Five Books for Christmas!

None of these books are Christmas themed, but they all make great gifts.

No, SUPERPOWERED won’t be out in time for the Holiday Season. So I figured I’d do the next best thing and recommend the best books I’ve read this year (even though Click Your Poison Books make great stocking stuffers… /end_shameless.plug)

Here they are, the five books I absolutely could not put down in 2014. I’ve given a brief explanation why you should read each, but hopefully not enough to ruin your chances of a Monet Experience.

1) First up is The Martian by Andy Weir. This book is probably the year’s biggest self-publishing success story. From obscure indie, to bestseller with movie rights optioned by 20th Century Fox, Mr. Weir’s ride is enviable to any author. But I didn’t know any of this when I picked it up, and that’s not the reason you should. You should read it because it’s a great book! Fast-paced, believable near-future science fiction at its best. In fact, once you’ve read this one yourself, check out my Martian Theory.

2) Next is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a non-fiction book that bills itself as “The Story of Success.” This is a book that will change the way you look at the world. Do you really need more of a recommendation than that? I listened to the audiobook here and it’s one of the few author-narrated books that doesn’t suffer from the lack of a professional voice actor. Good luck reading this one and not telling everyone you know about what you learn from it.

3) As part of my superhero research, I picked up Watchmen for the first time. Written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, this graphic novel redefined comic books. All the dark and gritty superhero movies we love so much owe their existence to Watchmen. I learned much about writing a compelling superhero tale from the pages within, and though I didn’t really enjoy the movie when it came out, I had a newfound respect for the film after reading the book. Isn’t that always the way?

4) After thoroughly enjoying The Edge of Tomorrow with Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise (you can read my blog on the ending if you’ve seen it), I sought out the script and novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. And while they don’t line up with the movie much at all, I enjoyed the novel in its own right. It’s a much more philosophical and romantic journey, clearly inspired by videogames, but still kicks ass and takes names with buckets of sci fi action.

5) Rounding out the list as my anchor is the Ex series by Peter Clines. Start with Ex-Heroes and go from there. The book is heralded as The Walking Dead meets The Avengers, but for my money, it surpasses both. As someone who writes zombies and superheroes myself, this series is right up my alley and highly recommended as worthy of your time.

Honorable Mentions

First we have Wearing the Cape by Marrion Harmon. Another self-published gem, Mr. Harmon has some extremely creative ideas in here. I enjoyed the read overall, but it didn’t quite make my list because of the simplistic characters. Caveat: I don’t read much Young Adult, so I wasn’t the target audience, but if you’ve got a youngster on your list–go ahead and pick this one up.

Next is The Boys written by Garth Ennis and iillustrated by Darick Robertson. Another superhero tale that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s dark, twisted, and rounds out with a great surprise. The only reason it doesn’t make my list is that it’s too gratuitous. If you’ve read my books and chosen some of the more sinister options, you know that’s saying something. I don’t mind dark and gritty, but this graphic novel went over the top IMO.

My other favorite non-fiction read in 2014 was Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne. I had no idea just how far science has come since Darwin first published his theory, and this book does a great job presenting those proofs. Want to know how new species come about? This book will explain it. My only complaint is that the author spends a bit too much time battling his religious opposition in these pages, to the point that it might turn off some readers who would otherwise give the book a read with a more open mind.

Rounding out the honorable mentions is Suicide Squad written by Adam Glass and illustrated by Federico Dallocchio. I only read a few issues of this bad-guys-are-the-good-guys graphic novel, and while I initially enjoyed the story, it didn’t manage to hold my attention. That said, I am really looking forward to the movie!


So, what do YOU think? Have you read any of the titles listed? Any suggestions for me?

Feel free to comment below, like, share, and subscribe (top left)!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Spiderman???

So, I’ve been devouring a ton of superhero material lately as I work on my third Click Your Poison book. As such, I recently watched TMNT in theaters, and yesterday I watched The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on DVD. These were hands down my two favorite cartoon franchises during my childhood, so in a way, I couldn’t help comparing them. But since one is currently in theaters and the other just now available for rent, many of you might have missed a little something I picked up on:

The two movies have the exact same plot.

It should seem obvious, but SPOILERS will follow. Now then, let’s examine the similarities:

Our heroes, Peter Parker and April O’Neil, are both awkward young dreamers with moviestar looks who work for the local news.

Each of their fathers were tragically murdered when they were children, too young to realize that Dear Old Dad was actually destroying his own scientific work (mutating animals) once he realized that the corporation he was working for had nefarious plans for his bizarre experiments.

But fear not! For our heroes will discover old video footage (in the form of ancient video blogs that never made it to the internet) which clears dad’s name. Oh, and we learn he destroyed all but one tiny specimen that grew up to create a wise-cracking superhero (team).

That’s when our heroes must turn against the corporation they once thought was their friend, and face off against the latest in mechanized exo-suit technology.

The differences? There’s no Giant Pizza-Eating Spiders in one, and our Human Hero was not bitten by Radioactive Turtles in the other. Although, that would make for an amazing mash-up…

Why do they have the exact same plot? Good question. Let’s examine the possibilities.

