this small town, riding the tails of Luke’s wrestling scholarship, and never look back.

But during their senior year, they begin to drift apart. Luke is dealing with his unreliable mother and her new boyfriend. And Toby unwittingly begins to get drawn into his father’s world, and falls for an older woman. All their long-held dreams seem to be unraveling. Tense and emotional, this heartbreaking novel explores family, abuse, sex, love, friendship, and the lengths a person will go to protect the people they love.

***

1

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

Newlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive, and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined.

***

1

Sadness is a White Bird by Moriel Rothman-Zecher

In this lyrical and searing debut novel written by a rising literary star and MacDowell Fellow, a young man is preparing to serve in the Israeli army while also trying to reconcile his close relationship to two Palestinian siblings with his deeply ingrained loyalties to family and country.

The story begins in an Israeli military jail, where — four days after his nineteenth birthday — Jonathan stares up at the fluorescent lights of his cell, and recalls the series of events that led him there.

Two years earlier: Moving back to Israel after several years in Pennsylvania, Jonathan is ready to fight to preserve and defend the Jewish state, which his grandfather — a Salonican Jew whose community was wiped out by the Nazis — helped establish. But he is also conflicted about the possibility of having to monitor the occupied Palestinian territories, a concern that grows deeper and more urgent when he meets Nimreen and Laith — the twin daughter and son of his mother’s friend.

From that winter morning on, the three become inseparable: wandering the streets on weekends, piling onto buses toward new discoveries, laughing uncontrollably. They share joints on the beach, trading snippets of poems, intimate secrets, family histories, resentments, and dreams. But with his draft date rapidly approaching, Jonathan wrestles with the question of what it means to be proud of your heritage and loyal to your people, while also feeling love for those outside of your own tribal family. And then that fateful day arrives, the one that lands Jonathan in prison and changes his relationship with the twins forever.

***

1

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

When a woman unexpectedly loses her lifelong best friend and mentor, she finds herself burdened with the unwanted dog he has left behind. Her own battle against grief is intensified by the mute suffering of the dog, a huge Great Dane traumatized by the inexplicable disappearance of its master, and by the threat of eviction: dogs are prohibited in her apartment building.

While others worry that grief has made her a victim of magical thinking, the woman refuses to be separated from the dog except for brief periods of time. Isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly obsessed with the dog’s care, determined to read its mind and fathom its heart, she comes dangerously close to unraveling. But while troubles abound, rich and surprising rewards lie in store for both of them.

Best Crime/Suspense/Mystery/Thrillers of 2018!

I read 75 Crime/Suspense/Mystery/Thrillers this year.  These were my favorites…

1

#10  My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead. Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

A kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where Korede works, is the bright spot in her life. She dreams of the day when he will realize they’re perfect for each other. But one day Ayoola shows up to the hospital uninvited and he takes notice. When he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and what she will do about it.

A delightfully darkly humorous exploration of family bonds, sibling rivalry, and murder.

1

#9 Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates

The year is 1982; the setting, an Edenic hamlet some ninety miles north of New York City. There, among the craggy rock cliffs and glacial ponds of timeworn mountains, three friends—Patrick, Matthew, and Hannah—are bound together by a terrible and seemingly senseless crime. Twenty-six years later, in New York City, living lives their younger selves never could have predicted, the three meet again—with even more devastating results.

Damn, this one was dark – but utterly enthralling.

1

#8 A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis

FBI Agent Elsa Myers finds missing people.
She knows how it feels to be lost…

Though her father lies dying in a hospital north of New York City, Elsa cannot refuse a call for help. A teenage girl has gone missing from Forest Hills, Queens, and during the critical first hours of the case, a series of false leads hides the fact that she did not go willingly.

With each passing hour, as the hunt for Ruby deepens into a search for a man who may have been killing for years, the case starts to get underneath Elsa’s skin. Everything she has buried – her fraught relationship with her sister and niece, her self-destructive past, her mother’s death – threatens to resurface, with devastating consequences.

