Apple-Obsessed Author Fella

Stuff Wot I Liked In 2013



As my writing career has deepened, my reading habits have changed. I finish far fewer books these days. That’s not down to the quality of the books, necessarily, but in part due to an increasing persnicketiness when it comes to what books I like and what books I don’t. A story gets very little room to breathe in my world — I generally like to give a book till page 50, but realistically, if I’m not into the book by page 10, I put it down and find another.

This might seem like I’m overly impatient. And maybe I am, and it’s entirely possible I’m missing out on great books this way — but with a toddler running around and way too many books of my own to write, I don’t have that kind of time to grant to a novel that just isn’t burying its claws in me. Some books click. Some don’t. I’ve got a teetering tbr pile threatening to crush me daily.

(This is why I don’t buy the bullshit meme that writers are beholden to review other books negatively. If you do — more power to you, but it’s not an obligation. If you can’t trust my positive reviews because I also don’t contribute negative ones into the world, that’s your problem, not mine. My job is to write books, not criticize somebody else’s. Realistically, my negative reviews would be full of shit anyway. My tastes, as noted, are increasingly finicky. And if I don’t like a book? I don’t finish it. What kind of a review is that? It’s no kinda review, is what it is.)

Point is, if I make it through a book, then for me it was a damn good one.

Below are the books that I finished this year, which is to say, the damn good ones.

Twelve-Fingered Boy, by John Hornor Jacobs

A very serious candidate for favorite book of the year. I fucking devoured this YA sorta-kinda-coming-of-age novel about a pair of psychic boys in an Arkansas correctional institution. It’s dark and twisted and funny and violent and the writing is downright powerful and the characters are grip-your-throat compelling. It’s a little bit horror novel, it’s a little bit X-Men, it’s a whole lotta Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn. I’ve liked JHJ’s earlier novels quite a bit, but this one really buried its hooks in me. Bonus: already read the second in the series, The Shibboleth, which takes the small seed of mythology in the first book and grows a whole goddamn tree out of it, turning up the volume on the X-Men / Chronicle vibe. Go find the first book now, now, now.

The Shining Girls, by Lauren Beukes

The second very serious candidate for favorite book of the year. I think Zoo City is an amazing achievement and deserves its very own pedestal — but Beukes really ratcheted things up with The Shining Girls. (How to sell it in brief: “A survivor of a time-traveling serial killer’s attack attempts to understand what happened to her and soon finds herself hunting the hunter.”Rich and layered, creepy and poetic. Full of complex and compelling characters — many (most) of them “shining” women who the serial kill wants to rob of their spark. Contains one of the most brutal, cringe-worthy scenes I’ve ever read. (Like, in a good way. I still get the shivers thinking about it. LAUREN BEUKES IS ONE OF OUR MOST BAD-ASS DANGEROUS WRITERS. Read her.)

NOS4A2, by Joe Hill

It’s a book big enough to bludgeon a bull elk, and that’s a damn good thing because it’s one of those books you never want to end (and also, you might get attacked by a bull elk and trust me when I say, those guys are assholes). I’m guilty as a writer of encouraging folks to get to the story, to step on the accelerator and move this motherfucker along — and certainly Hill knows how to do that, because with a book like Heart-Shaped Box he took what I woulda thought would’ve been the whole novel and collapsed that part into the first 30 pages, which gave that particular book a surprising amount or urgency and surprise. But NOS4A2, which offers up a young girl’s lifelong battle against a vampiric wretch bound to a candy-cane hellscape known as Christmasland, is an epic horror story that takes a lot of time to grow compelling characters before plunging you into the dark and icy waters. (In fact, it is the protagonist’s struggle against herself that is as fascinating as her battle against the monster, Charlie Manx. Powerful writing, inescapable horror, grave dread punctuated by the small-town life made famous by the novels of Hill’s own father. (In fact, this book has some loose tie-ins to the Dark Tower mythology, if that tweaks your nipples.) Great, great book. One of those books where I wish I was a time-traveling serial killer, actually, so I could go back in time, murder Joe Hill, and claim this book as my own.

The Waking Dark, by Robin Wasserman

“Hey, what would it be like if Stephen King wrote YA novels?”

*drops The Waking Dark in your lap*

I’ll say no more except: holy shit read this book.

Vicious, by V. E. Schwab

Here’s generally how it works if you ask me to blurb a book: I will take the book and make it very clear, “I probably don’t have time to read this,” which is true, but also a way for me to insulate you against the reality that I may not dig the book, or I might just forget because I have a brain like a hamster-nibbled cracker. The books I inevitably do blurb often get blurbed because of one reason: because I pick it up on a lark and idly read the first couple pages.

