The Great Book Superlatives of 2018, Part I

The time has come for, you guessed it, exactly what it says in the header: BOOK SUPERLATIVES.

This year, however, I’m shortening these rather drastically. Don’t worry; that still means I’ll use about 3,000 words more than necessary; a new year heralds change and all, but not, like, that much change.

In Part I, you’ll find important literary awards such as Best Christmas Story, Book I’d Most Like To See As a Movie, and–of course–my Top Ten of the Year. As always, feel free to leave your own favorites in the comments; I’d love to hear some recommendations, especially if they come with a side of muuurder.

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2018 Reading List – Novellas, Novels, and Graphic Novels

Happy New Years Eve! Doesn’t look like I’m going to finish reading anything else before 2019, so here is the official list of all the novels, novellas, and graphic novels I’ve read this year. (Comics are in italics, novellas are underlined, and non-fiction is in bold.)

  1. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Vol. 1: BFF – Amy Reeder
  2. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women – Kate Moore
  3. River of Teeth – Sarah Gailey
  4. The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Mackenzi Lee
  5. Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero
  6. Autonomous – Annalee Newitz
  7. Snowspelled – Stephanie Burgis
  8. One Dark Throne – Kendare Blake
  9. Creatures of Will & Temper – Molly Tanzer
  10. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
  11. One of Us Is Lying – Karen M. McManus
  12. The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion – Margaret Killjoy
  13. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
  14. Akata Warrior – Nnedi Okorafor
  15. The Black Tides of Heaven – JY Yang
  16. The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter – Theodora Goss
  17. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? -Maria Semple
  18. Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius – Colin Dickey
  19. A Skinful of Shadows – Frances Hardinge
  20. Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann
  21. The City of Lost Fortune – Bryan Camp
  22. Peasprout Chen: Future Legend of Skate and Sword – Henry Lien
  23. Strong Poison – Dorothy Sayers
  24. Anna Dressed in Blood – Kendare Blake
  25. Jane, Unlimited – Kristin Cashore
  26. Beneath the Sugar Sky – Seanan McGuire
  27. The Good House – Tananarive Due
  28. The Westing Game – Ellen Rankin
  29. When the Moon Was Ours – Anna-Marie McLemore
  30. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins
  31. Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
  32. Paper Girls, Vol. 1 – Brian K. Vaughn
  33. Thirteen Guests – J. Jefferson Farjeon
  34. Bluebird, Bluebird – Attica Locke
  35. The Collapsing Empire – John Scalzi
  36. In Other Lands – Sarah Rees Brennan
  37. Summer in Orcus – T. Kingfisher
  38. Imposter Syndrome – Mishell Baker
  39. The Five Red Herrings – Dorothy Sayers
  40. The Invisible Orientation: An Introduction to Asexuality – Julie Sondra Decker
  41. The Beautiful Ones – Silvia Moreno Garcia
  42. Hollywood Homicide – Kellye Garrett
  43. A Study in Honor – Claire O’Dell
  44. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman – PD James
  45. Binti – Nnedi Okorafor
  46. Envy of Angels – Matt Wallace
  47. Witchmark – C.L. Polk
  48. Depth – Lev A.C. Rosen
  49. Experimental Film – Gemma Files
  50. Have His Carcase – Dorothy Sayers
  51. Trail of Lightning – Rebecca Roanhorse
  52. Unbury Carol – Josh Malerman
  53. Murder Must Advertise – Dorothy Sayers
  54. The Brief History of the Dead – Kevin Brockmeier
  55. Jade City – Fonda Lee
  56. Mystery in White – J. Jefferson Farjeon
  57. Abbott – Saladin Ahmed
  58. The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Mackenzi Lee
  59. Queenpin – Megan Abbott
  60. Jughead, Volume 1 – Chip Zdarsky
  61. The Tea Master and the Detective – Aliette de Bodard

I plan to write a 2018 Book Superlatives post later (though it will likely be considerably abbreviated compared to prior years), but here are a few things I’ve noticed this year:

For no real reason that I can determine, I’ve read far, FAR fewer comic books this year. Seriously, this is even worse than 2017. It’s not that my interest has dipped; on the contrary, my To-Read list is positively bursting with comics, many of them aimed for much younger girls. (As well as comics I desperately need to return to: Velvet, for starters, and also The Wicked + The Divine: Year 3, which just FINALLY released.) I just haven’t gotten there yet.

OTOH, I have continued to up my novella game, though I may need to reconsider my purchasing strategy. In the last two years, I’ve read at least 6 different novellas with the intention of reading their follow-up sequels . . . only to completely fail to do that. I’ve managed to keep up with Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, but that’s about it. For Christ’s sake, there are four Murder Bot novellas out there now and I’ve still only read All Systems Red. Clearly, this won’t do.

Once again, I’ve managed to read three whole non-fiction books this year! I’m very proud of myself.

Shocking no one, I appear to have read mostly fantasy, mystery, and YA, with a few scatterings of horror and SF and only the briefest of forays into romance, western, and, IDK, slice of life? I’m specifically a bit disappointed in how little SF I actually read. Thankfully, my book club’s next genre-of-choice is SPACE OPERA, so I should get 2019 off on the right foot.

