I read 184 books in 2023, and here are my favorite fiction reads:
- Where Peace is Lost by Valerie Valdes – Really fun and unique world building that just sucked me in. Very enjoyable.
- Inquisitor: Rise of the Red Blade by Delilah S. Dawson – The best Star Wars book I’ve read, following a a broken Jedi who flips to the dark side after the fall of the Republic.
- Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah – A really brutal and fascinating story that reminded me of the 1980s movie Running Man about death row turned sports entertainment.
- Apocalypse Yesterday by Brock Adams – The best post-apocalypse story I’ve read in a while.
- The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland – Perhaps the most unique and engaging vampire story I’ve read in a while.
- Vampires of El Norte by Isabel Cañas – A vampire romance that avoids all the tropes of Twilight.
- Secret Identity by Alex Segura – Really fun mystery set in the world of comic book creation.
- A Song for a New Day by Sarah Pinsker – Freakishly prescient, this pandemic story would have hit differently a few years ago.
- How to Stop Time by Matt Haig – One of those fascinating stories with an intriguing premise and then you just have to see how it plays out.
- The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – An unexpected romance in my top 10? It works so well because of the rock solid voice of the probably autistic main character. I’m a sucker for a good voice.
I read a lot of good books, so here are a few more to mention:
- The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei – A space mystery that was really kind of simple, but I enjoyed it.
- Pieces of Blue by Holly Goldberg Sloan – I’ve really enjoyed her middle grade stuff and her first adult novel just as good.
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – I really have a hard time reading classics, so I was surprised how much I enjoyed this one.
- Wanderers by Chuck Wendig – A complex, intertwined story about a weird issue (shades of Stephen King) that just pulled me in.
- 2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman and Admiral James Stavridis – Near-future story of was between the U.S. and China that’s frighteningly real.
If you want to read more, check out my booklet 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading Again.
And how about previous top 10 fiction lists: 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.
You can also see this year’s top 10 nonfiction and reading stats for the year.
I loved the new Disney+ Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Trying to fill in gaps between two established trilogies is a tall order and they do it really well. But it raises some interesting questions about when Star Wars is willing to take risks and how much they listen to fans.
Spoiler alert: I’m going to spill it all, so you’ve been warned.
Continue reading Star Wars Has Guts (Sometimes): Obi-Wan Kenobi Series
All right, so we went and saw Rise of Skywalker. And then we turned around the next day and went back to see it again.
Because why not? It’s Christmas break.
So what’s my take? Spoiler alert…
Continue reading Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Review
In less than an hour I’m off to see Rise of Skywalker with the kids.
All the feels.
Continue reading Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker & End of an Era
Last night I went to the opening of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi.
Star Wars is such an ingrained part of my childhood and life that these movies are just a flood of nostalgia. I love the experience.
We’ve certainly been disappointed with the prequels, but it’s so amazing to see Star Wars back in the theaters and to be so excited about it again. I love it.
Just as I did with The Force Awakens, I want to share my post-movie thoughts.
I often expect these in-the-moment reactions to temper a bit with time. I always admit that I came out of The Phantom Menace loving it. Even the second time. But then reality caught up with nostalgia.
I still love The Force Awakens. I do think the re-hash of A New Hope, primarily Star Killer Base, was a bit much, but I don’t really care.
So we’ll see where I go with my Last Jedi reactions. Continue reading Star Wars The Last Jedi: Post-Movie Thoughts
I’m not a big fan of short story collections or Star Wars novels. But I loved Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View. It’s a collection of 40 stories offering unique points of view surrounding the original Star Wars: A New Hope movie.
The stories offer glimpses of the main characters—Luke, Leia, Han Solo, Obi-Wan, Darth Vader, etc.—and even some dialogue straight from the movie, but mostly we’re following the stories not told in the movie:
- How the Imperial gunner who didn’t fire on the escape pod with no lifeforms used bureaucratic paperwork to cover his ass.
- An excerpt from the celebrity memoir of one of the Cantina band performers.
- The untold story of what really happened with the red R2 unit that Uncle Owen almost bought instead of R2-D2.
- The harrowing saga of how the trash compactor monster came to be on the Death Star and the larger role it had to play.
Continue reading I Love the Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View Short Story Collection
I already posted my lengthy post-movie thoughts on Star Wars: The Force Awakens. But that doesn’t mean I’m done. Oh no.
This will probably all be SPOILERS.
But first, a non-spoiler.
Today I told Milo his name rhymed with Kylo Ren. Then I watched his head explode.
OK, on to the SPOILERS.
You’ve been warned.
Continue reading More Post-Movie Force Awakens Thoughts
I’ve now seen Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens twice and I so want to talk about it!
I’ll start out spoiler-free, but then we’ll dive heavy into the spoilers. I’ll warn you when it’s coming in case you want to jump ship.
