Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in 2013

Hello all and welcome to the first (and hopefully annual) Top 10 Graphic Novels list! I had to do a list of graphic novels as well as my usual one of their pictureless brethren this year as I read so many great ones (thanks in no small part to my Comic Companions challenge). As my re-kindled love affair with comics continues I hope that I can make this list a regular part of my yearly awards to serve as recommendations to any comic-loving Bookbaggers ūüôā

So without further ado here is my very first Top 10 Graphic Novels I Read in (insert year here) list:

1.  The Sandman Vol. 4: Season of Mists

by Neil Gaiman (writer),
Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, Mike Dringenberg, Matt Wagner, P. Craig Russell,George Pratt, Dick Giordano (artists),
Daniel Vozzo, Steve Oliff (colourists), and Todd Klein (letterer)

sandman4I read Volumes 1-4 of The Sandman in 2013, which were all amazing but Season of Mists¬†was definitely my favourite so far. Firstly the story of Morpheus/Dream/The Sandman trying to make amends for the revengeful punishment of his lover millenia ago leading him to being the reluctant new owner of Hell with beings from all over¬†vying to be its new master was epic. Secondly it was really cool to see almost all of The Endless (Dream and his siblings) together, especially the gloriously coloured pages which described them. Thirdly the various beings which gathered in Dream’s realm to petition him for ownership of hell (including Gods from various religions, demons and agents of order and chaos) were so different in their methods and reasons for wanting Hell, making the final scenes riveting and wonderfully suspenseful.
If you are a fan of fantasy graphic novels you really must read this fantastic series ūüôā

2. The Beatles Graphic by Hervé Bourhis

beatles graphicI learnt so much about The Beatles from this comprehensive biographical comic which goes through every significant moment in the band’s development as well as the personal lives of John, Paul, George and Ringo (plus a bit of background on important figures in their lives, such as Yoko Ono). As it’s written by a Frenchman the book also gives a unique perspective on the Beatles influence on Europe which I found really interesting, and as a fan he did short reviews of every album and single released, not only by the Fab Four, but solo and other collaborative projects, and he was very honest with his opinions. Definitely recommended for Beatles fans and people interested in musical bios.

3. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

persepolis coverThis was another biographical graphic novel (autobio this time) which taught me a lot about Iran before, during and after the Iranian Revolution of¬†1979, but was also a touching, thoughtful and at times very funny coming-of-age tale. I decided to read¬†Persepolis in honor of¬†Banned Books Week¬†and right away I empathised with the frustrated students who were robbed of this fantastic graphic novel. Yes, it was very confronting which I guess is why people felt it should be banned, but it was well worth it, and I think it would be especially poignant to kids the same age as the author when her story began. If you don’t know much about Iranian history and culture besides what is parroted by the media, or you want a unique perspective on life in a very different world, I would highly recommend¬†Persepolis.¬†

4. Batman: The Killing Joke: The Deluxe Edition

by Alan Moore (writer), Brian Bolland (artist, colorist, writer), Ellie De Ville and Richard Starkings (letterers)

the-killing-joke-deluxe-front-cover1This one is straying into more traditional comic territory, but this spectacular deluxe edition which I borrowed off my friend Scott, is far more than your run-of-the-mill Batman comic. Firstly, let me just say, I use to read any and every Batman comic that came into my local library, and would reread my favourites (namely anything with Harley Quinn) over and over. When I borrowed¬†The Killing Joke¬†it had probably been 10 or 15 years since I’d last dived into a Batman comic and yet it felt like I had never left, and it was even more engrossing than I remember. This may be thanks to the brilliantly twisted mind of Alan Moore, or to Brian Bolland’s amazing art, or maybe just because it delved deep into the past of the Joker like nothing I’d ever read before, but whatever it was made for a gripping read! I would of course recommend this to Batman fans (if they haven’t already read it of course) but also to people who like Batman but don’t really know where to begin in the huge backlog of comics – this one is not to be missed.

5. Clive Barker Omnibus (collecting The Thief of Always ; The Great and Secret Show ; and Seduth)

by Clive Barker, Kris Oprisko, Chris Ryall,  Christopher Monfette (writers), Gabriel Hernandez, Gabriel Rodriguez, Ray Zone (artists),  Robbie Robbins (letterer)

CliveBarker_OmnibusAs a Clive Barker fan I was eager to read this omnibus, especially since I had read The Thief of Always earlier in the year, The Great and Secret Show was one of my first trips into the world of Barker and was starting to become a vague memory, and Seduth had never been published elsewhere. None of them disappointed either in the story-telling/adaptation or the artwork Рhell, even the lettering was stunning and perfectly fit the mood of each story! I read each story on a different day (in fact I think I read The Great and Secret Show over a couple of days because it made up the bulk of the omnibus) so I was fully immersed in each story at the time, and even though I had read two of the three in novel form, I felt like I was experiencing them for the first time. I would definitely recommend this to Barker fans, but also to people who may have wanted to read his stuff before but prefer a graphic novel format.