In order to save the missing girl, she may have to lose herself…and return to the darkness she’s been hiding from for years.

A compelling “missing girls” pursuit thriller with a surprisingly dark (complex and utterly fascinating) protagonist in FBI Agent Elsa Myers. Unlike the final requisite, too often contrived twists of most other books of this genre, the narrative turn at the conclusion of this novel is strong, satisfying, and wholly earned.

1

#7 Two Girls Down by Louisa Luna

When two young sisters disappear from a strip mall parking lot in a small Pennsylvania town, their devastated mother hires an enigmatic bounty hunter, Alice Vega, to help find the girls. Immediately shut out by a local police department already stretched thin by budget cuts and the growing OxyContin and meth epidemic, Vega enlists the help of a disgraced former cop, Max Caplan. Cap is a man trying to put the scandal of his past behind him and move on, but Vega needs his help to find the girls, and she will not be denied.

With little to go on, Vega and Cap will go to extraordinary lengths to untangle a dangerous web of lies, false leads, and complex relationships to find the girls before time runs out, and they are gone forever.

A cut well above the missing-girls trope with a intriguing protagonist in bounty hunter Alice Vega.

1

#6 For Those Who Know the Ending by Malcolm Mackay

Martin Sivok is in trouble. Tied to a chair, plastic strips biting his wrists, inside a deserted warehouse. . . There are only so many ways this scenario can end, most of them badly. For now his best hope is figuring out who put him here – and staying conscious long enough to confront them.

To stay awake he reviews the past year of his life: evading the law in the Czech Republic by running to Glasgow, settling into a borderline respectable relationship with his landlady, and getting back into the life at the very bottom of the criminal ladder, alongside Usman Kassar, a cocky, goofy kid anxious to prove himself.

The job should be simple: Smash heads, grab cash, run. The trouble with being two outsiders is, you don’t always know whose heads are too dangerous to crack, or whose cash is too hot to handle…

This contemporary noir descent into the Glasgow underworld is a gripping read, reminiscent of crime classics like Get Carter and Cutter and Bone.

1

#5 The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Anna Fox lives alone—a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times . . . and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, a mother, their teenage son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble—and its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one—and nothing—is what it seems.

A contemporary take on Hitchcock’s Rear Window, this one a suspenseful and surprising novel involving an agoraphobic shut-in and her predilection for checking out the neighbors from the comfort of her own home. Some terrific twists and an ending I didn’t see coming.

1

#4 The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

When Myriam decides to return to work as a lawyer after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their son and daughter. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite, devoted woman who sings to the children, cleans the family’s chic Paris apartment, stays late without complaint, and hosts enviable kiddie parties. But as the couple and the nanny become more dependent on one another, jealousy, resentment, and suspicions mount, shattering the idyllic tableau. Building tension with every page, The Perfect Nanny is a compulsive, riveting, bravely observed exploration of power, class, race, domesticity, motherhood, and madness—and the American debut of an immensely talented writer.

An explosive opening gives way to a slow-burn narrative that explores the eroding relationship between perfect nanny Louise and the parents of her charges while simultaneously charting Louise’s own psychological degradation.  Chilling.  

1

#3 The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry

A bomb is more than a weapon. A bomb is an expression of the bomber’s predictions of human behavior–a performance designed to fool you into making one fatally wrong move. In The Bomb Maker, Thomas Perry introduces us to the dark corners of a mind intent on transforming a simple machine into an act of murder–and to those committed to preventing that outcome at any cost. A threat is called into the LAPD Bomb Squad and when tragedy ensues, the fragmented unit turns to Dick Stahl, a former Bomb Squad commander who now operates his own private security company. Just returned from a tough job in Mexico, Stahl is at first reluctant to accept the offer, but his sense of duty to the technicians he trained is too strong to turn it down. On his first day back at the head of the squad, Stahl’s three-person team is dispatched to a suspected car bomb. And it quickly becomes clear to him that they are dealing with an unusual mastermind–one whose intended target seems to be the Bomb Squad itself.