  • Could it just be a giant coincidence? Yes, it could be. Parallel Development does happen. In fact, a friend of mine is doing a kickstarter for his graphic novel featuring little known x-mas legend, Krampus, only to learn there’s a Krampus movie in the works. PS — you should totally support the project, it looks awesome! (/end_friend-plug)
  • Could it be that there’s nothing new under the sun? That there are only so many variations of a story you can tell? Sure, could be. I know of the notorious Seven Storylines, but even so this seems a bit too similar.
  • Could it just be Hollywood Formula? AKA, (Repeat What Works = Money, where x = x and Money = Everything) Last couple of years the formula was “Hey villain, why not intentionally get yourself captured?” See: Latest Bond movie with Javier Bardem, Batman movie with Bane (and Joker prior to that), Loki in The Avengers, and KHAAAAANNN in the latest Star Trek.

My money’s on door #3. What do you think? Does it even matter? Or is it only story-perfectionists like me that care about/even notice this stuff? I’d love to hear your thoughts! Comment below and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog.

Thanks for reading!

 

Photo Credit

 

 

My Oscar Picks for 2014

If you follow this blog, you know I’m running an online Oscar pool. As per the rules, here are my picks (you have until showtime to submit your own choices).

This is based solely on my opinion. I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees (except Captain Phillips and Philomena) and I’ve consulted no outside source. These are just what I think deserves the award, not what it most likely to win (thus, you might find it easy to beat me if you enter).

Okay, here goes:

Best Picture (3 pts): 12 Years a Slave
Directing (2 pts): Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón)
Original Screenplay (2 pts): Her (Spike Jonze)
Adapted Screenplay (2 pts): The Wolf of Wall Street (Terence Winter)
Leading Actor (2 pts): Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club)
Leading Actress (2 pts): Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)
Supporting Actor (2 pts): Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave)
Supporting Actress (2 pts): Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle)
Production Design (1 pt): Her
Documentary Feature (1 pt): The Act of Killing
Documentary Short(1 pt): The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Animated Short(1 pt): Feral
Live Action Short Film (1 pt): Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasnt Me)
Foreign Language Film (1 pt): Omar (Palestine)
Animated Feature (1 pt): Frozen
Film Editing (1 pt): Gravity
Sound Editing (1 pt): Gravity
Sound Mixing (1 pt): Gravity
Cinematography (1 pt): Gravity
Visual Effects (1 pt): Gravity
Costume Design (1 pt): The Great Gatsby
Makeup and Hairstyling (1 pt): Dallas Buyers Club
Original Score (1 pt): Her (William Butler
Original Song (1 pt): Let It Go (Frozen)

Good luck to all those who entered! Now, a little more fun– Kids tell you everything you need to know about the Best Picture nominees:

As a final bonus, for those who are into drinking games, here’s a good one for this year: http://www.uproxx.com/filmdrunk/2014/02/official-filmdrunk-oscars-2014-drinking-game/

Be safe; have fun! Winners will (most likely) be announced tomorrow.

Oscar Pool 2014

It’s time once again for the SuperBowl of Cinema!

I love movies. If you put a gun to my head and told me to choose between movies and books, I’d probably tell you to just go ahead and shoot me.*

*(NOTE: If I ever get famous enough to have rabid, crazy fans, please do not track me down to try the aforementioned hypothetical.)

If you’re like me, you’ve got your predictions. Come March 2nd, you’ll be around a TV, computer, or projector watching the Tinseltown’s big night.

So why not make it interesting? Standing offer: If you can beat me at predicting this year’s winners, I’ll gift you (or a friend) a free copy of either one of my Click Your Poison ebooks. I’ll post my picks just before the event starts, so please send me your own choices before that to qualify. All you have to do is fill out the form below.

The complete list of the nominees (with trailers!) are here.

A Writer’s Resolution

Image credit: Geoff Whaley

A week into the New Year, I’ve finally decided to write a post pertaining to my goals in 2014. I have personal resolutions for health and happiness, but I’d like to keep this post focused on my goals as an author and as the owner of this blog.

The first, as an author, is a fairly straightforward one: Complete the next book in my Click Your Poison series.

As far as a blogging resolution, I feel a bit hesitant. But… I think I should embrace being a “blogger” — and for me, that’s easier said than done. I have a voice in my head saying, “Why should you shout your opinion at the world? Why should anyone care?”

Well, in order to silence that voice, I pledge to post more often and more honestly about the two things that should draw you to this page: 1) My writing, and 2) My journey from unknown writer to self-published rock star (gotta dream big, right?)

This year, just like this kid, I'm resolving not to lose my sense of humor.
This year, just like this kid, I’m resolving not to lose my sense of humor.

Topic #1 will include include progress updates and samples (hooray, samples!), and will involve the community when and where I can. Maybe I’ll bounce story ideas off you, give polls, or even host contests for naming characters, businesses; that kind of thing. It should be light and fun.

Topic #2 will focus on what I’ve learned in this business from pitfalls and successes. This will primarily be of interest to other writers. In that vein, I’m introducing a new topic: Lessons Learned (to be populated gradually over the year)

Happy New Year and best wishes in 2014!

-JS