Tag Archives: Top 10

Top 10 Books of 2011

I think there’s a pretty even split between books published in 2011 and those published before. Also, there are more than ten books listed here…that’s what happens when you read a lot of series.

1. The Astounding, The Amazing, and the Unknown, by Paul Malmont

A sequel of sorts to The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, Malmont’s latest novel focuses on a group of sci-fi writers–Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and others–who worked on the Philadelphia Experiment during World War II. Like his previous novel, Malmont throws in a load of cameos (look for a young Vonnegut), as well as bringing back the stars of Death Cloud.

2. The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

I’m not really a fan of stories set in dystopian futures. But, there’s enough going on in The Hunger Games to make me forget that it’s set in a dystopia. I’d bought the first book shortly after it came out, but had never gotten around to reading it, and I’m glad I waited, since I devoured all three pretty quickly.

3. Warehouse 13: A Touch of Fever, by Greg Cox

I love Warehouse 13 and I love media tie-ins. Admittedly, some tie-ins are better than others, and I think this is one of the better ones. The usual Warehouse banter is there (although, at times, Artie doesn’t feel “right”), plus we get to see artifacts that we’d probably never get a chance to see on TV.

4. The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus) and The Throne of Fire (The Kane Chronicles), by Rick Riordan

  

If you slap Rick Riordan’s name on a book, I’m probably going to read it. After finishing up the Percy Jackson series, I was excited to hear that the campers from Camp Half-Blood would be appearing in a second series. In addition to introducing new demigods, Heroes of Olympus plays with the idea that the Greeks and Romans had very similar myths. The second book in the Egyptian-based Kane Chronicles series proves that Riordan’s brain is basically an encyclopedia of world mythology.

5. Ghost Story, by Jim Butcher

The latest book in the Dresden Files series manages to accomplish three things: it places protagonist Harry Dresden in a position where his usual skills are useless, it sheds some light on Harry’s past, and it explores the nature of magic in the Dresdenverse.

6. My Soul to Steal and If I Die, by Rachel Vincent

 

The adventures of teen bean sidhe Kaylee Cavanaugh continue in the latest two novels in Vincent’s Soul Screamers series. Vincent doesn’t make life easy for Kaylee, or the readers who adore her. Without spoiling anything, I will say that I did not see the ending of If I Die coming…and I can’t wait to read the next book.

7. Unfamiliar Fishes, by Sarah Vowell

I don’t read a lot of nonfiction, but I always make time for Sarah Vowell’s latest book (I have never hidden the fact that I have a giant brain-crush on Vowell). Vowell looks at the annexation and eventual Americanization of the Hawaiian Islands with her usual dry sense of humor and seemingly endless supply of pop culture references and American history factoids.

8. A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, and A Feast for Crows, by George R. R. Martin

  

I’m going to assume that I don’t have to explain what Martin’s fantasy epic is all about. Thanks to HBO, I think everyone knows about A Song of Ice and Fire by now. I’ve tried to spread these books out, so I don’t have to wait too long for the next book, but now I find myself in the unfortunate position of needing to decide if I want to get the newest book from the library or wait until the paperback comes out. Since the first book in the series, Martin never fails to surprise me–and both A Storm of Swords and A Feast for Crows have some series WTF moments.

9. The Snow Queen’s Shadow, by Jim C. Hines

This is the final book in Hines’s series that blends fairy tale princesses with Charlie’s Angels. I was really nervous going in, since for most authors “final book in a series” usually means “KILL ALL THE THINGS!!!!” While the bittersweet finale had a fair share of heartbreaking moments, it ends on a hopeful note.

10. The Trouble with Demons and Bewitched & Betrayed, by Lisa Shearin

  

There are a lot of series out there that mix fantasy elements with modern detective stories. Shearin’s series was the first one I found that took a typical fantasy world and infused it with elements of detective fiction. Raine Benares is an elf, a mage, and a seeker (her world’s version of a private investigator). She’s tough, sarcastic, and wanted by every dark mage, demon, and corrupt politician on the Isle of Mid and beyond.

Top 10 Movies of 2011

I always say that I don’t really go to the movies that often… But, I actually managed to see seven of these in the theater. As for the remainder: Thank you, Netflix.

1. Paul

After seeing Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I expected Paul to be more of the same. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be less of an homage to–or pastiche of–an alien encounter story and much more akin to a stoner road trip movie. Pegg and Frost can truly do no wrong.

2. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night

So, there’s this parallel universe where Clark Kent and Jimmy Olsen fight zombies, werewolves, and vampires. Dylan Dog seemingly came and went in about a day, which is too bad because it was a lot of fun. And, after seeing this, I could see Brandon Routh playing Harry Dresden.