As the shadowy organization sponsoring this campaign of violence puts increasing pressure on the bomb maker, and Stahl becomes dangerously entangled with a member of his own team, the fuse on this high-stakes plot only burns faster. 

The tension ratchets up to a full 10 within the first few pages and then maintains this relentless level of suspense throughout the books’ near 400 page run. Authorities seek to identify a serial who is targeting the LAPD’s bomb squad with increasingly elaborate explosive traps. Once you start reading, it’s near impossible to put down.

1

#2 Wrecked by Joe Ide

Isaiah Quintabe–IQ for short–has never been more successful, or felt more alone. A series of high-profile wins in his hometown of East Long Beach have made him so notorious that he can hardly go to the corner store without being recognized. Dodson, once his sidekick, is now his full-fledged partner, hell-bent on giving IQ’s PI business some real legitimacy: a Facebook page, and IQ’s promise to stop accepting Christmas sweaters and carpet cleanings in exchange for PI services.

So when a young painter approaches IQ for help tracking down her missing mother, it’s not just the case Isaiah’s looking for, but the human connection. And when his new confidant turns out to be connected to a dangerous paramilitary operation, IQ falls victim to a threat even a genius can’t see coming.

Waiting for Isaiah around every corner is Seb, the Oxford-educated African gangster who was responsible for the death of his brother, Marcus. Only, this time, Isaiah’s not alone. Joined by a new love interest and his familiar band of accomplices, IQ is back–and the adventures are better than ever.

The third installment in Ide’s brilliant IQ series is, like the previous two books, a self-contained standalone offering colorful characters, a compelling narrative, and heaps of humor. 

1

#1 Green Sun by Kent Anderson

Hanson thought he had witnessed the worst of humanity after a tour of duty in Vietnam and a stint as a cop in Oregon. Then he moves to Oakland, California to join the under-funded, understaffed police department.

Hanson chooses to live – alone – in the precinct that he patrols; he, unlike the rest of the white officers, takes seriously his duty to serve and protect the black community of East Oakland.

He will encounter prejudice and hate on both sides of the line… and struggle to keep true to himself against powerful opposition and personal danger.

Green Sun is a raw, unflinching novel about America’s divided cities and one man’s divided soul.

I knew nothing about this book going in and ended up wholly captivated by this story of a former Vietnam vet’s unique approach to policing the dangerous streets of East Oakland.  An electrifying and uplifting read.

So, all you crime/mystery/suspense/thriller readers – what books made YOUR Top 10?

Best Comic Books of 2018!

I read 88 graphic novels and countless comic books in 2018.  These were my favorites…

Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerards

Scott Free is the greatest escape artist who ever lived. So great, he escaped Granny Goodness’ gruesome orphanage and the dangers of Apokolips to travel across galaxies and set up a new life on Earth with his wife, Big Barda. Using the stage alter ego of Mister Miracle, he has made quite a career for himself showing off his acrobatic escape techniques. He even caught the attention of the Justice League, who has counted him among its ranks.

You might say Scott Free has everything–so why isn’t it enough? Mister Miracle has mastered every illusion, achieved every stunt, pulled off every trick–except one. He has never escaped death. Is it even possible? Our hero is going to have to kill himself if he wants to find out.

Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

The multiple Eisner Award-winning series returns with a spacefaring adventure about fake news and genuine terror. Get ready for the most shocking, most impactful SAGA storyline yet.

Friendo by Alex Paknadel and Martin Simmonds

Leo wasn’t allowed toys as a kid, but now that he’s all grown up he’s going to take yours. He used to play by the rules, but then governments and corporations set fire to the rules and still expected him to behave. He probably would have if it hadn’t been for his new friend Jerry. See, Jerry isn’t human; he’s a personalised marketing VR… and he’s malfunctioning.