6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales

by Joss Whedon, Jane Espenson,  Becky Cloonan and others (writers)
Tim Sale,Doug Petrie, Leinil Francis Yu, Gene Colan and others (artists)

buffy talesThis was without a doubt one of the best presents I got on my last birthday, if not the best hands down and it definitely had to go on this list! My lovely workmate Scott gifted it to me around my birthday in October and I was in love from the moment I looked at it. It contained a treasure-trove of stories I never even knew about before, written by former writers of the show amongst a bevy of other talented writers, with each story beautifully, and uniquely brought to life by a cast of gifted artists. There wasn’t a single story I didn’t like (though some of course stood out more than others) and it made New Books November¬†even more fun in its role of Official Mascot. I have already raved about it to my Buffy-loving friends (though I keep forgetting to loan it to my best friend Sarah, a Buffy fan from way back, as its so big and ironically gets missed whenever I give her a bunch of graphic novels to try) but I would highly recommend it to any Buffy fan out there, especially if you love comic art – there’s so many styles on offer here its a veritable sm√∂rg√•sbord for comic-art geeks ūüėÄ

7. The Books of Magic

by Neil Gaiman (writer), John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson (artists)

books of magicThis one was read later in the year, just days before Christmas, but I enjoyed it so much I was willing to push earlier titles off the list in order for it to make my Top 10. Being written my Neil Gaiman, with a somewhat Sandman-esque feel to it and each section illustrated by a different artist to fit the mood of each realm, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I loved this graphic novel. It was one of those stories that you just fall into, and for the minutes, hours, or days that you read it you are lost to another world. In the case of The Books of Magic I was gone for about an hour or so as it’s a sort of mini-series kind of graphic novel, with 4 parts. I have since put my brother on to it, and he was just as lost (I watched him read it so I can attest that he was definitely not all there anymore!) and I plan to find and add it to my growing comic/graphic novel collection ūüôā I would recommend this to Neil Gaiman fans, especially if you like the Sandman, and fans of epic, archetypal fantasy.

8. The Book of Human Insects by Osamu Tezuka

BookofHumanInsectsThis one I have to admit was bought because of its bizarre title (I love me a weird title :P) but I was also intrigued because the author and artist is the mind behind Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion, two of my favourite shows from when I was a kid (thanks in part to them being faves of my mum who saw them new, and the habit of Australian TV in the early 90’s playing lots of repeats of classic shows) but I had never read his graphic novels.¬†The Book of Human Insects was worlds away from the cartoons of my youth, but I loved the juxtaposition of Tezuka’s big-eyed, round-faced characters in a world of sex, manipulation, fraud, violence and intrigue. The feel of the story was very film noir, with a classic femme fatale as the main character, and it was a fun blend of absurdity and relatability. I wouldn’t recommend this to everyone (I haven’t passed it on to my brother or friends coz I’m not sure if they’d like it) but if you like manga with a lot of depth, and many a dash of odd, or if like me you’re curious about Tezuka’s work beyond adorable kings of the jungle and robot boys with rocket books, give this a try.

9. Nevermore 

by¬†Edgar Allan Poe¬†,¬†Ian Edginton,¬†Jamie Delano,¬†John Reppion, and¬†Leah Moore¬†(writers) and¬†D‚ÄôIsraeli,¬†James (Jim) Fletcher,¬†John McCrea,¬†Shane Oakley¬†and¬†Steve Pugh¬†(artists)nevermoreI read Nevermore at a perfect time, right after my Poe.My.God! Challenge when I still had all the stories fresh in my mind. This anthology took 9 of Poe’s most famous tales (The Raven; The Pit and the Pendulum; The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar; The Murders in the Rue Morgue; The Fall of the House of Usher; The Black Cat; The Oval Portrait; The Tell-Tale Heart; and¬†The Masque of the Red Death) and re-tells them in modern (or sometimes futuristic) settings, each illustrated by a different artist in their style, but sticking to a moody black and grey colour scheme. I thought the adaptations were really clever and the black and grey ink work really put me in a dark, gothic, Poe sort of mood ūüôā Unfortunately because this was a library item I couldn’t hand it straight on to my brother (who is a huge Poe fan since he was a kid) but I hope to add it to my collection in the future, and in the meantime if he’s interested, I can always get it out from my work, since that’s the library it came from (albeit a different campus) and make him swear in blood that it returns unharmed. Very fitting for Poe, don’t ya think? ūüėõ I would recommend this to Poe fans, people who like classic tales interpreted into new settings, or anyone who likes a dark, broody graphic novel.

10. Fray

by¬†Joss Whedon¬†(writer),¬†Karl Moline¬†(penciler),Andy Owens¬†(inker),¬†Dave Stewart¬†(colourist) and¬†Michelle Madsen¬†(colourist and letterer)frayThis last one was tricky because I had a bunch of great contenders, but once I discounted parts in ongoing series’ (a rule that made compiling this list easier, but one I don’t think I’ll stick to next year) there was one amongst the final choices that stood out. Fray is another graphic novel loaned to me by my friend Scott, and another one set in the Buffy Universe, but far in the future after magic has left the world and Slayers aren’t even a blip on history’s radar. To me this felt almost like a Buffy reboot as it had some of the great elements of early episodes of Buffy when she was training and coming to grips with her destiny. The difference between Fray and early Buffy though is firstly it is set in a very different time and place complete with amazing futuristic scenery and interesting slang, and secondly Melaka Fray can already kick some arse as she is a sort-of cat burglar by trade. I really enjoyed the story, but what made it stick out in my mind was the art. Wow. The way Karl Moline and¬†Andy Owens drew and inked the characters and backgrounds were stunning, and the colours by Dave Stewart and¬†Michelle Madsen were glorious, especially Melaka’s multi-coloured hair. This is a big recommendation for Buffy fans but even if you’re not really familiar with the show (cue gasps and a look of horror from the author) this is a great stand-alone.

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Top 10 Books I Read in 2013

1. Catch 22 by Joseph Hellercatch22

This was the first book that came to mind when compiling my top books of the year, firstly because I read it for a decent chunk of the year, from mid-January to mid-November, secondly because it was part of my War & Pages challenge, and thirdly because it really was a memorable and affecting book. If you’ve always wanted to read Catch 22, don’t let my slowpokeishness (yes that’s a word now) deter you – sometimes I just take ages reading a certain book, and it has nothing to do with the quality of writing or my enjoyment of it. I recently lent it to my 17-year-old brother whose been in a bit of a reading rut, and he’s zipped through it in a couple of weeks. Granted, he’s out of high-school now and looking for a job so he has some time on his hands, but if a teenage boy who is somewhat out of practice with regular reading can breeze through it, it is possible ūüôā Recommended to people who like war stories but think they don’t address the absurdity of war enough.