3. X-Men: First Class

An X-Men movie where the X-Men actually fight evil…amazing! I’m willing to forgive Magneto’s whiny mommy issues and the fact that Xavier continues to be inexplicably British.

4. Bridesmaids

An example of how not to market a movie. Every piece of promotional material for Bridesmaids compared it to The Hangover, a movie I have less than no desire to see. Thankfully, I listened to the opinions of people I actually trust and I was rewarded with a movie that is perfect on so many levels.

5. Captain America: The First Avenger

Cap was always the one Avenger that I found to be next to impossible to cast. But, man, does Chris Evans capture him perfectly. This movie gets Captain America; it gets that, no matter how strong or fast he is, it’s the man that Steve Rogers was before that makes Cap who he is.

6. Page Eight

A tense, British spy thriller starring Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz. Any one of those things would make this a movie I wanted to see. All of them together? Score.

7. Thor

Not the best of Marvel’s 2011 offerings (sorry, that honor goes to Cap), but Thor was a ton of fun with a lot of heart. I could have done without a lot of the political shenanigans on Asgard and with a lot more Darcy…but, what can you do?

8. Super 8

I grew up on movies like Goonies, Flight of the Navigator, and Explorers. Super 8 recaptured the spirit of those movies and several others.

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Do I even have to explain? I’ll watch all eight movies in a row just to see the last fifteen minutes of Deathly Hallows 2.

10. The Muppets

I saw more than one review that called The Muppets “fan fiction.” I think that’s just a term used by people who think they’re too cool to admit to liking something. This movie was a love letter to a group of characters that we’ve all grown up watching. Deal with it. Also: I’m pretty sure this is what it’s like in Jason Segel’s head 24/7.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2011

A large percentage of my favorite shows tend to be ones that have been on for a few seasons. That being said, there were a few shows that premiered this fall that really stand out in my mind–plus a handful that I think really hit their strides in 2011.

1. Grimm (NBC)

NBC’s Grimm is, at its heart, a police procedural. The main difference here is that the suspects are all critters that inspired fairy tales and the cop is the last Grimm, essentially a criminal profiler who specializes in things that go bump in the night. What separates Grimm from its “ripped from the pages of fairy tales” cousin, Once Upon a Time, is the former show’s premise that, while fairy tales may not be real, the monsters that inspired them are.

2. Young Justice (Cartoon Network)

DC has long been the champ of television animation. Young Justice follows in the footsteps of classics like Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, and Justice League Unlimited. Unlike these older shows, Young Justice exists in a separate universe, one where superheroes are relatively new and Batman assembles a covert team of teen sidekicks to go on missions that are too sensitive for the higher profile heroes to handle.

3. Unforgettable (CBS)

The premise–a detective who remembers everything she sees–may be a little ridiculous, despite being based on an actual condition, but Unforgettable is a fun little show with an appealing cast of characters. Bonus points may have been added for a main character who is (a) not under 25 years old and (b) played by Poppy Montgomery.

4. Happy Endings (ABC)

I’m not really sure how I missed the first season of Happy Endings, but I did. (Actually, I think it might have had something to do with a lot of chatter about it being similar to a certain sitcom about the epic tale of the search for a female parental unit and, if there’s one thing that bores me, it’s something created solely to suckle at the teat of something that’s already an established success.) Anyways, Happy Endings is thoroughly charming and one of the few genuinely funny sitcoms out there.

5. Person of Interest (CBS)

I grew up watching shows like The A-Team, Knight Rider, and The Equalizer, so a show where Ben Linus and Jesus use a top secret super-computer to fight crime is right up my alley.

6. Up All Night (NBC)

I’m not going to talk about the state of the sitcom on NBC. We all know what happened, so there’s no reason to open up old wounds. That being said, Up All Night is a winner and, despite the programming hoopla, deserves every last ounce of faith that the network has seen fit to bestow upon it.

7. Whitechapel (BBC America)

Whitechapel could have easily taken the Sherlock route and simply presented itself as a modern retelling of the Jack the Ripper crimes. Instead, Whitechapel is a modern police drama in every sense, except in the stories it decides to tell. The first series focussed on a suspect who was meticulously recreated Jack the Ripper’s murders, while the following series tells the story of the heirs to ’60s mobsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray.

8. Parks and Recreation (NBC)

    Community (NBC)

Neither of these shows really blew me away when they premiered, but 2011 became “The Year I Learned to Love Them.” I can’t pick a moment when Community finally clicked for me. Parks and Recreation, however, won me over during its third season with the Leslie/Ben storyline and the April/Andy storyline (man, I hated those two characters until they got together and became adorable).