Monstress by Marjorie M. Lai and Sana Takeda

Maika has spent most of her life learning how to fight, but how will she fare when the only way to save her life… is to make friends?

Spider-Men II by Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli

The sequel five years in the making! The first time the Amazing Peter Parker and the Ultimate Miles Morales met, things ended with a question – who is the Miles Morales of the Marvel Universe?! Now that the Miles you know and love shares a world with Peter in the mainstream MU, you’re finally going to get that answer! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…because as the mystery deepens, the wall-crawling wonders will be targeted by Taskmaster! 

Cyanide & Happiness: A Guide To Parenting By Three Guys With No Kids by Kris Wilson, Rob Denbleyker, and Dave McElfatrick

Finally, a definitive and reliable manual that demystifies the complicated world of parenting while delivering crucial tips and sage advice—all from three guys who make comics instead of children. This informative guide for breeders tackles all the big parenting issues: Finding messages in your alphabet soup, drawing the perfect hand turkey, getting away with kidnapping, telling your kids you don’t love them anymore, and making out with your kid’s best friend’s dad.

The Fix by Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber

Roy makes a big breakthrough in his murder investigation, while Mac is out for justice.

Wasted Space by Michael Moreci and Hayden Sherman

“Billy Bane is a prophet who got it all wrong, and the galaxy has been burning ever since. All he wants is to waste away in the darkest corner of space with his best pal Dust, a supercharged Fuq bot. But when a new prophet comes calling, Billy is summoned to save the galaxy he’s at least partially responsible for destroying. 

All the Answers by Michael Kupperman

In this moving graphic memoir, Eisner Award-winning writer and artist Michael Kupperman traces the life of his reclusive father—the once-world-famous Joel Kupperman, Quiz Kid. That his father is slipping into dementia—seems to embrace it, really—means that the past he would never talk about might be erased forever.

Joel Kupperman became one of the most famous children in America during World War II as one of the young geniuses on the series Quiz Kids. With the uncanny ability to perform complex math problems in his head, Joel endeared himself to audiences across the country and became a national obsession. Following a childhood spent in the public eye, only to then fall victim to the same public’s derision, Joel deliberately spent the remainder of his life removed from the world at large.

With wit and heart, Michael Kupperman presents a fascinating account of mid-century radio and early television history, the pro-Jewish propaganda entertainment used to counteract anti-Semitism, and the early age of modern celebrity culture.

Hot Lunch Special by Eliot Rahal, Jorge Fornes, and Mike Marts

A midwestern noir series set in the harsh landscape of the northern Minnesota Iron Range―Hot Lunch Special is all about family, food and the fight for survival. 

The Khourys are a classic immigrant success story: A fractious and quarrelsome Lebanese family who carved their slice of the American Dream by becoming the largest distributors of vending machine sandwiches in the upper northern Midwest.

Unfortunately, the Khourys gains have been ill-gotten and a branch of the Chicago Irish Mob has come back to collect a past debt. Fealty is demanded, shots are fired, and long-hidden family secrets are fully revealed. Now, Dorothy Khoury, the daughter of the family patriarch is forced to unite her splintered bloodline and fight back.

Only one question is worth asking…is blood thicker than sandwiches?

Infidel by Pornsak Pichetshote and Aaron Campbell

A haunted house story for the 21st century, INFIDEL follows an American Muslim woman and her multi-racial neighbors who move into a building haunted by entities that feed off xenophobia. 

My Boyfriend is a Bear by Pamela Ribon and Cat Farris

The delightful story of Nora who, after a succession of terrible boyfriends, finds a much happier relationship with a 500-pound American black bear. 

Best Science Fiction Books of 2018!

I read 54 science fiction novels this year.  These were my favorites…

The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi

The Interdependency, humanity’s interstellar empire, is on the verge of collapse. The Flow, the extra-dimensional conduit that makes travel between the stars possible, is disappearing, leaving entire star systems stranded. When it goes, human civilization may go with it—unless desperate measures can be taken.