2. Kraken by China Miévillekraken-by-china-mieville-UK

This is another book that I read for ages – from ¬†mid-January again to mid-August, because every time I read a bit it was the literary equivalent of a hallucination and I needed a moment for it to sink in. Not only was it a wonderfully bizarre premise – when a giant, preserved squid inexplicably disappears from the Museum of Natural History the young scientist who preserved it in the first place is thrust into an alternative, hidden facet of London with countless cults, magic-working cops, and terrifying baddies with unfathomable abilities – but Mi√©ville has such a unique writing style with fantastical word combos and evocative metaphors (check out the¬†Notable Quotables from Kraken to see what I mean). This one may not be for everyone, but if like me you enjoy books that are a little different (or a lot different!) and a good brain-twister then give Kraken a go. You cannot resist the Kraken! ūüėõ

3. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaimananansi boys

This was the first Neil Gaiman title I read last year, in March, and as with every Gaiman book I’d read previously (Good Omens;¬†Coraline; Stardust¬†and¬†American Gods) it instantly became my favourite…until the next one ūüėõ The thing that stood¬†Anansi Boys¬†apart from the others I’d read was it was so funny in a witty, quirky sort of way that I’ve now come to associate with Gaiman, along with his themes of modern mythology, Gods masquerading as everyday people and family relationships. For people who have never read Gaiman, this would be an excellent starting point.

4. World War Z by Max Brooks

world-war-z-book-coverThis was the other book in my War & Pages challenge but that was not the only reason it was a highlight this year. It was, without question the smartest, most realistic, and most chilling zombie book I have ever read, and creepily true to what would likely happen if we were to face a zombie epidemic. On top of that it was a novel that crossed genres in an unexpected way. Yes, it was a zombie book so lumped in with horror and the like, but there were so many moments where it was more like a war-time drama and the zombies just replaced the traditional foes. Also because it was a series of personal accounts that wove together to get the big picture of each stage of the war, it was quite similar to an anthology, but a clever one where all the stories are connected. I would recommend this even to people who aren’t normally fans of the zombie genre, but if the undead interest you this is a must-read!

5. Neverwhere by Neil Gaimanneverwhere

As my comment above with Anansi Boys would suggest, Neverwhere instantly rose to the top of the Neil Gaiman pyramid in my eyes once I started it, and the next one will have to be pretty fantastic to take its place. This book had so many elements that have made Neil Gaiman break into my list of favourite authors in the last few years – humor, heart, glorious descriptions, an immersive world with so many unexpected and interesting details, and a true modern fairytale sort of storyline – but it also reminded me of one of my other top reads of the year, Kraken, in that it was about a hidden London. I would recommend Neverwhere to pretty much anyone with even the slightest interest in urban fantasy, and in fact I have already put my best friend Sarah onto it (she loved it too so huzzah!) and my brother, who read the graphic novel adaptation since I don’t own the book and will likely read the original when he can.

6. House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

house of many waysI have talked before about how much I enjoyed the first two books in the Howl/Castle series, and this third and final installment was no different, in fact this would have to be my favourite, which I never expected as Howl’s Moving Castle was so wonderful and the first in the series often outshines the rest. Every moment of this book was a delight, and it quickly became like an old friend that I was happy to see every day after work. While I’m sad that there are no more books in the series I am sure I will find other Diana Wynne Jones books just as magical and I also want to add the Howl/Castle series to my collection so I can revisit them over the years ūüôā I would definitely recommend this for older children, young adults and adults who need a bit of magic and laughter in their life.

7. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde

shadesofgreyThis fantastic book I read near the end of the year (over about a week in December, just after the start of my holidays) and in fact, I haven’t even talked about it on here yet, except for ¬†a couple of Notable Quotables.¬†Shades of Grey¬†is one of those books that has such a fascinating and odd world (one in which colours are a precious commodity and you are categorised by what area of the colour wheel you can see) that you are instantly drawn in by all the little mysteries and the sheer oddity of things which are perfectly commonplace to the characters. I became so caught up while reading it that it was pretty much all I could talk about, and when I wasn’t reading it (which wasn’t often) my mind was turning things over trying to puzzle them out. It was also one of those books that I wanted to just read, but I was enjoying it so much that I started to ration it so it wouldn’t be over so fast. Luckily, when I got to the end with a multitude of questions, old and new, still buzzing around my head, I saw that it was the first in a trilogy. Unluckily, despite it being published in 2010 the sequel isn’t expected until about 2015 as Jasper Fforde has been writing up a storm in multiple other series. So really that’s a bit of a lucky point too, because even though I have a bit of a wait, there is heaps of his work out there that I can turn to, plus he has a fabulous website with a page dedicated to Shades of Grey. I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a sort-of dystopian story which is clever and has a lot of humor.

8. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

the thief of always

Thief of Always was a bit of a backwards step for me, as I have read a fair amount of Barker before, but pretty much all of it was very adult and quite lengthy, while this is a short children’s book complete with illustrations on some pages. Sarah had recommended it to me for years as it was her first trip into the mind of Barker, so when I bought it at an op-shop I put it on my pile, and as fate would have it, it got picked in January of last year. At first it was odd to be reading a Barker book which didn’t instantly disturb me with his unique brand of creepy (mainly gore and violence mixed in with sexual depravity), but despite the PG rating I quickly discovered that this was just as creepy as his other works, just in a different way. This story got to the heart of childhood fear and once I started it was like I was transported back to that time, and imagining myself at the age of the characters if I were in their position. Plus, maybe because it’s a kids book the story was like a twisted fairy tale, which I always love and unlike many Barker novels, it got to have a happy ending. I would recommend this book to kids and young adults as a perfect entrance into the realm of Clive Barker.

