Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My 2014 Horror Challenge

I mentioned my reading challenges for 2014 which is now here. I had everything written out but I had to go back to my group from goodreads.com, Horror Aficionados, to get the top 10 list.

I am going to list it here. Again if you are a horror fan and think one of these books does not belong, or if you think this list is accurate I would love to know. Of course in the group there were a lot of additions. But that was in the comments section and the list is still the same as it was back in September.


10. Blindness by by José Saramago, Giovanni Pontiero (Translator)
9. Requiem for a Dream (Screenplay) by Darren Aronofsky, Hubert Selby Jr. (note: I thought this was the original which I hear is much better than the movie adaption in book format. I will investigate)
8. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs, James Grauerholz (Editor), Barry Miles (Editor)
7. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
6. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
5. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
4. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo
3. The 120 Days of Sodom by Marquis de Sade
2. The Turner Diaries: A Novel by Andrew MacDonald, William Luther Pierce
1. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I love this list. The covers were good. I have only heard of Requiem For A Dream because of the movie and Naked Lunch. So I cannot wait to dig in!

On The Line - A Drabble

Michelle waited impatiently by the window. She kept looking out. She knew her friend was supposed to be here over an hour ago. She was bringing a surprise. It was not Michelle's birthday, but Michelle was sure she knew what it was. Michelle worried more after another half hour. She called her friend. It went to voice mail. Her friend does this a lot - not picking up her phone. Michelle kept looking out the blinds. Michelle started thinking of all the bad things that could have happened. Then Michelle got a call - to pick up her friend for narcotics possession.

A Brief History of Epic Parties

(from longreads.com)

No doubt you are on your way to one right now: an epic party, a night to end all nights. But will your epic party be as legendary as those thrown attended by Truman Capote, Cher Horowitz, Jay Gatsby, Jordan Belfort, Silvio Berlusconi, or the kids from Saturday Night Fever?

1. “The Great Fratsby,” by Rachel Syme. (NewYorker.com, December 2013)
While Jay Gatsby may have spent lavishly, in the end he did it for love; in Martin Scorese’s The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort does it all for the money.

2. “Suck and Blow: The Oral History of the Clueless Party Scene” by Jen Chaney. (NYmag.com, December 18, 2013)
Before we were rolling with the homies, director Amy Heckerling had to figure out if Cher Horowitz would totally gag if she had to go to a party in the Valley.

3. “The Best Night $500,000 Can Buy,” by Devin Friedman. (GQ, September 2012)
The hottest club in Las Vegas has Italian princes, ten-thousand dollar tables, a champagne fairy, air of pure oxygen, and you’re not invited.

4. “Basta Bunga Bunga,” by Ariel Levy. (The New Yorker, June 6, 2011)
The era of Berlusconi may be at an end, but the legend of this Italian version of Benny Hill will never be forgotten, nakedly chasing after topless nymphettes while running the country into the ground.

5. “A Night to Remember,” by Amy Fine Collins. (Vanity Fair, July 1996)
Truman Capote kept telling people that he was going to invite everybody to his party at the Plaza Hotel in November of 1966. Guests were required to wear only two colors, black and white, to mirror the ascot races in My Fair Lady. Masks were to be worn by all upon entry and removed only at midnight.

6. “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night,” by Nik Cohn. (New York Magazine, 1976)
By day, Vincent sold paint in a Bay Ridge hardware store; by night he was the best disco dancer in all of New York City. And in 1977, he would be played on screen by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.


In 1964, Isaac Asimov Imagined the World in 2014

(from theatlantic.com
by Rebecca J. Rosen)

America's Independent Electric Light and Power Companies/Paleofuture

In August of 1964, just more than 50 years ago, author Isaac Asimov wrote a piece in The New York Times, pegged to that summer's World Fair.

In the essay, Asimov imagines what the World Fair would be like in 2014—his future, our present.

His notions were strange and wonderful (and conservative, as Matt Novak writes in a great run-down), in the way that dreams of the future from the point of view of the American mid-century tend to be. There will be electroluminescent walls for our windowless homes, levitating cars for our transportation, 3D cube televisions that will permit viewers to watch dance performances from all angles, and "Algae Bars" that taste like turkey and steak ("but," he adds, "there will be considerable psychological resistance to such an innovation").