Or, that’s what I think will happen

What really happens is suddenly I look up from the book and I’ve wolfed down like, 50-100 pages.

And I blink and go, “Whoa-dang,” and then I devour the rest like pie at Thanksgiving.

Books like that get blurbed because I fall into them. Because any and all of my critical response levels are shut-down and dazzled by the powerful prestidigitation and misdirection of a damn good story. And that’s this book. A supervillain book as much as it is a superhero book. A book about bad people and nemeses and redemption. Crackling writing and pinpoint plotting. Needs its own comic book, TV show, breakfast cereal. Doubly upsetting is that Schwab isn’t even 30 years old yet GODDAMN IT who let her in the club was it you?

The Thicket, by Joe Lansdale

I’ll read anything Joe Lansdale writes.

You could say, “He wrote this Chinese takeout menu,” and I’ll stop whatever I’m doing and read every line of that menu penned by Champion Joe. The Thicket is one of his best and he’s in nearly perfect form here. I don’t like giving out the plot details but this is pretty grim and hilarious turn-of-the-century take on the “coming-of-age” story. Read this. And then if you haven’t read any other Lansdale, read all of it with an aim to savor but a plan to gorge.

Abaddon’s Gate, by James S.A. Corey

Abstractly, I care nothing for space opera. But I read the first book in the Expanse series (Leviathan Wakes) on a trip and found myself swiftly addicted to the story. The second book, Caliban’s War, was even better. This is the third book and it continues the horror-tinged space opera epic with all its magnificence intact. It’s a little slower to build than the second book, but once it kicks into gear — sweet motherless goatfucker, it gets cray-cray.

In other news, James S.A. Corey is like, fifteen people or something. Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck I know for sure. But I also think there’s like, some kind of alien hive-mind at work here, and maybe a talking llama, and definitely a supercomputer housed in an ancient glacier.

Apocalypse Now Now, by Charlie Human

I can’t explain this book using words. I can only use my mouth to mumble and mutter while my eyes grow larger and larger. I blurbed this and, quite seriously, that was basically my blurb: “NO IDEA WHAT THE FUCK TO SAY.” It’s like, if you took Zoo City and made Neil Gaiman rewrite it but first you made him read Naked Lunch and eat a lot of hallucinogenic drugs? Cape Town supernatural weirdness. There. That’s all I got. I don’t think this has a US deal yet?

Annihilation, by Jeff Vandermeer

This isn’t out yet but it lands on shelves in in January, so, fuck it, it counts. If you let David Lynch write Lost, or you made H.P. Lovecraft and Michael Crichton have a book-baby, this is what would result. A cold and poetic story of a woman’s descent into a mysterious zone called Area X where other teams have gone before and (often) not returned. It’s like, weird biology and archaeology and psychology and it’s another book where I’m pretty sure I ate like, a fistful of psilocybin before reading it. I read it fast and it blew me away. It’s part of a trilogy, too, which weirds me out even more because — what? What the hell happens now? *grabs at the air*

Yay Other Awesome Books But I’m Going On Too Long Already: Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone; City’s Son and its follow-up, Glass Republic, by Tom Pollock; Dreams & Shadows, by C. Robert Cargill; Parasite, by Mira Grant; The Testing, by Joelle Charbonneau; Shambling Guide to NYC, by Mur Lafferty; The Age Atomic, by Adam Christopher; certainly a bunch of other books that I read and adored but am forgetting because dumb.


Leaving Megalopolis, by Gail Simone and Jim Calafiore

Listen, I kinda didn’t pay much attention when I backed this on Kickstarter. I was like, “HEY YAY GAIL SIMONE” and then I flung some money at the screen. I was probably drunk. It doesn’t matter. What I got — just the other day, actually — was a graphic novel that scared the genitals off my body. Imagine an apocalyptic horror novel where the superheroes are the fucking monsters and holy crap what. I tweeted the other day: “Sweet gore-soaked fuckmittens, LEAVING MEGALOPOLIS is batshit whoa-dang scarymazing.” Beautiful. Bloody. Soul-wounding. And bad-ass every step of the way.

Lazarus, by Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Only a few issues deep yet, but so far so awesome. The future-flung world is controlled by a handful of superpowerful families, and the lead in this one is a woman of one such family who has been engineered into… well, I don’t know exactly what but let’s go with “the human equivalent of a Terminator.” So good.

Saga, by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan

It’s trippy space opera with TV-headed royalty and sex and naughty words and rocket ships made out of trees and dongs and cool bounty hunters and uber-violence and why are you still here?