9. The Amber Amulet by Craig Silvey

the-amber-amulet

It’s probably no surprise that a Craig Silvey book would be on my Top 10 as his two previous novels are at the top of my Top 10 Books of All Time¬†(which may have changed slightly since writing it, but not for the Craig Silvey books :P) but The Amber Amulet was very different. Firstly, it was originally a short story featured in 10 short stories you must read in 2010, a free anthology given out when you bought a book from Get Reading’s “50 Books You Can’t Put Down” campaign. Itthen got turned into a play toured by the Barking Gecko Theatre Company in 2012, then a short film airing at the Sydney Film Festival in 2012 where it won the¬†Crystal Bear for Best Short. It’s 4th incarnation was this lovely little book filled with drawings, clippings and diagrams to make a beautiful hybrid of children’s literature, short adult fiction and graphic novel which pulls at the heart-strings, makes you think and also makes you giggle. I have already passed this on to several people and I would highly recommend it as a starting point to Craig Silvey’s unique storytelling.

10. The Tiny Wife by Andrew Kaufmanthe-tiny-wife

I read this around the same time as The Amber Amulet (in fact since they’re so short I think I read them both one lazy afternoon) and it made as much of an impact on me, if not more. A fascinating modern fable, The Tiny Wife starts with a bank robbery in which the thief takes one item of sentimental value from each person present rather than a bundle of cash. Following the event all the people he stole from start to experience highly unusual changes to their lives, some positive, some negative and some in a weird place in-between, including a woman who slowly shrinks each day, hence the title. This book left me with an odd mix of emotions as it was partly uplifting, quite horrifying in parts and overall pretty ridiculous but in a surprisingly believable way. I would recommend this to people who loved fairy tales as a kid, but are looking for something a bit more gritty, plus lovers of short but memorable reads.

Well there you have it – the Top 10 Books I Read in 2013 (finally!). The comics/graphic novels list will be up as soon as possible followed by The 2013 Book Polygamist Awards! ūüėÄ

I’d love to know the best books you guys read last year too, so share away in the comments, especially if you’ve got a link to your own post, and until next time:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Reads of 2012!

1. The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus

I absolutely adored this book (which is clearly apparent in my review ) and even though it was one of my first reads of the year (read from mid-January to mid-February) I knew even a few chapters in (heck, maybe even a few pages in!) that It would be in my Top 10 reads of the year. Since I read The Night Circus I have recommended it to friends and family, and the three that followed my recommendation loved it as well. My mind boggles every time I remember that this is Erin Morgenstern’s debut novel and I look forward to more delights from her in the future. According to her website’s not really a FAQ page, she is working on a book which is a “film noir-flavoured Alice in Wonderland” (squee!!) and she is also painting a black-and-white tarot deck inspired by her work (double squee!!) so I’m sure many delights with be had in the near future, and in the meantime I’m glad I own¬†The Night Circus so I can read it again ūüôā

2. American Gods by Neil GaimanAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

Another book I knew would be on the list early on (I started it at the same time as The Night Circus) because even after a few chapters it blew me away. You can see a succinct summary of what I thought of¬†American Gods in my latest Micro Reviews post, but let me just say this – American Gods now one of my favourite books of all time as well as of 2012. Neil Gaiman is slowly becoming one of my favourite authors (I say slowly because I have only read a few of his books and I personally like to read all of an authors works before they are officially one of my favourites), and American Gods was a big part of this. Unlike The Night Circus I borrowed American Gods from the library, so this year I’ll have to find and purchase it so I can read it again and again!

3. The Raven’s Heart by Jesse Blackadderravens heart

Another debut novel (in fact 4 of the books on this list are debut/only books of their authors and all but one – American Gods – are books by authors I hadn’t read before!) and one by an Australian author too, this book was a gem and the only true Historical novel I read in 2012. As I said in my Micro Review post, it is set in Scotland during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, which I found really interesting as I had never read a book exploring that particular period. I will certainly keep a keen eye out for any other novels by Jesse Blackadder!

4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird

Reading this classic was a big moment for me this year as I have been meaning to read it for many, many years (unlike many schools mine sadly didn’t designate it as required reading). As I said in my Micro Review (wow a lot of these are on the same Micro Review! O_o) because of the language and subject matter it is sometimes hard to stomach, but nevertheless I am glad I did. Now I just need to tackle the other 9 classics on my list !!

5. Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbinsstill life with woodpecker

I have to say a big thank you to the person who gave this book to me and so introduced me to Tom Robbins – thank you Shayne if you happen to read this! ūüôā I am very glad that Still Life With Woodpecker is not a debut or single-child-novel because of all the “new” authors I have discovered this year, Tom Robbins is the one I most want to read again (ooo spoiler for the upcoming Book Polygamist Awards!). I haven’t yet written a review of this wonderfully quirky little book, because every time I try it’s so hard to fully capture and explain the bizarre story, hilarious characters and thought-provoking prose style. I promise I will get around to it at some point (and when I do it will definitely be a full-length one as a book this unique can’t be summed up in a Micro Review) and I hope to read more of Tom Robbins works this year.