If I gravitated heavily towards noir last year, this year has been all about cozy mysteries and, most especially, the Golden Age of Detective Fiction. I read four books by Dorothy Sayers (I’m reading the Lord Peter Wimsey books in order; next up: The Nine Tailors) and two by J. Jefferson Farjeon, who I just discovered by happy accident this year. If anyone here is a fan of 30’s English mysteries, what are your recommendations? If there’s a murder at a country manner or a dinner party, I’m interested!

To my knowledge:

Books Written By Women Authors: 44
Books Written by Men Authors: 15
Books Written by Non-Binary Authors: 2

(For the purposes of that stat, I’m lumping fiction, non-fiction, and comics together.)

Favorite New-to-Me Authors include Mackenzi Lee, Justina Ireland, Angie Thomas, Sarah Rees Brennan, Fonda Lee, J. Jefferson Farjeon, and Theodora Goss

Some of my absolute favorite books this year were completely off my radar until the 2017 Hugo and Not-a-Hugo finalists were announced. Award Season can be a stressful pain in the ass for writers–I don’t have much eligible this year, so I expect I’ll be more chill about it, maybe–but I’m really looking forward to seeing what people nominate.

Tell me in the comments about the books you’ve read this year. I’d love to hear about them!

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Triple Scoop Reviews: Ant-Man and The Wasp, The Dark Crystal, Rehearsal for Murder

The holidays are basically over, thank God. (I kid. Sort of.) Now that we just have New Years and the inevitable what have I been doing with my life anxiety that comes with it, let’s get back to reviewing a random assortment of movies, shall we?

Just a reminder for all of you strawberry ice cream loving weirdos out there, the rating system goes like so: chocolate equals favorite, vanilla equals second favorite, and strawberry equals least favorite. Though, admittedly, that doesn’t always mean much when I like all three films, especially if they’re wildly different films as they are today. (Gotta be honest: I pretty much just did a coin toss when it came to choosing who got chocolate and who got vanilla this time.) It’s a messy ratings system borne out of silliness, rather than practicality.

With that in mind . . .

Ant-Man and the Wasp

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Netflix (DVD)
Spoilers: Very few
Grade: Chocolate

I never got around to seeing Ant-Man and the Wasp in theaters. Maybe it was Marvel fatigue. Maybe I was just lazy. Maybe it was leftover annoyance with the first Ant-Man. (I laughed pretty hard at some of the jokes, but I was so frustrated for Hope Van Dyne by the end of the movie that I basically just wanted to murder people.) Still, after the trailer for Avengers: Endgame came out, Mek and I were like, “Yeah, we should probably go ahead and watch this.”

Fortunately, I enjoyed Ant-Man and the Wasp so much more than its predecessor. In fact, I don’t know that I have any complaints about it: I’m so much happier with how Hope’s treated in this movie, and I love that she and Scott both get the chance to save one another. Michael Peña is hilarious, particularly in the truth serum scene. (Oh my God, the truth serum scene.) Scott’s daughter is still cute. Randall Park might be even cuter. I either didn’t know or totally forgot that Walton Goggins was in this, Laurence Fishburne, too, and I’m always excited for any chance to see Michelle Pfeiffer. I also really appreciate the movie’s relatively small stakes: no one’s trying to save the world or conquer another universe. This is just a hero who wants freedom from house arrest, another hero who wants to save her mom, and a sympathetic villain who doesn’t want to die and/or be in constant pain anymore. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a joyful, funny, feel-good story, which is the kind of thing I’ve been into lately. Also, not shockingly, the size gags are the best.

I should go see if there’s any good Janet Van Dyne fanfic out there (specific to this particular iteration, that is). I understand why the film didn’t have time for it, but holy shit, is there some serious fanfic potential in her arc. Good lord.

The Dark Crystal

It me.

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: Definitely
Grade: Strawberry

After Netflix announced the cast of the upcoming Dark Crystal TV series–which, if you didn’t hear, was EVERYONE–I decided it was maybe time I finally got around to watching the actual movie. No, I never saw it as a kid. I’m not sure why, exactly; I loved The Labyrinth well enough. Unfortunately, I suspect The Dark Crystal works best when you’re young–assuming it doesn’t scar you for life, that is, which it totally could’ve. Shit gets dark in that movie.)

Some stuff, I really do enjoy. I like that the Skeksis and the Mystics are two halves of the same beings. I really enjoy the memory swapping scene, random as it is. (Dreamfasting sounds like Slim Fast for dreams, which is a story I need to write immediately.) Kira herself doesn’t have much in the way of personality, but she’s still pretty cool: she speaks multiple languages, can call animals, manages to resist brainwashing, and, oh yeah,  HAS WINGS. And, of course, Fizzgig is the absolute best; I desperately want one immediately. Y’all don’t even wanna know how much ranting you would’ve endured if Fizzgig had actually died.