Fatale, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

When this first came out I kinda thought it was a straight crime story but oh shit it’s all occult-magic crazy. It’s like L.A. Confidential as painted with the blood of Aleister Crowley.

High Crimes, by Christopher Sebela and Ibrahim Moustafa

The first comic series I’ve ever blurbed, actually: “Sharp as an ice ax, taut as a climbing rope. The writing and art have a vertiginous quality as if at any moment the characters — and you with ’em — will drop down into a dark canyon abyss. Let me put it another way: if you’re not reading High Crimes, we probably can’t be friends.” I think that’s my favorite blurb I ever done blurbed, actually. I love this series (from the awesome folks at Monkeybrain) so hard. Everest + crime + spy thriller conspiracy + wtf.

Locke and Key, by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

I’m not caught up but this is one of those comics that you think is one thing but then kinda becomes another? At least, it was, for me. I expected something straight-up Lovecraftian but it soon leaves horror and becomes fantasy and creates wonder before circling back and becoming even more horrific and it’s really amazing — but again, not caught up, so if you spoil the last arc for me I’m going to shit on all your pets. Yep, even the guinea pig.

Wonder Woman, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

The New 52 is hit or miss for me — though one supposes that’s to be expected given that no comics company bats 1000 every day of the week. I like a lot of the Batman titles but I was wary of this one. I dig it — I think it takes WW down the right road, which is to say, epic and mythic, but not hyper-powered, either? Check it out.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong, by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

YA high school story about a friendship ruined by a battle over money that will go toward either a robotics competition or the cheerleading squad. So good. Very wow.

Thrillbent, Anything By Anyone

Go to Start reading comics. Give them money. TA-DA YAY.

Other Awesome Comics: Fairest, Hawkeye, Manhattan Projects, Detective Comics, Bandette, Sweet Tooth, Sixth Gun.

Kid Books

I read a lot to the Tiny Human and I, as an adult who writes stories, happens to like books for him that actually tell a story. Go figure. And so I recommend: Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way by Alice Shertle and Jill McElmurry; anything by Mo Willems ever; Little Miss Spider, a Christmas Wish by David Kirk; and probably a bunch of others I’m forgetting.

Also: apps by Toca or Callaway Digital Arts are always a winner.


Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Mosquito

NIN, Hesitation Marks

Lorde, Pure Heroine

Haim, Days Are Gone

Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park

The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars

The Lonely Island, The Wack Album

Gin Wigmore, Gravel & Wine

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Heist

They Might Be Giants, Nanobots


Orphan Black, because holy crap. Breaking Bad, because double holy crap. Uhh, what else? Parks & Recreation. The Mindy Project. House of CardsHomeland. I think I’m done with Walking Dead but will remain adoring the gut-punch that is Game of ThronesLuther. I’m sure there’s plenty more I watch that I’m spacing on because whatever this shit is getting long so shut up quit lookin’ at me.

Oh! Fuck. Hannibal. How the hell did that show even get to be a show? It’s so good and so shouldn’t be. Nobody was asking for this. And yet, what the fuck? It’s great.

Adored the Sleepy Hollow pilot but haven’t gotten deeper yet.

Oh, some kids shows that are actually awesome and not crappy: Daniel Tiger’s NeighborhoodSarah & Duck (so fucking cute). Pocoyo. Curious George.


I feel bad, but film is grabbing me less and less where TV is grabbing me more and more. Riskier storytelling being done in the television space, I think. The Heat cracked me up. Stoker was a trip. Wreck-It Ralph ruled.

I liked Pacific Rim a lot even though I have a lot of problems with it.

Eh? You know, part of it too is that my wife and I have time for TV in fits and starts but watching a full two-hour film is a luxury with the toddler running around. And if we have a toddler-free two hours, we’re not watching movies IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

I mean we’re probably eating a meal in peace, you savages, jeez.


I love anything from Jeni’s Ice Cream.

And all of the Noosa yogurts.

And Dogfish or Stone beer.

And Vosges chocolates.

And La Colombe coffee.

If it’s gin, it’s Bluecoat.

If it’s Scotch, it’s Balvenie Doublewood.

If it’s bourbon, it’s Basil Hayden’s.

And if I see you with a pack of Tim-Tam cookies (“biscuits”) I’ll stab you for them.


I still buy games like I don’t have a toddler — and I continually forget that I have damn near zero game-playing time beyond, say, two or three hours on a Sunday afternoon after I write this blog. Still, I do manage, and got some time with some solid entries this year: Far Cry 3, GTA V, Bioshock Infinite, Minecraft, Tomb Raider.

And that’s all she wrote, folks.