He got some things wrong and some things right, as is common for those who engage in the sport of prediction-making. Keeping score is of little interest to me. What is of interest: what Asimov understood about the entangled relationships among humans, technological development, and the planet—and the implications of those ideas for us today, knowing what we know now.

Asimov begins by suggesting that in the coming decades, the gulf between humans and "nature" will expand, driven by technological development. "One thought that occurs to me," he writes, "is that men will continue to withdraw from nature in order to create an environment that will suit them better. "

It is in this context that Asimov sees the future shining bright: underground, suburban houses, "free from the vicissitudes of weather, with air cleaned and light controlled, should be fairly common." Windows, he says, "need be no more than an archaic touch," with programmed, alterable, "scenery." We will build our own world, an improvement on the natural one we found ourselves in for so long. Separation from nature, Asimov implies, will keep humans safe—safe from the irregularities of the natural world, and the bombs of the human one, a concern he just barely hints at, but that was deeply felt at the time.

But Asimov knows too that humans cannot survive on technology alone. Eight years before astronauts' Blue Marble image of Earth would reshape how humans thought about the planet, Asimov sees that humans need a healthy Earth, and he worries that an exploding human population (6.5 billion, he accurately extrapolated) will wear down our resources, creating massive inequality.

Although technology will still keep up with population through 2014, it will be only through a supreme effort and with but partial success. Not all the world's population will enjoy the gadgety world of the future to the full. A larger portion than today will be deprived and although they may be better off, materially, than today, they will be further behind when compared with the advanced portions of the world. They will have moved backward, relatively.
This troubled him, but the real problems lay yet further in the future, as "unchecked" population growth pushed urban sprawl to every corner of the planet, creating a "World-Manhattan" by 2450. But, he exclaimed, "society will collapse long before that!" Humans would have to stop reproducing so quickly to avert this catastrophe, he believed, and he predicted that by 2014 we would have decided that lowering the birth rate was a policy priority.

Asimov rightly saw the central role of the planet's environmental health to a society: No matter how technologically developed humanity becomes, there is no escaping our fundamental reliance on Earth (at least not until we seriously leave Earth, that is). But in 1964 the environmental specters that haunt us today—climate change and impending mass extinctions—were only just beginning to gain notice. Asimov could not have imagined the particulars of this special blend of planetary destruction we are now brewing—and he was overly optimistic about our propensity to take action to protect an imperiled planet.

2013 was not the warmest year on record but it will come close. Last month, November, was the warmest since 1880. All of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1998. A video from NASA shows the dramatic shift in recent years. Watch what happens in the decades after Asimov wrote his essay. (Yellow and red represent temperatures warmer than the average for the years from 1951 to 1980.)

What color will 2014 be on that map? And what about in 10, 20, or 50 years ahead? Predictions are a messy, often trivial sport, but the overall direction the planet is heading is all too clear. As Wen Stephenson wrote in a blistering essay last year, "It's entirely possible that we'll no longer have a livable climate—one that allows for stable, secure societies to survive—within the lifetimes of today's children." No prediction should scare us more.

Doctorow, Rowling, Murakami, and More: Books to Read in 2014

(from theatlantic.com
by Nolan Feeney and Ashley Fetters)

The coming year is full of long-awaited sequels, promising debuts, not-so-secret pseudonyms, and several books involving bloody murder. Read more on what notable authors in both fiction and non-fiction are up to in 2014.

Andrew's Brain
E. L. Doctorow
January 14

At the outset of Doctorow’s psychological puzzle Andrew’s Brain, cognitive neuroscientist Andrew explains—to what appears to be his therapist—that when his ex-wife died, he was too crippled by depression and self-doubt to take care of his baby daughter, and he describes leaving her with his ex-wife. Later, however, Andrew insists he’s actually incapable of feeling, and he proceeds to tell and retell his story, retooling its sequence of events, adding and recycling and reimagining details as he goes. But is it Andrew’s worldview that keeps shifting, or is it the world itself? Doctorow, author of the National Book Award-winning World’s Fair, offers a tantalizing riddle.