Still, for a fairly short film, The Dark Crystal has a pretty slow, plodding pace. Lengthy exposition and narration don’t help much, and the Skeksis, in particular, are kind of excruciating to watch. (Though watching Mek’s mounting homicidal rage as the Chamberlain repeatedly made this noise was kind of worth it. Also, I feel it’s important to note that the design of the Skeksis was killing me because I knew I’d seen these assholes before; it wasn’t until Mekaela suggested Farscape that I realized they were totally the Halosians.) The worst, though, is definitely Jen, who is a deeply worthless hero: whiny, useless, and boring, like all the farm boy protagonists he’s drawn from. Visually, the Gelflings themselves are enjoyably creepy in that whole uncanny valley sort of way; vocally, though, Jen mostly reminds me of a young Matthew Broderick doing a young Luke Skywalker on Tatooine impression, and it is insufferable.

But maybe the biggest bummer about watching this movie is that I’m actually less interested in checking out the TV series, now that I know it’s a prequel about three Gelflings who work to start a rebellion against the Skekis. Prequels are so rarely ever my jam anyway, but especially when there’s such an obvious foregone conclusion, like, the rebellion’s gonna fail, folks, and the Gelflings are all gonna DIE. Yes, yes, except Jen and Kira; I’m saying, we’re still looking ahead to mass puppet genocide. I don’t mind dark children’s stories, but even for me, that’s a bit much.

Rehearsal for Murder

Look, there aren’t a lot of GIFS for TV movies made in the 1980’s, okay?

First Watch or Rewatch: First Watch
Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, or Other: Amazon
Spoilers: YES
Grade: Vanilla

Last month, Claire suggested in the comments that if I enjoyed murder mysteries, I might want to check out this TV movie, Rehearsal for Murder. Since it was free on Amazon, we did just that, and let me tell you, people: Claire was right.

Rehearsal for Murder is a pretty clever story. I’m a sucker for the whole setup: an actress dies, supposedly having killed herself after a poor opening night, and a year later her playwright fiancee gathers a group of people from that show (a few other actors, the director, a producer, etc.) to test read his new play . . . only the play is clearly a front for catching the real killer. I wish I could say I figured everything out, but that wouldn’t be true, although I did get pieces. I noticed the cab, but forgot about it later. I knew the lighter was important, but thought it was a clue indicating someone else. I was immediately sure that there was an affair/blackmail situation going on, and I figured the actor-cop was involved somehow, maybe as an accomplice or a hitman. It definitely never occurred to me, though, that everyone was in on the set-up, like a reverse Murder on the Orient Express. The twist was set-up extremely well, and I was very satisfied by the story and its structure. TBH, I’m a little surprised this movie wasn’t based on a play.

As this is a TV movie from 1982, the film quality is . . . not the best. I wouldn’t mind seeing it redone with decent cameras for the big screen. But if you’re looking for a clever mystery that’s also a Boy Meets World reunion, this is it: both Mr. Matthews and Mr. Feeny play significant roles here. (Hence the GIF above. Also, God bless William Daniels; I just love that man’s voice.) Also of note: Robert Preston, who has a lot of presence as our playwright detective hero, and Jeff Goldblum, who is his usual delightful self.

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MEGA REWATCH: The Mission: Impossible Movies

The latest film in the Mission: Impossible series (Mission Impossible – Fallout) premiered in July, and it got rave reviews from just about everyone. Best film in the franchise, multiple critics agreed.

Mek and I were not quite so enamored.

While discussing exactly why we weren’t enamored and how we’d rank the movies ourselves, an idea occurred: The Great Franchise Re-Watch. I don’t know how quickly we’ll watch each installment–I have my TOS recaps to return to, my ongoing Triple Scoop reviews to do, and, oh yes, my goddamn novel revisions to finish. (Maybe I’ll eventually discuss some actual holiday movies too?) But periodically, we’ll be discussing each of the M:I movies and, ultimately, ranking them from favorite to least.

First up, of course, the movie that began them all – Mission: Impossible.

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World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “A Taste of Armageddon”

Now that I’ve finished obsessively watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine–well, until Season 6 comes out in January, that is–it’s time to return to TOS.

Today’s episode is all about the cost of war, and while it’s probably one of the best TOS episodes I’ve watched thus far, I still have some serious ideological problems with it.

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World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “Space Seed”

Mekaela and I have been binging Brooklyn Nine-Nine pretty much nonstop (seriously, it’s INSANE how fast we’ve gone through four seasons), so Star Trek has kinda fallen by the wayside lately. Recently, however, we did watch one episode that I’ve been looking forward to checking out since we started this TOS-watch.

Buckle up, kids: it’s the KHAN EPISODE.

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World’s Worst Trekkie: Carlie Takes On “The Return of the Archons”

You ever play that game where someone writes the first paragraph of a story and hands it to the next person, who writes the second paragraph of the story and hands it to a third person, who–while looking only at the directly preceding section–writes the third paragraph of the story, and so on and so forth? Usually, you get something that only kinda/sorta makes narrative sense, and not just because Janet tried to skew the whole collaboration into a string of alien sex jokes. Don’t try and look innocent, Janet; there were no aliens OR butt stuff anywhere in the six preceding paragraphs!

Well, that’s kinda what this episode reminds me of. Minus Janet and the butt stuff.

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