My Favorite Books of 2017

Hello everyone! 2017, for what little it was worth, has come and gone. I won’t look back at this year fondly. It wasn’t a banner year for me for a lot of reasons. The one thing I did have success with was my reading challenge. I pledged 50 books through the Goodreads’ challenge. I finished my 50th book on the 13th of December, both tired and excited to pick up my next one. I think I learned a lot over the year. I read books from several different genres and enjoyed most of them. I’ve put together a couple of categories to highlight some of my favorites. If you want to see the full list, here is a separate post that has them all. Shall we begun?

My Favorite Novel I Read This Year:

The Fisherman by John Langan

‘The Fisherman’ is a horror epic packed into a small page count. It’s a rusty hook legend at the center of a heart-breaking tale of loss. After I set this book down I couldn’t help but feel sad for so many good reasons. Figure that out. It won the Bram Stoker Award this year and MAN does it deserve it. This is the best novel I’ve read this year and it belongs in everyone’s TBR pile.

Runner-Ups: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter, Hell House by Richard Matheson.

My Favorite Novella I Read This Year:

Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

This is another award winner I found myself playing catch-up on. What I loved about this one was its ability to take a tired trope (private eye on the hunt) and make it feel VERY new. This world is a Lovecraftian scab of a world that drips with menace. Cassandra’s prose is beautiful, even if the horrible acts her characters commit are not. I think about the way this action plays out in my head and I get chills. It’s that good.

Runner-Ups: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson, Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

My Favorite Short Story Collection I Read This Year:

Behold the Void by Philip Fracassi

This was the most painful category for me. I read a TON of fantastic collections in 2017. I loved all of them. I discovered some great writers through my literary adventures. But the author who had the strongest showing this year for me was Mr. Philip Fracassi. His cinematic style creates some truly breath-taking tales. ‘Altar’. ‘The Horse Thief’. ‘Mandala’. Three gems in a collection packed with them. I look forward to whatever Philip releases next.

Everything That’s Underneath by Kristi DeMeester, Painted Monsters and Other Strange Beasts by Orrin Grey

Biggest Surprise I Read This Year:

Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris

Between you and me

This book made grammar fun. Mary Norris’ experience as a world class editor makes for a fascinating read. I had my doubts. Books about writing or the English language are rarely as fun as they strive to be. Mary makes pencil sharpeners fun. Go figure.

I hope you enjoyed this peek into my reading experience this year! Any book on this list deserves your attention and I hope that you give them a chance. Until next time…

My Ten Favorite Video Games of All Time

Lists like these can be a little silly. But MAN are they fun. For my swing at this I tried to choose games that have stuck with me over the years even if they aren’t perfect. So, without further ado, here are my ten favorite video games of all time!

10. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Assassin’s Creed series’ mix of stealth and crazy history has always fascinated me. Unfortunately, the games up until this one didn’t hook me. I took a chance on Black Flag though, hoping pirates would finally be the element that would suck me in. That first sea battle blew me mind. It was new and thrilling. Sailing and upgrading my own ship in a living and breathing Caribbean world kept me hooked for weeks. The familiar assassin gameplay left me smiling. This one is a true gem.

9. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance

You’d be hard pressed to find another game on the Game Boy Advance with more depth that Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. This strategy RPG had a deep class system, a brilliant and complex story, coupled with an art design that still holds up to this day. Battling a vast conspiracy in Ivalice and adventuring with your clan members makes for one hell of a game.

8. Dragon Warrior Monsters 2: Cobi’s Adventure

This is my ‘I’ve never heard of that game’ entry. Released in 2001 for the Game Boy Color, it was initially dismissed as a Pokemon clone. I’m here to tell you that it’s WAY more than that. DWM 2 puts you in the shoes of a monster battler trying to save his home island from sinking into the ocean. This adventure takes you through countless worlds with three monsters to back you up. Sounds simple right? It is. Until you dig into the breeding system. Breeding two separate monsters almost always gives you a new beastie. Chaining together specific combinations and you can build an unstoppable fighting force. With over 300 monsters to befriend/create, the game never gets old. The battle system is basic but it has an incredible depth if you pay attention. This game is incredibly underrated.

7. Batman: Arkham City

 I’m a major Batman nerd. Though Asylum, Origins and Knight have their charms, no game is better at making you feel like Batman than Arkham City. With a sprawling game world and a story that pits you against The Dark Knight’s extended rogue’s gallery, Batman: Arkham City is a testament to what a superhero game should and can be.