Richard Powers
January 20

When 70-year-old Peter Els’s dog dies, 911 responders arrive at his home and discover a room converted into an amateur biochemical engineering lab. Orfeo, National Book Award winner Powers’s novel inspired by the Greek myth of Orpheus, follows Els, a onetime adjunct professor, as he flees from the ensuing federal investigation and along the way visits his estranged family members; in flashbacks, Powers tells the story of a man so entranced by the act of creation—first of music, then of biochemical processes—that it has isolated him from much of the world.

Joyce Carol Oates
January 21

When Zeno Mayfield’s daughter goes missing one night in the wilderness near the Adirondack mountains, his entire town of Carthage pitches into the effort to find her. All evidence, however, points to foul play on the part of a well-respected Iraq War veteran closely associated with the Mayfields. Oates, a National Book Award winner and Pulitzer Prize nominee, promises a deep-probing study of PTSD, family loyalty, and forgiveness.

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of The Great Gatsby
Sarah Churchwell
January 23

Shortly before F. Scott Fitzgerald died in obscurity, he scribbled down a list of the real-life inspirations for his then-ignored novel, The Great Gatsby. Using those clues as a jumping-off point, Churchwell reconstructs histories of Prohibition, organized crime, celebrity culture, and bacchanalian Long Island weekends to tell the story behind one of America's greatest works of fiction and its decadent portrait of the 1920s.

The Guts
Roddy Doyle
January 23

The last time 1993 Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle wrote about the cocky young musician Jimmy Rabbitte and his wild adventures in Dublin, the result was 1987’s beloved, soulful The Commitments (which later became an equally beloved and soulful film of the same name). Twenty-seven years later, Doyle has decided to revisit Rabbitte—who’s now a cocky older musician with kids, a wife, and newly diagnosed bowel cancer. With his mortality now in mind, Rabbitte reconnects with his old Commitments bandmates, reunites with his estranged brother, and rediscovers the awkward, humiliating delights of family life.

Yvonne Adhiambo Owuor
January 28

The first novel from the renowned Kenyan writer—her short story about Rwandan refugees, “Weight of Whispers”, won the African equivalent of the Booker Prize in 20013—opens with a murder. After Ajany Oganda's brother is shot and killed in Nairobi, their difficult mother flees, leaving Ajany and her grieving father to pick up the pieces of their broken family. Their loss is complicated by an out-of-town Englishman, a mysterious merchant, and a steeled policeman who all flesh out the novel’s depiction of post-election unrest in a country working to make sense of the horrors of its past.

Bark: Stories
Lorrie Moore
February 25

After a decade-and-a-half-long wait, readers can finally look forward to another set of tragicomic vignettes from Moore. Unlike the young mothers and daughters of Moore’s earlier works, many of the main characters in Bark are divorced, depressed parents in the throes of the often-demoralizing process of raising teenagers. And yet, though the tales themselves deal bleakly with themes of failure and emotional disconnect, Publishers Weekly calls the stories in Moore’s first short story collection in 15 years “laugh-out-loud funny.”

A Nice Little Place on the North Side: Wrigley Field at One Hundred​
George F. Will
March 25

“Every player should be accorded the privilege of at least one season with the Chicago Cubs,” legendary shortstop and MLB manager (and one-season Cubs player) Alvin Dark once said. “That’s baseball as it should be played—in God’s own sunshine.” Lifelong Cubs fans, like syndicated columnist George Will, would probably say the Cubs’ storied home stadium offers baseball as it should be watched, too. On the eve of Wrigley Field’s centennial anniversary, Will applies his trademark wit and warmth to the history—the real, folklore-free version—of the Chicago Cubs franchise and their home field.

Astonish Me
Maggie Shipstead
April 8

Shipstead's impressive debut novel, Seating Arrangements, captured the family turmoil of WASPy New Englanders with such precision and elegance that it was hard to believe Shipstead, a Southern California native, didn't hail from that world herself. In Astonish Me, she's crafted another tale of family secrets and tough decisions that centers on ballerina Joan, who has a passionate affair with Soviet Union defector Arslan in the 1970s. As Arslan becomes the darling of New York’s ballet scene, Joan’s career fizzles, and she departs to the West Coast with a new husband and kid. But when their son grows up to be a prodigious dancer in his on right, Joan must once again face the world—and the man—she left behind.