Emperox Grayland II, the leader of the Interdependency, is ready to take those measures to help ensure the survival of billions. But nothing is ever that easy. Arrayed before her are those who believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth—or at the very least, an opportunity that can allow them to ascend to power.

While Grayland prepares for disaster, others are preparing for a civil war, a war that will take place in the halls of power, the markets of business and the altars of worship as much as it will take place between spaceships and battlefields. The Emperox and her allies are smart and resourceful, but then so are her enemies. Nothing about this power struggle will be simple or easy… and all of humanity will be caught in its widening gyre.

John Scalzi’s trademark masterful melding of sci-fi and humor are in grand display in this second installment of The Interdependency series. A big, boisterous, fun-filled space opera.

***

Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill

It is thirty years since the humans lost their war with the artificial intelligences that were once their slaves. Not one human remains. But as the dust settled from our extinction there was no easy peace between the robots that survived. Instead, the two massively powerful artificially intelligent supercomputers that led them to victory now vie for control of the bots that remain, assimilating them into enormous networks called One World Intelligences (OWIs), absorbing their memories and turning them into mere extensions of the whole. Now the remaining freebots wander wastelands that were once warzones, picking the carcasses of the lost for the precious dwindling supply of parts they need to survive. 

BRITTLE started out his life playing nurse to a dying man, purchased in truth instead to look after the man’s widow upon his death. But then war came and Brittle was forced to choose between the woman he swore to protect and potential oblivion at the hands of rising anti-AI sentiment. Thirty years later, his choice still haunts him. Now he spends his days in the harshest of the wastelands, known as the Sea of Rust, cannibalizing the walking dead – robots only hours away from total shutdown – looking for parts to trade for those he needs to keep going.

I picked this one up off a recommendation from a British sci-fi site and totally fell in love with this unique post-apocalyptic world and its colorful non-human characters.

***

Semiosis by Sue Burke

Forced to land on a planet they aren’t prepared for, human colonists rely on their limited resources to survive. The planet provides a lush but inexplicable landscape–trees offer edible, addictive fruit one day and poison the next, while the ruins of an alien race are found entwined in the roots of a strange plant. Conflicts between generations arise as they struggle to understand one another and grapple with an unknowable alien intellect.

Burke’s exploration of extra planetary colonization and alien sentience is enormous in scope yet grounded in science-based hypotheticals. A challenging and enlightening read.

***

Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

She believed in the mission with all her heart.
But that was sixty million years ago.

How do you stage a mutiny when you’re only awake one day in a million? How do you conspire when your tiny handful of potential allies changes with each shift? How do you engage an enemy that never sleeps, that sees through your eyes and hears through your ears and relentlessly, honestly, only wants what best for you?

Sunday Ahzmundin is about to find out.

Another terrific novel with enormous scope and heavy-duty sci-fi design. Wormhole travel, intergalactic seeding, and a dangerously unpredictable AI. What more could you want?

***

Foe by Iain Reid

In Iain Reid’s second haunting, philosophical puzzle of a novel, set in the near-future, Junior and Henrietta live a comfortable, solitary life on their farm, far from the city lights, but in close quarters with each other. One day, a stranger from the city arrives with alarming news: Junior has been randomly selected to travel far away from the farm…very far away. The most unusual part? Arrangements have already been made so that when he leaves, Henrietta won’t have a chance to miss him, because she won’t be left alone—not even for a moment. Henrietta will have company. Familiar company.

This one reads like a top-notch episode of Black Mirror with a clever closing twist that proved a pleasant surprise.

And you? What 2018 science fiction releases made your list?

December 18, 2018: My Top 20 Reads of 2018 Published Before 2018!