9. Downton Abbey (PBS)

The show for which the phrase “All British and shit” was invented. Created by Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey has much in common with Gosford Park, which was written by Fellowes. Set prior to the outbreak of World War I, when the British aristocracy was slowly losing ground (figuratively and literally) to the growing middle classes, Downton Abbey is as much social satire as anything written by Jane Austen or Charles Dickens. Also, where else can you see Professor McGonagall and Harriet Jones, Prime Minister (yes, we know who you are) snipe at each other for hours on end?

10. Covert Affairs (USA)

If you liked Alias, but thought that running around trying to find giant balls of mysterious red liquid was a little too pulpy, then Covert Affairs might be for you. If you ignore the oh-so-very-pretty cast (or don’t, it’s your call), Covert Affairs presents a fairly accurate portrayal of what I think being a spy is really like, from the inter-departmental backbiting to the boring stretches of downtime during an op.

Year-End Roundup

All in one place, for your reading pleasure…

My Favorite Books of 2010

 

My Favorite Movies of 2010

 

My Favorite TV Shows of 2010

 

And a little something extra…

 

Come on, 2011. Bring it!

Top 10 TV Shows of 2010

It looks like I didn’t make a Top TV Shows list last year. It could be that there weren’t enough new shows that really rang my bell or (more likely) I just forgot.

Fret not, cats and kittens, the list is back:

1. Human Target (Fox)

I never read the DC comic Human Target is based on, but I did watch the first attempt at adapting it to the small screen, the short-lived Rick Springfield series. Look, I grew up on shows like Airwolf, The A-Team, Knight Rider, and MacGyver, these kinds of shows are in my blood. So, when a network decides to give a show like Human Target a shot, I’m going to watch it.

2. The Good Guys (Fox)

It’s the classic buddy cop formula: straight-laced cop teamed with reckless loose cannon–although this time around, it’s the younger partner who is the by-the-book square and the veteran cop who’s the gung-ho, shoot-first maniac. The Good Guys pokes fun at the shift in TV cops from the insane hero cops of the 1970s and 1980s to the methodical (and more realistic?) detectives of modern cop shows. Also: any show that used “Whitford. Hanks. Mustache.” as a promo needed to be watched.

3. No Ordinary Family (ABC)

There was a very real possibility that Heroes destroyed any chance of ever seeing comic book-style superheroes on TV again. Ever. But, ABC’s No Ordinary Family proves it can still be done. Taking a cue from both The Fantastic Four and The Incredibles, the story of the Powell family coming to grips with their new powers is both fun and funny. I felt that there was a lot of wheel-spinning in the first few episodes, but things seem to be back on track.

4. Warehouse 13 (SyFy)

While everyone moans about the loss of Caprica and Stargate: Whatchamacallit, Warehouse 13 shows what SyFy does best–slightly off-kilter romps that combine action, drama, and comedy (think Eureka, The Invisible Man, and, yes, even Farscape). To be honest, the first half of the first season was a little bland. But, with the addition of Allison Scagliotti’s Claudia–the perfect foil for Saul Rubinek’s Artie–and the second season’s H.G. Wells storyline, Warehouse 13 is kicking major ass.

5. Blue Bloods (CBS)

Following the Reagan family–three generations of New York cops, with a few lawyers tossed in for good measure–Blue Bloods is equal parts cop show and family drama. And, I’m surprised to say, that I actually enjoy the family drama part more than the cop part. Some of the show’s best moments are when the Reagan clan are gathered around the table for Sunday dinner.

6. Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (Disney XD)

For a long time, Marvel was lagging behind DC in the realm of kick-ass cartoons. Sure, there was X-Men: Evolution and The Spectacular Spider-Man, but there wasn’t anything with the universe-wide cohesion of DC’s Animated Universe. Until now.

7. Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)

I’m too young to remember the original Hawaii Five-O, except in syndicated reruns. But, I do remember that awesome theme song and “Book ’em, Danno.” The 2010 remake made sure to keep them both.

8. Sherlock (BBC)

I am very picky about my Sherlock Holmes. For me, it doesn’t get any better than Jeremy Brett (and Guy Ritchie can go fuck himself). But this… The BBC’s update of Holmes is…well, it’s incredible. Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes. Martin Freeman as Watson. Steven Moffat at the helm. The only problem I have with Sherlock is that there were just not enough episodes in the first season. More, please.