The Snow Queen
Michael Cunningham
May 6

While walking through Central Park one day in 2004, a heartbroken, newly single Barrett Meeks sees a godly light shining down from the sky. Over in Brooklyn, his musician brother, Tyler, struggles to write a wedding song for his sick fiancée. As atheist Barrett welcomes religion into his life, Tyler turns to drugs to fuel his creativity, and Cunningham, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Hours, spins dueling tales of unlocking our higher selves and confronting mortality.

Lost For Words
Edward St. Aubyn
May 20

The newest novel from the author of the acclaimed Patrick Melrose series offers a searing satire on the convoluted, underhanded behind-the-scenes politics of literary prizes like the Man Booker (for which St. Aubyn’s novel Mother’s Milk was shortlisted in 2006). By chronicling the lives of the calculating authors nominated for the prize and the grumbling, bargaining judges tasked with agreeing on a single work of literature worthy of the prize, Lost for Words questions the roles of celebrity, ambition, and true talent in literary competitions.

Untitled memoir
Hillary Rodham Clinton
June 1

Will she or won't she? Talk of potential presidential run dominates the Clinton conversation right now, but while pundits look ahead to 2016, Clinton's latest book, expected in June, takes a look back at the defining moments of her term as Secretary of State. Those willing to read the tea leaves, however, may not be too disappointed in the as-yet untitled memoir, Clinton's second, as its official description teases some of "her thoughts about how to navigate the challenges of the 21st century."

The Faded [or Colorless] Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage
Haruki Murakami
August 12

The author of 2010’s acclaimed IQ84 returns with the story of the troubled Tsukuru Tazaki, whose girlfriend Sara suggests that the source of his angst might be his broken relationships with the friends he grew up with. At Sara’s urging, he visits his friends in Nagoya and Finland and discovers the real reasons why their friendships ended poorly. The English translation of Haruki Murakami’s novel is the second translation of The Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and the Year of His Pilgrimage (the first was the Spanish translation, which was released in late 2013). But when the original Japanese version was released at midnight on April 12, 2013, bookstores in Tokyo were suddenly flooded with lines more than 150 people long—and in its first seven days, it sold more than one million copies.

Arctic Summer
Damon Galgut
August 12

Galgut, twice shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, offers a partially fictionalized exploration of the life and work of E.M. Forster—starting with the “passage to India” on the SS Birmingham in 1912 that would inspire his famous novel of the same name. On his voyage, the writer and intellectual then known as Morgan Forster comes to a greater understanding of both the nuances of human nature and of himself.

Robert Galbraith

Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling spent the first half of 2013 sneaking around the publishing world like a wizard teen with the Marauder's Map: She wrote crime novel The Cuckoo's Calling under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith, supposedly a former police investigator, and quietly racked up positive reviews until reporters dug up her true identity. With her cover blown, book sales skyrocketed, but Rowling is sticking with the act—a “Galbraith”-penned follow-up to the adventures of private eye Cormoran Strike is due sometime in 2014.

‘Why We Took the Car,’ by Wolfgang Herrndorf

(from washingtonpost.com
by Mary Quattlebaum)

Buckle your seat belt. You’re in for a bumpy, exhilarating ride with this winner of the German Youth Literature Award. Even in today’s connected world, relatively little young-adult fiction from other countries is published in the United States. With its car window on the German landscape and teen culture, the late Wolfgang Herrndorf’s novel (nimbly translated by Tim Mohr) fuels an especially expansive reading experience. Lonely and caustic, Mike Klingenberg seems like the Berliner descendant of Holden Caulfield , but this 14-year-old’s tale veers from that angsty course with a classmate named Tschick at the wheel of a hot-wired car. Mike, a “rich scaredy-cat,” and his smart, “low-class” Russian friend share the bottom rung on their school’s social ladder and an affinity for philosophical reflection, which bonds them on an erratic road trip. They careen from a party at the home of Mike’s crush to a chance meeting with a young dump dweller to a too-close encounter with a pig truck on the autobahn. Believably, the boys must face the legal consequences of their joy ride, but Mike realizes that it has taught him that the world, far from being a danger, is “bigger, the colors brighter” than he ever imagined. Though labeled boring by fellow students, Mike proves anything but in this lively bildungsroman, rich with funny, poignant riffs on nicknames, boomerangs, Beyoncé, aging and the possibility of life on other planets.