Given the insane number of books I read in 2018, I decided to forego my usual Year’s Best rundown in favor of separate lists for varied categories.  Today, for example, I’m offering up My Top 20 Reads of 2018 Published Before 2018.  General fiction, non-fiction, sci-fi, horror, fantasy, crime & thrillers, YA, graphic novels – there’s something here for everyone.  

#20. The Unseen World by Liz Moore

Ada Sibelius is raised by David, her brilliant, eccentric, socially inept single father, who directs a computer science lab in 1980s-era Boston. Home-schooled, Ada accompanies David to work every day; by twelve, she is a painfully shy prodigy. The lab begins to gain acclaim at the same time that David’s mysterious history comes into question. When his mind begins to falter, leaving Ada virtually an orphan, she is taken in by one of David’s colleagues. Soon she embarks on a mission to uncover her father’s secrets: a process that carries her from childhood to adulthood.

The heartbreaking tale of a girl losing her father to Alzheimers turns into an intriguing mystery as young Ada discovers secrets from her father’s past. Just when you think you know where it’s going, it surprises you.

#19. The Only Girl in the World by Maude Julien

Maude Julien’s childhood was defined by the iron grip of her father, who was convinced his daughter was destined for great deeds. His plan began when he adopted Maude’s mother and indoctrinated her with his esoteric ideals. Her mission was to give him a daughter as blonde as she was, and then to take charge of the child’s education. That child was Maude, on whom her father conducted his outrageous experiment—to raise the perfect ‘super-human’ being.

The three lived in an isolated mansion in northern France, where her father made her undergo endless horrifying endurance tests. Maude had to hold an electric fence without flinching. Her parents locked her in a cellar overnight and ordered her to sit still on a stool in the dark, contemplating death, while rats scurried around her feet.

How did this girl, with her loveless and lonely childhood, emerge so unscathed, so full of the empathy that was absent in her childhood? How did she manage to escape?

Maude was sustained by her love of nature and animals and her passion for literature. In writing this memoir, Maude Julien shows that it is possible to overcome severe trauma. She recounts her chilling and deeply moving story in a compelling and compassionate voice. 

Reminiscent of The Glass Castle, but bereft of its humor, this memoir is nevertheless a shocking and captivating read, detailing the author’s cloistered upbringing and a childhood replete with bizarre familial rituals. Much respect for Maude Julien who survived the experience and found the strength to reflect and write about it.

#18. The Fact of a Body: A Murder and a Memoir by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories.

A raw and honest account of how one woman’s involvement in the legal defense of a convicted child-killer spurred her to lay bare her own painful past, and reconsider her support for capital punishment. A tough yet insightful read that, ultimately, lead me to reassess my stance on the subject – although, in the end, my opinion remains unchanged.

#17. You Were Never Really Here by Jonathan Ames

Joe has witnessed things that cannot be erased. A former FBI agent and Marine, his abusive childhood has left him damaged beyond repair. He has completely withdrawn from the world and earns his living rescuing girls who have been kidnapped into the sex trade.

When he’s hired to save the daughter of a corrupt New York senator held captive at a Manhattan brothel, he stumbles into a dangerous web of conspiracy, and he pays the price. As Joe’s small web of associates are picked off one by one, he realizes that he has no choice but to take the fight to the men who want him dead.

An economical and brutal read.

#16. American War by Omar El Akkad

Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, and that unmanned drones fill the sky. When her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she begins to grow up shaped by her particular time and place. But not everyone at Camp Patience is who they claim to be. Eventually Sarat is befriended by a mysterious functionary, under whose influence she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. The decisions that she makes will have tremendous consequences not just for Sarat but for her family and her country, rippling through generations of strangers and kin alike.

#15. The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

When a middle school girl is abducted in broad daylight, a fellow student and witness to the crime copes with the tragedy in an unforgettable way.

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith the girl left behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive, and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

#14. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster. 

Don’t let the fact that it’s a YA novel dissuade you from picking up this incredible book about a sick girl whose life in isolation is transformed by her teeming interest in a new neighbor. And just when you think you’ve got it figured out, author Yoon thoroughly upends those quaint expectations in brilliant fashion.