6. Secrets of Eden by Chris Bohjaliansecrets-of-eden

This one was a surprise highlight of the year for me. The subject matter (domestic violence; murder/suicide) was quite heavy and the plot wasn’t particularly complicated, but it was the way it was arranged and written, and the distinctly different voices of the main protagonists/antagonists that made it memorable. Because the book was broken up into quarters narrated by four different main characters (the town priest who was close to¬†the abused/murdered wife; the detective¬†investigating the crime; a renowned author who had experienced¬† the ¬†murder/suicide of her parents when she was a teen and took an interest in the couple’s daughter and the priest; and the dead couple’s teenage daughter)¬†a simple and tragic event¬†morphed¬†into a complicated whodunnit, where I doubted the “facts” of the crime and changed my mind over what really happened at every turn.

7. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

hungergames To me 2012 will be the year that I finally read The Hunger Games trilogy, and Suzanne Collins claimed another fan girl for her growing horde! ūüėÄ I had an inkling that I would love this book/trilogy because as I’ve said before I have been meaning to read them for a while following some glowing recommendations from fellow book nerds, and I really enjoyed the film, but I didn’t suspect that I would love it as much as I did, especially considering the fact that I knew the progression of the plot beforehand! In fact I became so engrossed that when it came to key heart-breaking moments (which I won’t spoil here in case any of you are yet to read the book or see the movie) I actually became quite emotional, as if it was a surprise. Bravo Ms Collins, that is a fine feat ūüôā

8. Catching Fire by Suzanne CollinsCover - Catching Fire

As sometimes happens with a trilogy (at least a good one) I loved this second installment more than the first and devoured it over three days. This may be in part due to the plot being completely unknown to me, as the second film has not been released yet and I managed to avoid the spoiler landmines littered around the Interwebs, or purely because the world and plot were more expanded in this book, and the final setting was amazing! Either way, despite the first and last books being equally amazing, I think this was my favourite of the trilogy, and I am positively bursting to see how they managed to convert it into a film ūüėÄ

9. Mockingjay by Suzanne CollinsMOCKINGJAY-jacket

As I said above, this final installment was just as brilliant as its predecessors, and a fitting end as it was extremely intense and wrapped up all the loose ends that had developed over the series (whether they were wrapped up positively or negatively I won’t say :P). Of the three this one took the longest to read (in saying that it still was only a little over a week), mainly because of the intensity of most of the scenes, and I will be very interested in seeing how it is adapted for the screen, and more importantly what rating they’ll be able to give it!

10. The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groffmonstersoftempleton

This was a last-minute gem as I only started it at the end of the year (November) and finished it a couple of days into January, even though it has been on and off my library To-Read pile for a really long time. Barely a page in I already knew I was going to love it because even the first line was alluring:¬†“The day I returned to Templeton steeped in disgrace, the fifty-foot corpse of a monster surfaced in Lake Glimmerglass.” What followed was a beautifully written and ambitious novel (especially for a debut!) which gave me countless delicious lines, some of which I made into Notable Quotables, and a story which was an interesting blend of contemporary and historical novels, including old photographs, a map (you know I love maps!) and other tidbits to deepen the historical parts of the story.

So, there you have it: my Top 10 Reads of 2012! If you have read my recent update post you will know that these books will play a very important role in the 2nd Anniversary of Book Polygamist celebrations – one of my fantabulous Bookbaggers (that would be you guys!) will win the book off this list of their choice!! The competition will officially begin on the date of the anniversary (March 5th) so you have a couple of weeks to think about which book you would want the most, and why and I’m really excited to see all your choices ūüôā In the meantime I would love to know what your top reads for 2012 were – did we have any in common? Did you have a fantastic batch this year or a sort of crummy one? And what books are you looking forward to as 2013 trundles on? Feel free to sound of in the comments, and as always I wish you all:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Villains

Wow its been a while between Top 10 posts huh?

My humble apologies oh beloved Bookbaggers of mine! This was meant to be a companion piece to the Top 10 Heroes post, but at the time I got so distracted that it remained forgotten in my drafts – until now! And how fitting is it for a list of villains to rise again after lulling everyone into a false sense of security where they were content to live with the assumption that those dastardly devils had vanished for good?

Well I’m sticking with that convenient theory anyway.

1. Goth

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

I couldn’t have Torkyn Gynt on my Top 10 Heroes list without having his polar opposite in the villains category. Despite the fact that Goth is not the official grand-supreme-bad-guy which usually features in fantasy sagas (that title goes to Orlac, a God who Tor is destined to defeat should he escape imprisonment and wreak havoc on all mankind) he stands out as the most despicable and disgusting character in the trilogy. From the start of the first book, Betrayal, Goth establishes himself as a hate-able character as the Chief Inquisitor, a powerful individual elected by the king to inflict his brand of¬† cruel ‘justice’ on suspected Sentients (people with heightened mental powers like telepathy). He then further earned his villain stripes by brutally raping one of the main characters (also in the first book) and from then on kept topping himself with even more dastardly, deplorable deeds. A character that made me cheer when he finally got what was coming to him!

Goth looking mighty evil atop a pissed off horse

2.  Inspector Fumero

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Inspector Fumero is one of those villains who is so awful because he isn’t some crazy caricature of a baddie, he’s an example of someone who could very well exist – a corrupt, sadistic cop. Some of the most unsettling and painful moments in this beautiful book were the responsibility of Fumero and I very quickly started to hate him. But sometimes doesn’t that make a book more interesting? Books would be pretty boring without someone truly rotten to hate, and Fumero certainly met The Shadow of the Wind‘s rotten bastard quota.

I couldn’t find anything to represent Inspector Fumero so here’s a cover of The Shadow of the Wind that I don’t think I’ve posted before

3. Gorgrael

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Gorgrael is the perfect fantasy saga grand-supreme-bad-guy. Firstly he is the hero’s half-brother. Secondly he is also called the Destroyer, a powerful evil that Axis (the hero) is destined to defeat. This alone would make him a classic villain but since the first book of the trilogy (Battleaxe AKA The Wayfarer Redemption) starts with him being born by eating his way out of his mother’s womb, he goes straight to the upper tiers of evilness. Also he’s all horned and demon-looking which always helps when identifying a villain.