— Mary Quattlebaum


By Wolfgang Herrndorf

Translated from the German by Tim Mohr

Arthur A. Levine. $17.99. Age 14 and up

10 Really Easy-to-Keep New Year's Resolutions

(from savysugar.com
by Lisette Mejia)

*Blogger's note: I am throwing in a comment at the end, I will put it in Italics so you know it is me. Just wanted you to know this was not in the original article. Also I just posted about making resolutions for the New Year. These are great and easy!

Let's be honest: not all of us have the time, money, or motivation to join a gym or volunteer on a regular basis like we'd like to. But that doesn't mean we can't make meaningful resolutions in the New Year and stick to them. Indeed, we might have better chances of doing good if we start small than if we put ourselves up to an unrealistic challenge. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Send handwritten notes: There's something really meaningful about receiving a handwritten note just because, and that's even truer in today's tech-centric world. Whether you do it once a month or more often, put a smile on someone's face by sending them a card to say hi and that you're thinking about them. I will write my friends and tell them about the books that I have read. I actually have a friend who has no computer!

Donate spare change: Know all that spare change that's collecting dust in a jar on your desk? Gather it up every once in a while and commit to donating it to others. That can mean giving money to a charity or treating your friend to lunch — either way, you'll be helping someone else out. Try to save money for a charity that involves books.

Say "thank you": Sure, most of us say thank you on a regular basis and think of it as a given part of our day. But there are times when we can make the extra effort to show our appreciation, even if it means going out of our way. For example, we don't often think of leaving a note for the office cleaning lady who empties out our trash every day, but we can certainly start. I hope to say thank you when the clerk tells me to have a nice day when I go to Barnes & Noble with my two $25.00 gift certificates I got for Christmas.

Use fewer plastic bags: They might be convenient when we go to the corner store, but the negative effects of plastic bags on the environment outweigh their benefits. Keep reusable bags in the car, in your purse, or stored next to your coupons so you remember to grab them the next time you go grocery shopping. When you buy your books, bring a fabric bag!

Be grateful: If we could all count a couple of reasons why we're grateful just once a day, it would make a world of difference in our outlook. Aside from being thankful for having basic necessities like a home, it's important to appreciate the little things in life, like having a close friend who lives nearby. Be grateful for your books of course. And be grateful that you know how to read. A lot of people are illiterate.

Put the phone away: OK, it would be impossible to hide your phone all the time, but make a conscious effort to keep it away when it matters most. Dinner with the family? Getting to know someone you just met? Focus on the people in front of you; you can always check your email later. Put it next to your favorite book so you remember where you put it!

Clean your inbox: At the end of every day (or at least every week), take just a few minutes to delete the messages that you don't need anymore. If you do this on a regular basis, you'll feel much better every morning about starting your day with a clean slate. Go through all your book blog emails and if you are on book mailing lists make sure you clean them up. New year starting and new newsletters and blogs to come in. If it has been a long time, maybe think about deleting older emails.

Make instead of buy: Most of us often buy food and drinks we could easily make ourselves. Do coffee and salads come to mind? By making these yourself, you'll not only save money, but it will most likely be a healthier alternative. You cannot make a book. You can try to write one..give it a shot! There are tons of places I am finding on the website that give a prize to a person or people who write short stories or novellas.

Spend 10 minutes a day outside: It's hard to realize, but between work and home life, some of us might not even spend more than 10 minutes a day outside. Make it a point to go for a walk or sit at a park bench reading from a book. Your emotional health will thank you. I was just talking to my husband about this today. This year I am going to sit out on our patio with a book.

Make an appointment: When was the last time you visited a doctor or a dentist for a routine checkup? Many of us either dread it or only go when a pressing issue comes up. Even if this is something you only do once this year, pick up the phone and set a date. Knowing your health is in a good shape or where you can improve is priceless. This is serious. As an RN, it is better to catch things early. If I missed all of my endocrinologist appointments, they would not have found the cancer at its early stage. But bring a book because some doctors make you wait forever!