I don’t even know where to start. Being a writer, I want to craft the perfect essay about this experience. But I also need to process and just get my thoughts down. So this is probably going to be a mess. It’s a blog, not a polished essay.
Wow. What a great movie.
I’ve seen it twice and I want to go back for more. It was just a super fun thrill ride.
Now I’ve been caught up in Star Wars nostalgia before. I said this in my expectations—it’s Star Wars, and I’ll love the adventure. And I totally did. I’m so wrapped up in the excitement of the moment that I have absolutely no objective judgment.
That’s how I walked out of The Phantom Menace excited. But when the childhood wonder and excitement wore off, objectivity came back and I realized how ridiculous that movie was.
That could maybe happen here, but I doubt it. I need to give it some time for the wonder of the moment to pass. But at this point I’m pretty confident it’s going to be one of my favorite Star Wars movies.
So a few fun (non-spoiler) thoughts about the experience of watching the movie:
- The first thing I did after seeing the movie ? Stop at Target at 9:50 p.m. to buy Star Wars toys. The merchandising is strong with this one. And I love it!
- After my dad saw it we spent an hour and a half on the phone talking nothing but Star Wars (OK, we maybe gave five minutes on the Captain America trailer).
- My screening plan of seeing it before I took my kids worked out really well. The movie is intense and I had to prepare my kids. My almost 10-year-old still hid her face, and my 7-year-old buried his face in my chest a couple times and outright sobbed at one point. We didn’t have to leave the theater, but it was pretty distracting. I was glad I knew what to expect when and didn’t miss anything because I’d already seen it.
- Unfortunately, I think preparing my kid with a half spoiler made him think that half spoiler wasn’t a real spoiler. So while getting supper at Panera after the movie he’s jumping around with his light saber and tells some stranger that half spoiler. The guy slapped his hands to his ears and says, “No spoilers! No spoilers!” Sorry man. We had another talk about spoilers. 10 minutes later another guy asked us if we’d just seen the movie (OK, we’ve got a light saber in the restaurant and we’re all wearing Star Wars shirts… nerd central), asked if it was another Phantom Menace (“Absolutely not!”) and then quickly said, “OK, don’t tell me anything else” and covered his ears.
- While preparing the children for the movie, I showed them a picture of the bad guy, Kylo Ren. They had seen the trailers, but these masked men in black can be frightening in a big, loud, dark theater, so I wanted them to see what Kylo Ren looked like before he was big and scary. They took one look at his mask and dubbed him “Kylo Duckface.”
- At the beginning of the movie I leaned over to my son and read the opening crawl to him. I’ve done that for both kids as we’ve watched all the earlier movies. But doing it in the theater? That was pretty cool. I didn’t expect that to be a moment.
- One of the first things my daughter asked me this morning was, “Can we go see the Star Wars movie again?” That’s my girl.
Such a great movie-going experience.
Now let’s talk about the actual movie. Which means spoilers.
Continue reading Star Wars The Force Awakens: Post-Movie Thoughts
The hype has been building up forever, and tonight I’m going to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Yes!
I’m also going tomorrow.
But I’m not a crazy nerd or anything, I’m doing it for my kids. Yeah, that’s it. I’m screening it tonight to make sure there’s nothing too intense for my 7-year-old. Also if the kids do need to step out or ask ten thousand questions, I’ll have seen it once already and (hopefully) won’t be as annoyed by the distractions.
It’s a happy accident that I’ll get to see it twice in 24 hours.
Plus, unlike my dad and brother, I think the best part of seeing a movie like this is seeing it early with the die-hard fans who clap and cheer. Part of the fun of going to the movies is the atmosphere, and you couldn’t ask for better energy than a theater crammed full of excited fans.
My wife and I saw the Hunger Games on opening night, not because we loved the series but because we happened to have a babysitter. The theater was full of teen girls with Catniss braids who were super excited. Made the whole experience more fun. Also saw one of the Potter movies that way, with a crowd full of teens who had grown up on Potter. Way fun.
So anyway, I’ll be there tonight with my nerds. Continue reading Star Wars The Force Awakens: Pre-Movie Thoughts
I’ve been re-watching Star Wars with the kids in anticipation of Episode VII: The Force Awakens. We finished tonight with Return of the Jedi.
Ah, so good. I loved that movie as a kid. I don’t think I’ve loved it recently, but today I really enjoyed it again. I think the kids enjoyed it too, though they had more fun playing with the box of my 30-year-old Star Wars toys.
So the big question was what order to watch the movies in. Prequels first? (Pshhh, nope.) Originals first?
I went with Machete Order—4, 5, 2, 3 and 6 (and you completely skip 1). Good choice. You skip all the useless stuff in number one (Jar Jar, midichlorians, boy Anakin and major characters that never show up again—Qui-Gon and Darth Maul). The only downside is that watching Episode I makes Episode II seem good by comparison. Continue reading Returning to Star Wars