9. Doctor Who (BBC)

I was honestly quite nervous when I first heard about David Tennant leaving Doctor Who. I loved his incarnation of The Doctor. Then I saw Matt Smith (and, to be fair, Karen Gillan). This latest season of Doctor Who–with Steven Moffat taking over for Russell T. Davies–feels like a completely new show. And I don’t mean that as a criticism. There was a freshness to this season, and I quite like it.

10. Rizzoli & Isles (TNT)

I haven’t read the series of novels by Tess Gerritsen upon which this show is based (loosely, I’m led to believe, not unlike how Bones is “inspired by” Kathy Reichs’ novels), but a show with a detective and a coroner who are best friends is right up my alley.

Top 10 Movies of 2010

Admittedly, I don’t see a lot of new movies…but here we go:

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I’m not a huge fan of the Scott Pilgrim books. I read the first one and thought it was okay. But, this movie was incredible. It was funny. It had great visuals, awesome music, and an epic cast of epic epicness.

2. The Wolfman

Werewolves are my favorite supernatural critters and Universal’s original The Wolf Man is my favorite classic horror movie, so I was pretty pumped for this movie. Was it perfect? No. But, it was one of the better portrayals of lycanthropes that have come out of Hollywood in recent years. Also, I love how the writers tipped their hats to Lon Chaney, Jr. by making Benicio del Toro’s Lawrence Talbot a Shakespearean actor known for his ability to drastically alter his appearance on stage.

3. Iron Man 2

A lot of people criticized Iron Man 2 for having a plot that was nearly indistinguishable from the first one or for being little more than a prequel to Marvel’s upcoming Avengers movie. These may be valid criticisms, but I don’t care…not when I get to see Robert Downey, Jr. playing a drunk Tony Stark in full Iron Man armor. Also: Scarlett Johansson…pretty.

4. Secretariat

Secretariat is not the kind of movie that I usually see in theaters. But, when certain circumstances arise, one must decide whether or not to rise to meet them. I’m glad I did. I don’t think this movie breaks any new ground in its chosen arena, but solid performances by Diane Lane and John Malkovich make Secretariat truly enjoyable.

5. The Expendables

Yes, The Expendables was aggressively stupid. But, anyone who saw the trailer and walked into the theater expecting anything other than what was presented got what they deserved. Bread and circuses, people.

6. Harry Brown

I was expecting Harry Brown to be a little more Death Wish-y. In the end, I’m glad it wasn’t. The movie’s slow burn made for one hell of a tense viewing experience.

7. Predators

I had zero expectations walking into this movie. Did we really need another Predator movie? No, probably not. But, if they were going to make one, this is not a bad final product. The story isn’t bad. The cast is decent. There were even a few twists that were actual surprises. And, if that wasn’t enough, there was a nice little homage to the original Predator thrown in there.

8. Batman: Under the Red Hood

Where to start? First of all, the direct-to-DVD stuff that DC has been putting out lately is incredible. Personally, I’d take almost any of these over a live action superhero movie. Batman: Under the Red Hood is a thousand times better than that crap Christopher Nolan has been trying to push on us.

9. The Losers

A bunch of folks who use their skills to accomplish a task? That task involves revenge? There are explosions? Oh…you just knew I was going to love The Losers.

10. True Grit

Best movie I saw all year. No question. An old-fashioned western with incredible performances by Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld. There are no words to explain how much I enjoyed this movie. I want to see it again. Right now.

Top 10 Books of 2010

It’s time again. Time for a deluge of end of year lists…and why should I be left out of the fun?

We’re going to start with books (for absolutely no reason). As with previous years, these books were not necessarily published in 2010, but that is the calendar year in which I read them. I’ve added an additional rule (hey, it’s my list): I read a lot of series; so, where applicable, I’m including all of the books in a series that I’ve read this year as a single item.

Here we go…

1. Changes and Side Jobs, by Jim Butcher (The Dresden Files)

I love Harry Dresden. I’m not going to lie. Butcher’s wizard/private detective is equal parts Peter Parker and Philip Marlowe. Changes is the latest full-length novel featuring Dresden and company and, let me tell you, the title ain’t no lie. Side Jobs is a collection of short stories (some previously unpublished) set in the Dresdenverse. I’m glad these stories were finally all collected in one volume, since my desire to read all things Dresden has been fighting with my general lack of interest regarding anthologies (which is where most of these stories first appeared).