My Forth Challenge for 2014

Those of you that read my blog know that I have a few challenges for myself of books I am going to read in 2014.

Challenge 1: Read the top 10 horror books as voted by goodreads.com horror book group.

Challenge 2: A-Z list with titles picked by me and with some suggestions by friends and authors.

Challenge 3- A-Z list with titles completely chosen only by friends, blog readers, and authors.

Today, as I was working on a blog entry, I liked the article I read and wanted to read the book. Then it occurred to me. I do the "THE QUOTE, THE REVIEW, THE LIST" everyday and not to mention I read tons of reviews on books or at least hear some buzz about them. So I am not going to go back and check all of my daily reviews, but from today on, 28 books will be devoted to a book I like in my daily review (usually from Kirkus) and any book I happen to find interesting in an article.

So that brings me up to 90 book. My goal for the year is 100 books and although I read 59 in tow and a half months, I am not going to change it. If I am very ahead around June, I will change it.

So if you do the math, that leaves 10 books on a list. And usually there are 10 books on a list. So I will announce the last 10 that I will be reading soon. Again, if you have a list of books, let me know and I will, yes, I will make this a reader challenge. You comment here and give me the link of a list of 10 books and I will read them. No questions asked.

By the way, the book that made this decision for me was reading about how "Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children" came to be on my list.

A Book That Started With Its Pictures

(from newyorktimes.com
by Maria Russo)

Photographs from "Hollow City," Ransom Riggs's second novel.

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Growing up in Florida, the writer Ransom Riggs was often taken by his grandmother to swap meets and secondhand shops. “It was pretty torturous for an 11- or 12-year-old boy,” Mr. Riggs said recently, “but I would find these boxes of old snapshots.”
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One picture — it reminded him of a girl he’d had a crush on at camp — had such an effect on him that he bought it and put it by his bed. “Years later, I took it out and looked on the back,” he recalled, “and it said that she had died at age 15 of leukemia. I thought, oh, wow, I’ve been living with a ghost.”

Mr. Riggs’s attraction to haunting photographs eventually became the catalyst for his first novel, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (2011), a surprise best seller, whose plot was inspired by the dozens of vintage snapshots featured in its pages, which add to its uncanny atmosphere. With the film rights to “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” sold to 20th Century Fox (Chernin Entertainment is aiming for a summer 2015 release), and “Hollow City,” the second book in a planned “Miss Peregrine” trilogy, to be published in January, Mr. Riggs is beginning to feel at home in a career he calls “accidental.”

It was in 2009 that Mr. Riggs, a graduate of the University of Southern California’s film school, stumbled on a trove of vintage snapshots at a flea market and felt the stirrings of an obsession.

“I realized I can find these amazing little lost pieces of art and be my own curator and rescue them from the garbage,” he said, “and they’re a quarter each.” Long a connoisseur of abandoned houses and mysteriously desolate landscapes, Mr. Riggs said he was drawn to odd or disturbing photos that suggested lost back stories.

On a sunny morning at his carefully renovated Spanish-style home here, Mr. Riggs, 34, who is tall and lanky with a manner both gentlemanly and unpretentious, flipped through his neatly organized boxes of snapshots, explaining why he chose some of his favorites. “The look on her face,” he said, pointing to a photograph of a woman sitting stiffly on the lap of a Nazi soldier. “That’s what it’s all about.”

While his snapshot collection grew, Mr. Riggs was training his sights on a filmmaking career, working on spec screenplays and supporting himself with freelance writing. Jason Rekulak, the publisher of Quirk Books in Philadelphia, for whom Mr. Riggs had been doing work for hire, asked him if he had any books he wanted to write. Mr. Riggs said he thought of the snapshots, particularly those with an “Edward Gorey-like Victorian weirdness, these haunting images of peculiar children.”

Mr. Riggs’s idea was to do a Halloween book of photos accompanied by rhyming couplets. It was Mr. Rekulak who suggested that the eerie pictures of the children might lend themselves to a novel.