6. Fallout 3

What can I say about Fallout 3? What makes it so beloved? Is it the evil (but also funny) world of post-apocalyptic Washington D.C.? Is it V.A.T.S (which you use to strategically dismember, vaporize and behead countless enemies)? It’s both of those things and more. Fallout 3 is a masterpiece action RPG that can’t be missed. But you probably already knew that.

5. Pokémon Crystal

Ahhh… Pokemon. It’s a formula that has seen little changes over the past two decades. Pokemon X/Y brought us into the modern era of gaming. Sun/Moon shuffled some franchise staples around. But, for my money, I don’t think anything can knock Pokemon Crystal out of my memory as my favorite Pokemon game. It was my first major gaming obsession and Generation 2’s batch of new ‘Mons to catch, trade and battle are as iconic as the original 151. I know he has no competitive viability. But Typhlosion is still awesome.

4. Fire Emblem: Awakening

I’ve been playing Fire Emblem since the first GBA game graced the U.S. It’s a brutal strategy RPG that focuses on a cast of lovable misfits and warriors facing off against near insurmountable odds. Awakening hones this formula to perfect. I’ve never forget this cast and the nail-biting battles we fought together. The new time travel and marriage system adds depth to an already dense system. Fire Emblem: Awakening is a brilliant game packed into a small package.

3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Thousands of gallons of ink have been spilled talking about this game. And it deserves every bit of it. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is an astonishing achievement in every way. The world building. The combat. The story. Every inch of this world is bursting with things to do and horrors to see. Watching your actions reflect upon the game world is horrifying. No other game world has transfixed me more than this one. This thing is a masterpiece that everyone has to play.

2. Skyrim

Epic. No. That’s not the right world. Expansive? Also not quite right. Flexible? You know what? It’s all of those things. There is a lot of incredible RPGs out in the world. Skyrim (and the rest of the Elder Scrolls series) are the most accessible way to step into a fantasy world. Skyrim is massive and welcoming. The combat is a blast, the quests are memorable, and the world is unforgettable. Skyrim, even all these years later, is still a masterpiec

And number one is…

Bioshock!

I had a hard time nailing down my number one choice. The Witcher 3 is a polished monster, and I’ve logged more hours in Skyrim than is healthy. But when I thought about the tragic saga of Rapture and the mad genius Andrew Ryan, I knew where Bioshock belonged on my list. This dark city beneath the waves hasn’t left my memory since the first time I stepped out of the bathysphere. I play through it every October just so I can once again step into the perfect combat and story that make up this game. No enemy is more terrifying than a Big Daddy. Nothing will break your heart more than meeting the Little Sisters for the first time. Now. If you haven’t played Bioshock… would you kindly go and rectify that?

Those are my Top 10 Favorite Games of all time. What do you think of my list? Am I crazy? Do I need to play more games? Maybe. Comment below and let me know.

My 5 Favorite Batman Villains

I am a huge Batman fan. No. Seriously. I own way more Batman shirts than any adult man has any right to. I finished up a recent play through of Rocksteady’s Arkham video game trilogy and I’m currently loving everything Batman. So, because it’s fun and because I want to do it, I’m sharing with you my five favorite Batman villains (ranked!). Ready? Let’s go!

5. Ra’s al Ghul

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“I deem it my mission to purify this planet, to restore it to its former beauty… a mission I will brook no interference in.”

The Demon’s Head. The head of a cabal organization called the League of Assassins. He has possession of a device called The Lazurus Pit that makes him immortal. Most villains only want to see Batman dead. Ra’s al Ghul is different because he respects The Dark Knight and sees him as a worthy successor. It’s a fascinating relationship that leads to some truly awesome battles.

4. Bane

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“I shall simply BREAK YOU.”

He is the man that broke the Bat. As cunning as he is powerful, he is well trained and very brutal. A childhood spent in a South American prison will do that to you. He’s as driven and determined as Batman but with none of the ethical hang-ups. Not many enemies can match The Caped Crusader punch for punch. Bane does that and more.

3. The Court of Owls

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“Oh, don’t worry, my dear. We have so many MORE of them.”

Batman is Gotham. The Court of Owls are awesome because they question that very notion. They are well funded and have an immortal army at their disposal. Not only that, but those masks are CREEPY. Their systematic attack on the Wayne family over the decades makes them a unique enemy for Batman to face.

2. The Scarecrow

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“Shhh… it’s okay to be afraid.”

Fear. It’s Batman’s ultimate weapon and Doctor Jonathan Crane’s obsession. Often portrayed as cunning and cold, his weapon of choice challenges Batman in a way most of his rogue’s gallery cannot. I love Scarecrow because he’s a intellectual opponent for Batman in a very real way. Many of Batman’s foes serve as physical manifestations of his attributes. Fear toxin. It just sounds cool.