Since I couldn’t find a picture of Gorgrael, here’s another one of his nemesis Axis rocking yellow

4. Voldemort

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

Just like HP had to be on the Top 10 Heroes list so does his arch nemesis – and for very similar reasons. While Harry is a hero because at a tender age he faces the big bad over and over and over, Voldemort deserves the title of Big Bad because he just keeps coming back! Not only did he kill countless powerful witches and wizards and terrorise the entire magical world before Harry was even born, but when he meets his match he drags himself virtually back from the dead to kill an terrorise all over again! This is a man so evil that from his teen years he splits his soul into pieces to ensure that he’ll never truly die; lives off unicorn blood to stay somewhat alive; inhabits the back of another guys head and gets him to do his bidding; gets another minion to kidnap a couple of teenage boys so that he can reclaim his old form; forces another teen boy to kill his headmaster; and otherwise tries to bloody murder the crap out of as many people as possible. And he’s damn creepy to boot.

Ralph Fiennes is way too good at being creepy

5. The White Witch

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis

The terrifying White Witch that terrorised the inhabitants of Narnia and plunged the realm into perpetual winter is one of the first villains that really gave me the creeps. Ever since I was a kid I always kind of pitied and rooted for the baddies in Disney films (I loved Ursula, Maleficent, and the Queen in Snow White), but there was something instantly hate-able about the White Witch. I remember reading the book and listening to the audio tape at my friend’s house, and shivering inside a little every time she popped up. Maybe it was how she used Edmund against the other children by innocently offering him Turkish Delight and cocoa (similar to the witch in Hansel and Gretel), or how she could turn people into statues that she grotesquely displayed, or just that she was so cold and heartless, she just seemed so evil and I couldn’t find a shred of pity. And it certainly didn’t help when I saw the film adaptation – Tilda Swinton played her way too well O.o

Tilda Swinton portrayed the perfect cold-hearted White Witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

6. The Queen of Hearts

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

My love of Alice related things has already been well established, so there is no way that this list could exist without a nod to the furious Queen with an obsession for beheading! I think turning a simple Queen of Hearts in a deck of cards into an insane tyrant is a fantastic idea (kudos Mr Carroll/Dodgson) and thanks to the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, the outrageous monarch has been re-imagined in many terrifying forms. My favourites include Kathy Bates’ quietly seething majesty in the mini-series, Alice (2009) ; the fat, pompous, bad-tempered old¬† tyrant in the Disney film; the sinister Redd Heart from The Looking-Glass Wars series by Frank Beddor; and, even though I was slightly disappointed with Tim Burton’s 2010 movie, Helena Bonham Carter’s big-headed Queen was a hoot!

There are so many incarnations of the Queen of Hearts/Red Queen that I just couldn’t decide and went with somethin a bit different – Redd Heart from The Looking Glass Wars – truly terrifying!

7. Bill Sikes

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

When I said that the White Witch was probably the first villain that creeped me out as a kid, Bill Sikes would be the other contender. I’m not sure which one I encountered first, but as a child (heck, even now) if I was in a dark alley faced with the White Witch at one end and Sikes at the other, I very well might pick the Witch (maybe she’d make me one of her minions?). The scary thing about Sikes is that he’s so real. Unlike most of the characters on this list, in the time that Oliver Twist was written there was plenty of men (and women) like him – and there’s plenty today. Bill Sikes used young orphans and street urchins as portable burglary tools, and unlike their master, Fagin, he didn’t care a jot what happened to them. The clincher for me was when Sikes killed his lady, Nancy, the kind-hearted prostitute/bar-maid who is the only soul who truly loves him – especially because she was my favourite character ūüė•

Oliver Reed as Sikes in the 1968 adaptation, Oliver! That stare just… *shudder*

8. blueeyedboy/Gloria Green

blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

This one is tricky because I can’t really explain why I listed both without completely giving away the ending of the book O.O I almost didn’t include them because of this, but the book left such a huge impression on me because of the “villains” that I couldn’t leave them out. What I can say is that throughout blueeyedboy your mind is in a constant state of confusion over what is “real” (as in real within the story) and fiction, and who is the real villain of the piece. I can’t say any more but I would urge anyone who is intrigued by this to go read it – It’s a great book!

You wouldn’t think this little boy would be on a list of villains O.O

9. Big Brother

Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

Big Brother is a unique villain because he is so prominent in the book, without actually being physically present – in fact Big Brother may not even be a real person, but instead the face of the controlling Party. Nineteen Eighty Four and Big Brother has spawned so much pop culture since its publication, that were it not for George Orwell, the world today would be a very different place. On the one hand this would be good – I don’t think Orwell would be happy with the deluge of reality TV, especially not the insipid show named after Big Brother, and the ways our society is constantly monitored by CCTV, phone and online bugging and other technologies probably would chill him to the bone. On the other hand, his book has helped create a similar flood of post-apocalyptic and dystopic fiction which makes people question our current ways, which may have given Orwell some hope. Anyway, the whole concept of Big Brother is damn creepy…

10. Count Olaf

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

Ah Count Olaf. He is probably the most ridiculous villain in this list, but nevertheless he is quite the crafty fiend! Through 13 books Olaf concocts a multitude of intricate and bizarre plans, complete with increasingly clever disguises, so he can get to the Baudelaire fortune (with most of the plans revolving around killing the Baudelaire children, aged between infancy and 14). While I of course despised Count Olaf and sympathised with the Baudelaire children, I did enjoy Olaf’s ridiculous antics and the series would’ve been much less fun if he wasn’t so villainous ūüôā Despite the film adaptation being a bit lacking (I would’ve liked to see each book explored more and squishing the first three into a film and ignoring the other 10 just didn’t satisfy) I thought Jim Carrey was spot on!