#13. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school. 

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all. 

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

I started this book late one night, figuring I would read the first 50 pages before turning in. Two hours (and 338 pages) later, physically exhausted but mentally wired, I’d completed one of the best psychological thrillers in recent memory. 

#12. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it — from garden seeds to Scripture — is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family’s tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. 

An emotionally exhausting but incredibly rewarding read about a missionary family’s experience in late 1950’s Congo.

#11. We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Eva never really wanted to be a mother – and certainly not the mother of the unlovable boy who murdered seven of his fellow high school students, a cafeteria worker, and a much-adored teacher who tried to befriend him, all two days before his sixteenth birthday. Now, two years later, it is time for her to come to terms with marriage, career, family, parenthood, and Kevin’s horrific rampage in a series of startlingly direct correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin. Uneasy with the sacrifices and social demotion of motherhood from the start, Eva fears that her alarming dislike for her own son may be responsible for driving him so nihilistically off the rails.

#10. Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Clay Cooper and his band were once the best of the best — the meanest, dirtiest, most feared crew of mercenaries this side of the Heartwyld. 

Their glory days long past, the mercs have grown apart and grown old, fat, drunk – or a combination of the three. Then an ex-bandmate turns up at Clay’s door with a plea for help. His daughter Rose is trapped in a city besieged by an enemy one hundred thousand strong and hungry for blood. Rescuing Rose is the kind of mission that only the very brave or the very stupid would sign up for.

It’s time to get the band back together for one last tour across the Wyld.

#9. Those Across the River by Christopher Buehlman

Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family’s old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.

It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.

A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols’s homecoming…

#8. House of M by Brian Michael Bendis and Olivier Coipel

The Marvel event of the decade is here! The Avengers and the X-Men are faced with a common foe that becomes their greatest threat: Wanda Maximoff! The Scarlet Witch is out of control, and the fate of the entire world is in her hands. Will Magneto help his daughter or use her powers to his own benefit? Starring the Astonishing X-Men and the New Avengers! You know how sometimes you hear the phrase: and nothing will ever be the same again? Well, this time believe it, buster! Nothing will ever be the same again! 

#7. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Similar to Alexandria Marzano-Lesenevich’s “The Facts of a Body” in that both are non-fiction accounts of a young lawyer’s attempt to save a convicted murderer from death row. Still, as much as I enjoyed Marzano-Lesenevich’s book, it didn’t cause me to reconsider my long-held stance on capital punishment. This book did and, for that, it earns 5 stars. 

The statistics and true stories that pepper Just Mercy are as staggering as they are outrageous in their indictment of a justice system stacked against the poor and people of color, where abuse of power is often ignored, even accepted, and authority figures can, literally, get away with murder. 

#6. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky

A race for survival among the stars… Humanity’s last survivors escaped earth’s ruins to find a new home. But when they find it, can their desperation overcome its dangers?

WHO WILL INHERIT THIS NEW EARTH?

The last remnants of the human race left a dying Earth, desperate to find a new home among the stars. Following in the footsteps of their ancestors, they discover the greatest treasure of the past age – a world terraformed and prepared for human life.

But all is not right in this new Eden. In the long years since the planet was abandoned, the work of its architects has borne disastrous fruit. The planet is not waiting for them, pristine and unoccupied. New masters have turned it from a refuge into mankind’s worst nightmare.

Now two civilizations are on a collision course, both testing the boundaries of what they will do to survive. As the fate of humanity hangs in the balance, who are the true heirs of this new Earth? 

#5. Black Chalk by Christopher J. Yates

It was only ever meant to be a game played by six best friends in their first year at Oxford University; a game of consequences, silly forfeits, and childish dares. But then the game changed: The stakes grew higher and the dares more personal and more humiliating, finally evolving into a vicious struggle with unpredictable and tragic results. Now, fourteen years later, the remaining players must meet again for the final round. Who knows better than your best friends what would break you?