1. The Joker

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“This time. No more games. No more jokes. I’m just here to close up shop.”

Everyone loves to hate The Joker. He’s completely insane but at the same time COMPLETELY aware of every action. His every action is part of something bigger. He’s often one step ahead of Batman, which is pretty hard to do. He’s been the star of dozens of some of the greatest Batman storylines (including my personnel favorite, ‘Endgame’). A crazed Ying to Batman’s logical Yang in every way. When The Joker shows up, you never know what you’re going to get. He has no weakness. And that’s why he’s my favorite Batman villain.

Those are my top 5! What do you think? Do you love these nasty bunch of bad guys? Sound off in the comments below!

 

My Three Favorite Stephen King Novels

Last week I wrote a post outlining my three favorite Stephen King short stories. While researching stories I got thinking about all of Stephen King’s longer works and all the scares they’ve given me over the years. His books are often cement block sized monstrosities. Stephen King has published 54 novels. I want to take the time to highlight some of my all time favorites. Cool? Hold on to your butts because here we go.

Salem’s Lot

‘Salem’s Lot’ is Stephen King’s second novel. This is the novel that introduced us to so many things that turned out to be King staples. Huge casts of characters. Working class towns. You grow to hate/love these people. When tragedy finally befalls Jerusalem’s Lot, it hurts.

IT

Pennywise the Dancing Clown. The Loser’s Club. Derry, Maine. ‘IT’ is not only one of my favorite Stephen King novels, it’s one of my favorite novels PERIOD. The sheer breadth of terror and imagination poured into this 1,489 page behemoth is awe inspiring. Pennywise is one of literature/films greatest monsters. Derry is a city, that by the time the story wraps up, feels alive. And, unfortunately for our heroes, it is rotten to the core. WE FLOAT. WE ALL FLOAT.

11/22/63

This one got me right in the feels. ’11/22/63′ belongs to his more recent string of novels. This novel may have a lot less supernatural horrors (it does have time travel though), but it’s not a slouch when it comes to the scares. The evils here are resoundingly human and that makes them all the more blood chilling. Watching Jake Epping (a everyman teacher) experience love and loss in a long-gone time is riveting. You know that tragedy is coming. And you can’t help but keep turning the page to see exactly how it plays out.

Those are my three! I love nearly everything Stephen King has written. Making this list was pretty tough. What are some of your favorites? ‘The Shining’? ‘The Stand’? Let me know in the comments below!

My Three Favorite Stephen King Short Stories

If it wasn’t for Stephen King I would not be a writer. I think most horror writers would probably say the same thing. When I was 13 I was drawn in by King’s behemoth horror masterwork ‘IT’. But, when my stepmother saw me pick it up, she suggested I read a less scary book to start me off in the world of Stephen King. She handed me ‘Pet Sematary’. I devoured it and moved on to ‘IT’, then ‘Carrie’, then ‘Salem’s Lot’. I spent the next couple of years scouring local thrift stores for dog-eared copies of King’s bibliography. I loved them all. And as much as I love his novels, I think his short fiction has stuck with me the most.

A podcast I really enjoy (The Lovecraft Ezine Podcast) had a episode recently where they discussed their favorite Stephen King short stories. That conversation brought me back to all those hours I spent going over all my favorites. So, without further ado, these are my three favorite Stephen King stories!

‘One for the Road’ – Published in ‘Night Shift’

For my first story here I wanted to start with one of my first favorites. ‘One for the Road’, published in his first collections, feels like a classic horror story in every sense. A quiet bar. A blizzard. Vampires. It might not be the most original tale, but it makes up for it with pure atmosphere.

‘The Moving Finger’ – Published in ‘Nightmares and Dreamscapes’

Let’s get weird. ‘The Moving Finger’ brings it in spades. This story was my introduction to Weird Fiction as a genre. A simple conceit wrapped around a unforgettable image makes this story a mean little beast. From the little details (the game show) to the maniacal wrap-up, I love every word of this one.

‘1408’ – Published in ‘Everything’s Eventual’

When it comes to haunted hotel rooms, everything does seem eventual. We’ve all heard this kind of story. Shoot, Stephen King has written about these kind of things before. But over the course of this novella (I know, I’m kind of cheating, it’s not a short story) we see receive a legend of a VERY haunted hotel room. The intro takes it’s time before allowing our protagonist Mike Enslin into that room. Paintings change. Demonic voices howl through phone receivers. ‘1408’ is a masterpiece and is one of my favorite Stephen King stories.

There you have it! Those are my three. Am I crazy for loving these? Feel free to yell at me in the comments below or chime in with your all time favorite stories!