The 2021 Reading List: November

Since one of my writing goals was to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

Back in 2020 I decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. I started putting an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand and limited the stack to five books, which seemed doable for the month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games jump the queue, but I typically tried to get through the pile in the order I stacked them. I also used this strategy to try and diversify my reading. The goal was for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally.

Creating the piles is getting a little trickier, as I’m having a bit of trouble filling all of my criteria from stack to stack off my own shelves, and I’m never sure when a library book will arrive to interrupt my reading. Despite all of the library reading I’ve been doing I still plan on trying to read through the books on my own shelves as much as possible.

Black Widow Vol. 1 The Ties That Bind by Kelly Thompson, Elena Casagrande, Rafael De Latorre, Jordie Bellaire: A fantastic addition to Black Widow’s history. It feels like this arc is in conversation with the Mark Waid/Chris Samnee run on the character, but it’s been a while since I’ve read those issues. Definitely want to read more by this creative team.

Without a Brew by Ellie Alexander: The latest Sloane Krause beer-flavoured cozy mystery. I’m still really enjoying this series. Pity now that I’m all caught up I have to wait a year for the next volume! Might start Alexander’s bake shop cozy series in the meantime.

Gear and Sea by Clare C. Marshall: A YA novel set in the Silent Guardians universe of graphic novels from Justin Currie and GMB Chomichuk. Lots of fun worldbuilding and great characterization. I don’t read a ton of YA, but I enjoyed this one.

Digging up the Remains by Julia Henry: This one didn’t quite grab me, I’m afraid. Didn’t finish it.

Black God’s Kiss by C.L. Moore: An early sword & sorcery and weird fiction pioneer who I have somehow managed not to read until now. Moore’s Jirel of Joiry is recognized as the first female protagonist in the genre. I really enjoyed the first story, “Black God’s Kiss.” I thought it held up quite well. The following stories had diminishing returns for me, but I enjoyed Moore’s prose almost as much as Robert E. Howard’s, and more than Lovecraft’s. Ultimately, I set it aside, but I think I’ll eventually return to finish the final three stories in the collection.

On Spec #114 Vol 30 no 4: Standout stories for me were “Pastrami on Rye” by Sara C. Walker, “Treasure Hunting a Husband” by Erik Bundy, and “The Melting Man” by Gordon Linzner. A couple stories I chose not to finish as they didn’t grab me, but all in all a pretty solid issue.

I also reread about 50 issues of the ’90s run on New Warriors by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Bagley, and Darick Robertson as well as a bunch of the Matt Fraction/David Aja (along with some other fantastic artists) run on Hawkeye, and really enjoyed revisiting both.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Here’s what I read in May.

Here’s what I read in June.

Here’s what I read in July.

Here’s what I read in August.

Here’s what I read in September.

Here’s what I read in October.

Also, check out the roundup of my 2020 reading here.

The 2020 Reading List: May

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

May:

Tiny Gunslingers by Gallant Knight Games: A minimalist western game. I’ve loved all the Tiny D6 games I’ve picked up so far, even if I haven’t played them as much as I’d like. I have a plan for this one though (Sigh. I have a plan for all of them). I especially like the shootout mechanic which uses playing cards and Blackjack rules to resolve, which feels like the iaijutsu duel mechanic from early editions of Legend of the Five Rings.

Beak, Feather, & Bone by Tyler Crumrine, Austin Breed, and Jonathan Yee: This is another Kickstarter game, a ‘zine-length competitive map labeling RPG and worldbuilding tool. I’ll probably be using it more for the later than the former, but it looks great, the rules read well, and it should be a fun way to spend an evening regardless of motive for playing. Also, loved the ravenfolk art by Austin Breed.

The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: I started this one back in March and was loving it up until about a quarter of the way through, and then the everything happened with the real world and wouldn’t let up. I set it down meaning to get back to it, and it took me a while to regain my focus–my issue, no fault with Jemisin’s writing, which was superb–but once I did pick it up again, it was a race to the finish. What a goddamned great book. I’ve never been to New York but The City We Became felt both true to the New York that I’ve seen dramatized and at the same time so much deeper. I hope I get to see the real place some day.

War of the Realms by Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson: I loved most of Jason Aaron’s run on Marvel’s Thor comics, but this book wasn’t to my taste. Dauterman’s art is as gorgeous as it ever was. Maybe if I’d read more of the ancillary issues tie-in issues my opinion might’ve changed, but I’m never a fan of Marvel’s big crossover events, and a book needs to stand on its own.

Forbidden Lands Player’s Guide by Free League: This was a reread. I’d missed a bunch of game sessions in a friend’s ongoing campaign, and now that I’ve been back a bit more regularly, I decided to refresh myself on the rules. Found a bunch of stuff I’d forgotten. Still love this game. A great, but deadly, hex-crawler with swift and deadly combat.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

Here’s what I read in March.

Here’s what I read in April.

Pacific Rim: A (Mostly) Spoiler-Free Gushfest

This was the movie I was born to see.

Giant Robots versus Giant Monsters.

This was the movie I never thought I’d get to see.

To give a little background, I used to haunt the matinee showings of Godzilla movies my hometown theatre put on sometimes on Saturday afternoons. If I’m pressed to name a favourite science fiction movie, I say Gojira. One of the first comics I ever picked up was Shogun Warriors #15. (Still have it)

I don’t know where to even begin to dissect this movie. All I’ve been left thinking is: awesome.

Normally, I don’t bother with 3D if I have the option, but the 3D conversion didn’t feel tacked on in Pacific Rim, and didn’t play it for cheap gags or tricks. I didn’t have a headache by the time the movie was over either, which I often do after a 3D summer blockbuster.

The music was perfect. Each of the Jaegers had their own theme music, appropriate to their nationalities. And the Jaegers! Those three hundred feet tall robots always seemed to have weight. Such a hard trick to pull off with CGI. Gipsy Danger is a brilliant looking lead robot. But you could also believe that the Jaegers were developed by different countries, and at different times in war against the Kaiju. And while I am dubious of the physics that would allow a tanker ship to be used as a baseball bat (more than once!), quite simply, I didn’t care.

Two of the major rules of Jaeger piloting seem to be: 1. Don’t touch Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) and 2. Don’t touch Stacker Pentecost. Idris Elba absolutely killed it in Pacific Rim (he always does). But all of the cast were great. Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, and of course, Ron Perlman.

The story (and yes, there was one) was smarter than you’d expect, while never forgetting what it was supposed to be: a huge spectacle. Tonally, despite the end of the world being at stake, the movie seemed overly grim or dour.

My only complaint (and it’s barely that) would be that I wanted more. More Jaegers. More Kaiju. More Jaeger versus Kaiju fights. More Ron Perlman. I understand why I couldn’t get these things. Budgets. Pacing. Blah, blah, blah. I get it. I’m sure Guillermo Del Toro has notebooks full of more monsters and robots. Maybe we’ll get to see them some day. So, I guess my only complaint is not really a complaint, just me being greedy.

Now if only the box office for Pacific Rim will justify more movies like it. Should Marvel’s space opera weirdo fest Guardians of the Galaxy work, I might, dare I dream, get a Red Ronin versus Fin Fang Foom movie?

Dare to dream. Dare to dream.

In the meantime, I’m off to go buy another ticket so I can see Pacific Rim again. You should to. Right. Now.