2. The Titan’s Curse and The Battle of the Labyrinth, by Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson & The Olympians series)

Cue Internet rage: I actually like Percy Jackson more than I like Harry Potter. This doesn’t mean that Rowling’s series isn’t fantastic. But, while Hogwarts prepares young witches and wizards for a life of government jobs, Camp Half-Blood trains demi-gods to be heroes. Heroes. Monster-battling, innocent-saving heroes. What I like most about this series is how grounded it is in the actual mythology of ancient Greece. It’s also fun trying to guess the modern-day disguise of a particular god or monster.

3. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin (A Song of Ice and Fire series)

I had A Game of Thrones sitting on my bookshelf for about two years, ever since a friend recommended it to me after I was lamenting how all epic fantasy I’ve encountered read like Lord of the Rings after a find-and-replace. I was hooked almost immediately–I’ve already acquired the next three books in the series. Although A Game of Thrones is epic fantasy, it reads a lot more like Bernard Cornwell’s historical fiction. Plus it has a dwarf.

4. Spade & Archer, by Joe Gores

I admit that, as far as hard-boiled detectives go, I’m a bigger fan of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe than I am of Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. One of the reasons for this is that there are just more Marlowe stories out there; you get one chance to hang out with Spade and, for me, it just wasn’t enough to for any kind of connection. Spade & Archer gave me a chance to spend a little more time with Sam Spade. Here, Spade has just left the Continental Ops and moved to San Francisco to start his solo career. Gores manages to do something that Hammett couldn’t: he got me to connect with Sam Spade.

5. My Soul to Save, My Soul to Keep, and Reaper, by Rachel Vincent (Soul Screamers series)

Kaylee Cavanaugh–the teenage bean sidhe of Vincent’s Soul Screamers series–continues to be one of my favorite fictional characters. With each book in the series, Vincent adds more layers to her world of banshees, reapers, and demons. And, as a gift for her fans, Vincent recently released a novella starring Tod Hudson, reaper and dead brother of Kaylee’s boyfriend Nash. The next book in the series is scheduled to be released at the end of December or the beginning of January (reports vary) and I can’t wait.

6. City of Glass, by Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments series)

City of Glass is the third book in Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. Initially the final installment in a trilogy (which has since been expanded to six books), City of Glass does a nice job of concluding the main conflict of the series, while leaving enough plot threads unresolved to form a believable bridge between the first three books and the next three.

7. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan (The Kane Chronicles)

Set in the same universe as Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, The Red Pyramid introduces us to Carter and Sadie Kane, estranged siblings and descendants of Egyptian pharaohs. Riordan shows the same attention to detail he did when adapting Greek mythology for Percy Jackson; his portrayal of Egyptian myth and religion is not simply a rehash of Greek stories with different names–instead, the world of The Red Pyramid illustrates just how different Egyptian mythology was from the Greco-Roman myths that we’re most familiar with.

8. Cursor’s Fury, Captain’s Fury, and Princeps’ Fury, by Jim Butcher (Codex Alera series)

In addition to being one of the first fantasy series in a long time to actually hold my interest (I started reading these books before I read A Game of Thrones), Codex Alera provides an interesting counterpoint to Butcher’s Dresden Files series. While Dresden possesses powers in a world of (relatively) powerless individuals, Tavi–the protagonist of the Codex Alera series–is powerless in a society where everyone possesses the ability to control one or more natural elements. I also really enjoy how the world in this series is based on the Roman Empire, rather than the usual medieval Europe model found in a lot of fantasy.

9. The Hunt for Atlantis and The Tomb of Hercules, by Andy McDermott (Wilde and Chase series)

I have a degree in archaeology. This means that I was greatly affected by the Indiana Jones movies as a kid. That also means that I continue to be drawn to treasure hunting, action-adventure stories. McDermott’s series is just that. The first book, The Hunt for Atlantis, introduces us to archaeologist Nina Wilde and her ex-SAS bodyguard Eddie Chase. There are mercenaries and secret societies and betrayals. But, there’s also treasure. And deathtraps. And a spunky ginger archaeologist.

10. The Stepsister Scheme, The Mermaid’s Madness, and Red Hood’s Revenge, by Jim C. Hines (Princess series)

At some point within the last decade or so, someone decided that we’re going to rewrite classic fairy tales with either modern settings, modern sensibilities, or snarky social commentary. This is not what Hines has done with the Princess novels. Yes, he’s given somewhat twisted spins to the stories of Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid, and Little Red Riding Hood. But, more than that, he’s turned these characters into action heroes. The three princesses of the series name–Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty), and Snow (White)–are magical Charlie’s Angels, secret agents working for Danielle’s mother-in-law, Queen Beatrice. See, there was a reason why I tore through three of these books in one year. Now, when does the fourth come out…