There’s a reason why Captain America: The Winter Soldier is the best superhero movie: it stays close to the ground, it’s got a realistic story, and the superhero elements are basically window dressings to make it a little sexier.
This movie is basically a spy thriller that has the trappings of the MCU in it. The characters are excellent and the actors play it straight.
With mainstream comic book sales dying and the MCU committing suicide at the corporate level, the time is ripe for good superhero novels to fill the vacuum.
I’m still trying to find them. Tough search. Which I guess I why I have to write them.
I’m listening to this one, and it’s fine, but hot damn is the plot stale, the twists predictable, the characters way too damn cliche. There is nothing here you haven’t seen before–and there’s a nice pseudo-Latino villain in cockroach-themed power armor (La Cucracha!) to boot.
Give us better superhero stories.
The way to do this is by doing a better story *period.*
It’s finally ready! I’m excited to share this one with you. I mostly recorded it on my phone in my car whilst parked at work before my shift. Good acoustics in there, better than in my office, and doing it in chunks helped me to get the pacing and intonation right.
I’ve had this story swimming around in my head for years and years, so to finally have it out in the open is a relief. I hope you guys like it.
Jeez, I didn’t do a “State of the Dread” for this month AND NO ONE NOTICED. That’s blogging for you.
Anyway, 10 books made the list this year, and only two were fiction. Two of the nonfiction were biographies about the Civil War, focusing on generals on different sides. Quite fascinating. Here’s the list.
1: HILLBILLY ELEGY by JD Vance
Originally a recommendation from the Andrew Luck Book Club, I picked this one up from the library audio app and gave it a listen whilst hauling acid in January. It’s a jarring insight into the life of J.D. Vance, a guy who’s only a year or two younger than me, who grew up in hick country back in the Midwest.
He would go on to serve in the Marines and get a law degree at an Ivy League school. This book had particular significance for me because one side of my family comes from the exact location and demographic that he describes, and it helped me to understand that side of the family a lot better.
I’ve become a big fan of Ryan Holiday’s work since discovering THE DAILY STOIC in 2016, and it’s been a delight to get into his backlist. The audio for this one also came from my local library.
Holiday dives into the lives of successful people and examines how stillness, calmness, and the ability to self-analyze without explosive emotional responses is the best way to accomplish great things in life. The section on Tiger Woods alone was mind-blowing to me, and a very good cautionary tale.
In addition to SITK, I purchased a paperback of PERENNIAL SELLER by him, and was likewise impressed, but I didn’t want to saturate the best-of-year list with more than one title from the same author.
5: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES by Suzanne Collins
Far too many multi-year sequels or prequels or tie-ins have been disappointing of late. Many times it’s the author trying to retcon Current Year sociopolitics into a popular world of Yesteryear as an apology to the Woke Mob.
Fortunately Collins isn’t all about that, she actually gives a damn about characters and story in their true sense. The 64-year prequel to THE HUNGER GAMES was incredible and beautiful and moving, everything I’ve come to expect from her stories in this vein.
7: A HOBBIT, A WARDROBE, AND A GREAT WAR by Joseph Loconte
You probably knew that Tolkien and Lewis fought in the trenches of WW1 together, and later penned two of the biggest fantasy series of the 20th Century.
You need to read the story behind the story, especially of Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, and the role that Tolkien played in that journey.
Somehow I didn’t cover this one on the podcast, I must have finished BTBC before finishing this one.
8: WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen
It’s hard for Paulsen not to make my best-of lists, especially with his personal memoirs. In this case, his adventures running the Iditarod are mind-numbing, and the things he learned (both technically and spiritually) just blew me away. The man is harder than I’ll ever be.
This book covers his first attempt at it. He ran it twice before medical issues sidelined him for the rest of his life, and he talks about all that in the epilogue.
9: REBEL YELL by S.C. Gwynne
Funnily enough, I was only listening to this one as research for a character in a future DreadVerse story. And he’s not going to be a huge character necessarily, just an antagonist in a one-off story featuring Atlas and Razor.
However, Major General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was such a fascinating figure that I found myself excited to turn this book on every time I was at work. Gwynne is now on my list of biographical authors that I want to read more of.
Stonewall Jackson, despite fighting for what was ultimately the wrong side of a moral conflict, was himself an incredible man. My personal takeaway after reading of his grit, his drive, and his exploits, was that it was necessary for him to die in order for the North to win the war. He was just too formidable.
Even as impressive as Robert E. Lee was in terms of his military command, Jackson was the more daunting foe for the Union to face. At least that’s my opinion after reading REBEL YELL.
Bonus: for a really cool audio recreation of what the rebel yell sounded like, take a few minutes to listen to this video.
10: GRANT by Ron Chernow
This marks the second Chernow bio I read in 2020, the first being TITAN, about John Rockefeller. I had also listened to a couple of audio-bios about different founding fathers (like Aaron Burr) and decided to put together a list of books to read about early US Presidents.
Grant wasn’t technically “early”, but having read Chernow’s books on Hamilton and Rockefeller, and having just read REBEL YELL, I decided to bump GRANT to the head of the list.