The adoptive parent from hell

Well, I hope the really, really, ridiculously long wait was worth it! I do plan on doing more Top 10 lists because I have plenty more ideas, but I think in 2013 I won’t attempt to do a pair each month as it just doesn’t happen. Fear not! They are not gone for good, and I will try and post at least one half of a pair (or a stand alone) more often, and perhaps after a while I will be able to do them at the end/beginning of each month once again ūüôā

Until then, feel free to share your own favourite baddies in the comments, and as always:

Happy Reading!

Top 10 Heroes

1. Axis Rivkahson SunSoar

The Axis Trilogy by Sara Douglass

Axis is the epitome of a fantasy hero – strong, brave, willing to do anything to protect his loved ones and his country/land,¬†surprised¬†and humble about his heroics and of course very handsome with a mane of golden hair, strong features and a muscular form. He was the first hero I thought of when compiling this list because he was the first hero I read about that really made me go “wow, what can’t this guy do?”. Before reading the Axis trilogy (also called the Wayfarer trilogy) I had only encountered the “unlikely hero” (as seen farther down this list) and this was the first really meaty, adult fantasy series I read where the hero knew he had to step up and¬†fulfil¬†his duties. While there were moments in the series where Axis didn’t want to be the saviour of all the land (fair enough)¬†ultimately¬†he stepped up to the plate and lived his destiny. After all he was the subject of a prophecy – why fight it? ūüėõ

Axis on the cover of Enchanter, the second book in the series (he’s the non-female one in the back rocking yellow :))

2. Torkyn Gynt

The Trinity Trilogy by Fiona McIntosh

Tor is another classic handsome/brave/strong hero but unlike Axis he must hide the main thing that makes him heroic – his Sentient powers (telepathic and related powers of the mind) – because they are forbidden. Because of this he has a level of caution and humility about him paired with the ego of a man with vast abilities. He embraces his destiny (as The One – an individual destined to defeat the mighty Orlac, a powerful sentient who is close to breaking free of his imprisonment) quite readily and goes to some pretty extreme measures (such as being stoned to death and nearly dying another half-dozen or so times) to fulfil it as well as to save and/or protect his one true love Alyssa. He also manages to attract a bevy of gorgeous ladies (when he is not with Alyssa of course); use his wit and cunning to get out of some sticky situations and come up with some great one-liners.

Tor cutting a fine heroic silhouette on the cover of Betrayal, first book of the trilogy

3. Lyra Belacqua AKA Lyra Silvertongue AND Will Parry

His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman

I couldn’t choose between these two pre-pubescent¬†heroes as they are equally heroic in the last two books of His Dark Materials (The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) so I thought I’d cheat and choose both ūüėõ Through several dimensions Lyra and Will face endless perils from¬†soul-eating Specters to Harpies in the Underworld, to deadly Angels as well as several full-grown adults trying to kill them and take what the possess. In the process Lyra almost has her daemon (an animal companion that every person in her dimension has and are deeply connected to) taken from her; Will looses two fingers and is forced to kill a man; and they both must die to enter the Underworld. Pretty heavy stuff for a couple of 12-year-olds but throughout it all they are brave and¬†determined¬†to do what is right – go Lyra and Will!

Lyra and Will on an old cover of The Subtle Knife

4. Bilbo Baggins

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

Bilbo had to be included in this list as he is the ultimate reluctant hero. He doesn’t want to travel with a bunch of dwarves to face a dragon miles from his home just because a wizard tricked him into it. He’d much prefer to stay in his cozy hobbit ¬†hole, enjoying plentiful teas throughout the day. But despite his reluctance he still goes and survives giant spiders, a creepy cave-dwelling riddle master and a dragon to get the job done, and return triumphant. I can’t wait to see the upcoming movie ūüôā

Martin Freeman as Bilbo in the upcoming movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

5. Harry Potter

The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling

I know HP related stuff pops up a lot in these Top

Continue reading

Bookbaggers Top 10 vote number 3

Welcome to the final vote for Top 10 themes! ūüôā

As I said in my last post¬†this does not mean the demise of Top 10s – I know you guys like ’em because they are the most viewed posts the majority of the time and I enjoy doing them so they definitely¬†won’t be stopping yet! However, this will be the last poll I’m going to do for Top 10 themes and the posts will go back to being chosen by me and will spring up out of nowhere (well, actually at the beginning of every month so not really out of nowhere) to delight you with their increasingly imaginative themes (until I run out of ideas and start recycling ones :P)

This one is pretty easy because there is only two choices left so hopefully there will be a clear winner which I will post at the beginning of February, and then the loser (aw :() will be posted at the end of March and surprise Top 10 themes will resume in April.

As with the other polls I will be closing this one a few days before the end of the month so I can start working on the winner.

May the last vote commence! ūüėÄ

Top 10 Classics I Want to Read

As I said in my last Top 10 post¬†I haven’t read many Classics, and that is something I want to rectify. Therefore this list compiles the Top 10 Classics I want to read at some point (hopefully soon!).