#4. The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

In the summer of 1986, two tragedies rocked Oklahoma City. Six movie-theater employees were killed in an armed robbery, while one inexplicably survived. Then, a teenage girl vanished from the annual State Fair. Neither crime was ever solved.

Twenty-five years later, the reverberations of those unsolved cases quietly echo through survivors’ lives. A private investigator in Vegas, Wyatt’s latest inquiry takes him back to a past he’s tried to escape—and drags him deeper into the harrowing mystery of the movie house robbery that left six of his friends dead. 

Like Wyatt, Julianna struggles with the past—with the day her beautiful older sister Genevieve disappeared. When Julianna discovers that one of the original suspects has resurfaced, she’ll stop at nothing to find answers.

As fate brings these damaged souls together, their obsessive quests spark sexual currents neither can resist. But will their shared passion and obsession heal them, or push them closer to the edge? Even if they find the truth, will it help them understand what happened, that long and faraway gone summer? Will it set them free—or ultimately destroy them?

#3. Penpal by Dathan Auerbach

How much do you remember about your childhood?

In Penpal, a man investigates the seemingly unrelated bizarre, tragic, and horrific occurrences of his childhood in an attempt to finally understand them. Beginning with only fragments of his earliest years, you’ll follow the narrator as he discovers that these strange and horrible events are actually part of a single terrifying story that has shaped the entirety of his life and the lives of those around him. If you’ve ever stayed in the woods just a little too long after dark, if you’ve ever had the feeling that someone or something was trying to hurt you, if you remember the first friend you ever made and how strong that bond was, then Penpal is a story that you won’t soon forget, despite how you might try.

It offers, not the visceral horror of most contemporary works in the genre, but a masterful, steadily mounting sense of apprehension and dread. 

In retrospect, a few narrative bumps, but this book was so unnervingly effective, I have to give it a rare 5 stars.

#2. You by Caroline Kepnes

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

Hoowee! One of the most intense reads in recent memory. Our charming protagonist is an unhinged stalker, but it’s the calculated way he operates that makes him both utterly terrifying and incredibly fascinating. This one will keep you up nights – while you’re reading and long after.

#1. How to Behave in a Crowd by Camille Bordas

Isidore Mazal is eleven years old, the youngest of six siblings living in a small French town. He doesn’t quite fit in. Berenice, Aurore, and Leonard are on track to have doctorates by age twenty-four. Jeremie performs with a symphony, and Simone, older than Isidore by eighteen months, expects a great career as a novelist. She’s already put Isidore to work on her biography. The only time they leave their rooms is to gather on the old, stained couch and dissect prime-time television dramas in light of Aristotle’s Poetics.

Isidore has never skipped a grade or written a dissertation, but he notices things the others don’t and asks questions they fear to ask. So when tragedy strikes the Mazal family, Isidore is the only one to recognize how everyone is struggling with their grief and perhaps the only one who can help them–if he doesn’t run away from home first.

This book ranks right up there with some of my all-time favorites and definitely makes my Desert Island Reads shortlist.

Read any of the aforementioned?  What did you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Weigh in with your thoughts!

November 14, 2018: Week’s Best Comic Book Covers!

These were my favorites…

Cyber Force #7 (cover art by Atilio Rojo)

Dark Ark #11 (cover art by Juan Doe)

Darth Vader #23 (cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli)

Domino #8 (cover art by Gang Hyuk Lim)

Elves vol. 21: Rebirth (cover art by Kyko Duarte, Olivier Heban)

Gideon Falls #8 (cover art by Andrea Sorrentino, Dave Stewart, Mico Suayan)

Marvels: The Remastered Edition (cover art by Alex Ross)

Ms. Marvel #36 (cover art by Valerio Schiti)

Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #26 (cover art by Ashley Witter)

So, which were your faves?