At the time of this writing I am only halfway through the book. While I will finish it this year, I’m confident that it will make the list, given Chernow’s adept writing and handling of his subject. He’s fair and genuine, going so far as to accurately recount Grant’s poverty, his poor judgment with the character of other men, and his alcoholism, contrasted alongside his impressive military successes.
Grant wasn’t a superman in the same way that George Washington was (and Chernow also has a book about him), he was more of an everyman who turned out to be the right guy at the right time.
I mean, this dude had a dozen failed business ventures and was SELLING FIREWOOD ON THE STREETS OF SAINT LOUIS, then went on to win the Civil War and become President twice. Beat that.
That’s it for this year, a few honorable mentions include:
LATE BLOOMERS by Karlgaard
THE WASHINGTON HYPOTHESIS (and its companions about Lincoln and the Pilgrims) by Timothy Ballard
MECHA SAMURAI EMPIRE by Peter Tieryas
SILVER STATE CRYPTIDS by David Weatherly
MINE WERE OF TROUBLE by Peter Kemp
and I AM DEBORAH SAMPSON by Patricia Clapp.
Hope you all had a great year reading, see you in 2021.
As I am frequently wont to do, I have ignored this website. It’s been a busy few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. I had to choose between the day job, getting the podcast finished, and then blogging about getting the podcast finished, so you can guess which one got punted.
The DreadPennies Adventure Hour is underway! Thank you guys for the response on SLEEPLESS HOLLOW. It was a lot of fun to record. This month the adventure is WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE. Here are the links to the podcast on the big three platforms. Subscribe and enjoy!
The #DrawEveryDay campaign continues. I was able to knock out Inktober (because I’ve kind of been doing it all year) and had a lot of fun with it. Check out my Instagram and hit the follow button.
The main focus of my writing is to generate content for the DPAH podcast. I have some chapters to edit for WAC, so I’ll take care of those over the next week or so, and then I’m into editing the Adventure for December. I need to roll back the drawing and get back on the writing so that I don’t record more than my buffer has in store.
WINTERDANCE by Gary Paulsen, THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, and OVERSTATED by Colin Quinn are on the list of good books I’ve read in October. One is a nonfic about sled dogs, one is a really great fantasy caper, and one is a comedy roast of all 50 states.
Now I’m delving into some classics, like 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA because I haven’t touched that one in years. Jules Verne in one of the earliest voices in sci-fi and worth the attention. As for audiobooks, I’m doing a lot more podcasts right now, so I’m only picking at the odd book here and there.
That’s about it, really. Just enjoying the seasons and trying to find ways to spend better time with my kids. You should too. Tune into the podcast, see you out there!
Hey gang! Sorry this one is a week late, that has been life in a nutshell. Lots going on!
The biggest news of it all: the Brother Trucker Book Club has wrapped up for now (I haven’t ruled out future episodes, but it’s not on the docket for the foreseeable future.) Schaara and I batted cleanup last week and the final episode went live with much success.
And of course, the DREADPENNIES ADVENTURE HOUR is up and running! With an audio performance of SLEEPLESS HOLLOW by yours truly! You can now get the entire audiobook for free by subscribing to the podcast. Tell your friends about it, and please consider backing the Patreon! Behind-the-scenes episodes will post on Fridays.
This has taken a backseat what with having to record audio for the podcast, but since I just finished the final episode of SLEEPLESS, the next three weeks are focused on finishing the script for WITH ANSWERABLE COURAGE, which will launch in November.
Once again, I am participating in Inktober! Check out instagram.com/dreadpennies for my daily entries. I’m behind by a day, but I’ll catch up.
I want to address the so-called controversy surrounding Inktober this year. Apparently someone has beef with Jake Parker, the founder, and tried to get his forthcoming book canceled over it. I don’t know the details of this beef, and I’m not going to dig it up. The beef has entered the legal arena and I assume will be settled there. For the time being I continue to support Jake Parker as I have for years, given my familiarity with his good work and the work of his good colleagues, such as Will Terry.
It concerns me that this trend of accusing, dividing, and taking sides based on Internet Hype has reached this specific realm of public creativity, especially seeing as how it coincides with an attempt to hijack Inktober and replace it with a very similar idea controlled by someone else. (There’s a new hashtag circulating, I’m not going to say what it is, but it’s a clear attempt to steal the success Jake has had, and it’s annoying to say the least.)
I’ve seen this play out in a number of other areas over the last several years; somebody makes something, it becomes a success, somebody else hijacks it and turns it into a shadow of its former greatness, and we’re left muttering over how “X used to be cool.”
Kind of like how “Honest Trailers” used to be funny, before it started parroting dumb cultural talking points from the public sphere. I don’t want to see that happen with Inktober so I’m going to wait for all the fact to come out, and, like I said, continue to participate in the meantime. High school is over, you guys. Let’s act like it.
Hoooo boy, my reading took a huge kick in September, haha. Mainly because I wasn’t listening to anything, I was training for my new position at work. I think I read maybe 2 or 3 books in the whole month. Things are picking up now, though.
That’s about it. I’m adjusting to the physical nature of the new gig, mainly how I come home sore and exhausted everyday, but my pants are all a little looser and will continue to do so. Kind of awesome how I got this job right around Pie Season, I don’t have to worry about gaining 20 pounds this year.