Feel free to recommend any others in the comments or further rave about/express disbelief that I haven’t read¬†the 10 I’ve listed ūüôā

1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This Classic is one that gets the biggest gasps when I state that I have yet to read it and fair enough, it is on many people’s list of favourite books and regarded as one of the most loved books in print. I’m not certain why I have never gotten around to reading To Kill a Mockingbird, as I have known about it and had an interest for many, many years, but it was when I was researching for a presentation on Perth author Craig Silvey¬†that my interest perked up again. In my research I found that Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones (which is one of my Top 10¬†Books of All Time)¬†has been compared to To Kill a Mockingbird many times and that intrigued me. Luckily I received the book for my birthday¬†and since Free Pick February is in effect, perhaps I shall read it very soon ūüôā

2. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

This is another unique war novel recommended by my mum, and another one that gets surprised gasps. Like many people I have used the phrase “Its a Catch 22” many times before when referring to a situation that has¬†a series of conflicting and intertwined options that seemingly¬†leaves no positive outcome, but I’ve always felt like a bit of a phony using it without reading the book that introduced the phrase to popular culture. Just like To Kill a Mockingbird I recently purchased a copy of this book so hopefully I will be able to read it soon and have a fuller understanding of the term when I am next in a situation that’s a Catch 22 ūüėõ

3. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger

This Classic is one that I may have encountered at school if my path had been a bit different, and at that age it may have had a bit more impact as it explores themes of youthful rebellion, angst and confusion. However, I didn’t read it then which can’t be helped now, and so all I can do is read it in adulthood and reminisce about that strange time that is adolescence (many people would think of me as an adolescent still as I’m only 25, but my 25-year-old self seems a world away from my 13-18-year-old self!). Unlike my first two choices, I have not purchased The Catcher in the Rye yet but I am sure I will have no problem finding it at a bookstore (online or the old-fashioned physical-building-filled-with-books type that seems to be near extinction) or at the many libraries I’m a member of, as since it was first released in 1951 it has been published many times.

4. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bront√ę

Yes, yes, I’m sure readers especially of the Bookish female variety are probably scandalised by the fact that I have never read this classic love story, and in fact (hold onto your bonnets) I have never read a single book by any¬†Bront√ꬆsister! This is not some kind of Bront√ꬆsister hate on my part, just laziness and distraction and once I have finally read about Catherine and Heathcliff I hope to become more acquainted with the talented sister’s works.

5. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy is like the Holy Grail¬†to Literary types (in my opinion) as his works are not the easiest (or shortest!) books one could read but the reward is worth the¬†journey. I have heard so many good things about Anna Karenina and I have wanted to read it since I was about 14, but I knew that I would need to develop my reading muscles for a while so I could fully enjoy it, so I stayed away. At 25 I think I have read enough confusing/complex/convoluted/vexing novels (or ones that were a trial in some other way) that I am prepared to tackle whatever this 864 page Russian Epic can throw at me ūüôā

6. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

If Tolstoy is the Literary Holy Grail, then War and Peace¬†is a Holy Grail perched atop Mt Everest. I don’t know many people who have been able to read the entirety of this 1444 page behemoth, which Tolstoy himself considered more than simply a novel, quoted once as saying it was “not a novel, even less is it a poem, and still less an historical chronicle.” I consider War and Peace my Everest and if I can read it before I die I will regret less all the many books I never got to experience.

7.  Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Unlike the preceeding books on the list, I had never heard of Atlas Shrugged until a few years ago when I saw it popping up in a few of the lists of award-winning and otherwise highly regarded literature which were sprinkled through my first Book Lover’s Journal. I didn’t give it much more than a passing thought until I stumbled across an old documentary/interview with Ayn Rand while channel surfing some lazy Sunday. Her personal story and general demeanour and intelligence was fascinating and as soon as she started speaking about her writing process for Atlas Shrugged, I knew I wanted to read it one day.

8. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde 

I have to admit while I have been interested in Oscar Wilde since I was a teenager and have read bits and pieces of his work (mainly poetry and children’s stories) I didn’t have a desire to read The Picture of Dorian Gray until I saw the recently¬†made film, Dorian Gray¬†last year. Even if it wasn’t the best movie, the story of a young, beautiful man’s descent into hedonism and darkness with the aid of an ominous painting of his likeness, instantly drew me in. If I enjoyed a so-so movie adaptation so much I can just imagine how much I’ll love the original work!

9. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

This choice is one of childhood nostalgia. Who hasn’t seen a cartoon as a child that played on the idea of Dr Jekyll and his experimental elixir that turned him into the monstrous Mr Hyde? I can think of at least a dozen times I saw a play on the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde idea in popular cartoons, from Looney¬†Toons¬†skits to the literary/adventure/fantasy film that I adored as a child, The Pagemaster¬†(does any Bookbaggers who grew up in the 90’s remember that movie as fondly as I do? :)). And yet, even with the story so ingrained in pop culture I realised recently that I never read the original story by Robert Louis Stevenson! I shall have to rectify this on behalf of 10-year-old me don’t you think?

10. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is another book so ingrained in my popular culture memories and also one that has influenced so many of my beloved books, movies¬†and TV shows (I was a Vampire fan long before they sparkled – ie. Buffy The Vampire Slayer¬†and The Last Vampire series by Christopher Pike) that it seemed ridiculous that I¬†have never read it. I actually bought a copy way back when I was 15 via a school book club brochure (for 2 dollars!!) and yet for some reason I didn’t read it at the time and it has stayed unread on my shelf ever since (a fact that my little brother finds very baffling). This year I hope to finally dig out the now old and dusty, yet untouched paperback and read the story that started the Vampire craze.

So there you go, my somewhat embarrassing list of Classics I’ve never read but would like to. As this year is the National Year of Reading¬†I have made an unofficial pact with myself to read at least a couple of the books on this list, so if I keep my word you may hear my thoughts on a couple of them once I have finally achieved my goal ūüôā

After this post goes out I will also be posting the last poll for Top 10 Themes. This doesn’t mean that the Top 10 posts will cease (I still have many ideas in the works) It just means that they will revert back to what they once were – themes chosen by me and a surprise for you the reader every month ūüôā

Happy Reading! ūüėÄ