Told from the point of view of Jacob Portman, a lonely 16-year-old Floridian who suspects that his grandfather’s tales of growing up on an island off Wales in a home full of children with unusual abilities may not have been invented, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” incorporates time travel and a richly imagined alternate reality. Some of the black-and-white snapshots that pepper its pages are Mr. Riggs’s own; some are borrowed from collectors like Robert E. Jackson, whose pictures were exhibited in “The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978,” a 2007 show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

“Miss Peregrine” was not conceived or composed with a young-adult audience in mind, but its central premise — about people who are “peculiar” in various ways and must struggle not only to survive, but also to save the clueless rest of humanity from violent evildoers — is certainly adolescent-friendly.

Mr. Rekulak said Quirk’s sales department told him, “You could sell it as an adult book, but you could also sell it in Y.A,” referring to young adult. Because the hero was 16, and his “voice had an earnest quality,” Mr. Rekulak said, “we opted to put it in Y.A.”

The book, though, was hard to market to bookstores as a young-adult title, Mr. Rekulak said, because of the vintage photographs and the black-and-white cover. Quirk took to the Internet, including posting a video trailer made by Mr. Riggs. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” made its debut at No. 7 on the New York Times best-seller list, and has sold 1.5 million copies in all formats.

“The creepy factor of the photos was obviously appealing to many adults and teens,” said Leslie Hawkins, owner of Spellbound Children’s Bookshop in Asheville, N.C., where, she said, members of a book group for adults who read young-adult material had enjoyed “Miss Peregrine.”

“Hollow City,” which has a planned 250,000-copy first printing, follows Jacob and his peculiar companions as they make their way through World War II-era London, having left their protector Miss Peregrine’s house under terrifying circumstances.

“They have to find themselves as individuals,” Mr. Riggs said, “and negotiate their power structure and ask who’s the leader, now that Miss Peregrine is not there, and deal with all these external stressors that they haven’t had to face.”

In the months after “Miss Peregrine” was released, Mr. Riggs, who said he had never even read the Harry Potter series, met and was befriended by several established young-adult authors, including Kami Garcia and Melissa de la Cruz.

“I didn’t really know anything about their world, but they were all so incredibly welcoming and generous to me,” he said. Going through a divorce at the time, he struck up a friendship with Tahereh Mafi, author of the best-selling young-adult paranormal romance series Shatter Me, who had also recently ended a marriage. In September, Mr. Riggs married Ms. Mafi, 26.

The two have become something of a golden couple on the young-adult literary scene, with fans lining up to meet them at events and rushing to post their words on Twitter when either shares details of their life together on Twitter. They work side by side at a long desk, with an espresso machine on a nearby countertop and shelves filled with copies of their books in several languages.

When he wrote “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” Mr. Riggs began with the photos and created a story that would make sense of them, but for “Hollow City,” he had to revise his process. “The plot had its own momentum this time,” he said. “I’d know that something had to happen, and I’d have to find a photo to fit it.” Only in later drafts, he said, could he make changes to use photos he loved.

One such change in a chapter involving a near-kidnapping incorporated three quietly devastating pictures: one of an empty country road with three dead horses off to the side, one of soldiers’ bodies piled on a grassy path, and one of distraught men sitting on a wood floor, apparently being held prisoner while light streams into a window above.

“I love them because they’re beautiful photographs of horrible things,” Mr. Riggs said.

A version of this article appears in print on December 31, 2013, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: A Book That Started With Its Pictures.

*Blogger's note: I love this article. I would like to get this book. I am putting it on my To Read list.

New York Times Best Sellers starting 12/29/13

New York Times Best Sellers from 12/29/13

Resolutions and Smoochies at Midnight: Happy New Year!

(from USA Today
by Joyce Lamb)

Today's featured authors: Lori Wilde, author of Somebody to Love; Candis Terry, author of Sweetest Mistake; and Cara Connelly, author of The Wedding Favor. We're talking New Year's!

Lori Wilde, author of Somebody to Love

Three resolutions from the past that I'm proud of keeping:

• Losing 35 pounds and finally keeping it off for good. This is the third year in a row that I've not had a New Year's resolution to lose weight. Yay!

• Hitting the New York Times best-seller list. Of course, I made this resolution every year for 20 years before it happened. Now my resolution is to hit No. 1 on the New York Times list. You always have to keep raising the bar.

• Opening myself up to new experiences. Each year I pick something new to learn. One year it was learning how to knit and I got The Sweethearts' Knitting Club out of the experience. Another year it was to volunteer at the local domestic abuse shelter and I ended up volunteering there for three years. Last year it was to finally visit the Trans-Pecos region of Texas and I ended up writing my Cupid, Texas, series from that experience and I got to see the mysterious and elusive Marfa Lights. This year, my resolution is to become more mindful with daily yoga practice.

Here's the blurb for Somebody to Love:

New York Times bestselling author Lori Wilde invites you back to Cupid, Texas, where love is only a heartbeat away ...

Sexy cowboy-scholar Jericho Chance always knows exactly what he wants and how to get it. And after sauntering back home to Cupid, he's shocked to discover that he wants Zoe McCleary. After years from home, he takes one new look at his bubbly best friend, with her lightning smarts and luscious body, and it hits him like a bolt: she's his somebody to love and he's not leaving town again without her.

Settling down always seemed like a time waster to Zoe, a man magnet with a trail of broken hearts behind her. She's not meant to settle down—but how can she resist someone as persuasive as Jericho? There's no way they can ignore the explosive chemistry seething between them ... even if it means risking their friendship ...

Find out more at www.loriwilde.com.

Candis Terry, author of Sweetest Mistake

Three of my New Year's traditions:

From year-to-year we celebrate differently. Sometimes it's a quiet evening at home and sometimes we spend it out with others. But whether we're at home, a friends' house, or a downtown hotel party, there are three things that remain consistent to our celebration:

• Dancing.

• A kiss at midnight.

• And fireworks.

Sometimes the kiss at midnight leads to the fireworks. But that's another story for another day. The dancing can be either to our favorite local oldies band or Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. The fireworks always come from the biggest, brightest fountains available. Most of the time, we have snow on the ground, and the reflection of bright lights and colors make it even more breathtaking.

I'd like to wish you all a happy, bright, and spectacular new year!

Here's the blurb for Sweetest Mistake:

Firefighter and former Marine Jackson Wilder has tough guy down to an art, but he's learned the hard way that promises were made to be broken. Abigail Morgan was once his best friend, his first kiss, his first love, his first everything. He'd just forgotten to mention all that to her and she blew out of his life. Five years later she's back and he's battling a load of mistrust for her disappearing act. But for some reason he just can't keep his lips-or his hands-to himself.

When her stint as a trophy wife abruptly ends, Abby returns home to Sweet, Texas and comes face-to-face with Jackson-her biggest and sexiest mistake. Time and distance did nothing to squash her love for the act-first-think-later stubborn hunk of a man, and when he suggests they renew their old just-friends vow, Abby realizes she wants more. She'd cut and run once. Could she do it again? Or could she tempt him enough to break his promise?

Find out more at www.candisterry.com.

Cara Connelly, author of The Wedding Favor

Three of my New Year's resolutions:

2013 was a fantastic year! Family members who'd been dealing with serious illnesses came out on the other side of them healthy and happy, close friends had babies, got promotions, or retired to move on to their encore careers. And I saw the publication of my first novella (The Wedding Date) and my first novel (The Wedding Favor). Just a great, great year!

But as I often tell my near-perfect husband, there's always room for improvement. So with the goal of making 2014 my best year yet, I'm going to start it with a few resolutions.

• To live by the Golden Rule. It's a classic for a reason. Like a compass, it always points toward true north. So I resolve to do unto others as I'd have them do unto me. To be kind and forgiving and generous with the blessings that have been showered upon me. To lend a hand and an ear. To take the time to be present.

• To respect my body by moving more, my spirit by playing more, my heart by loving more, and my brain by reading more (and spending less time on Facebook!).

• To not beat myself up when I falter on No. 1 and No. 2, or for any other reason. Accepting my own shortcomings is the toughest resolution to keep, but in 2014 I resolve to be as kind, forgiving and generous to myself as with those around me. I've actually managed to do this from time to time, and my husband can attest that it makes the world a better place for those around me, too. Imagine a whole year of living kindly — maybe I can make it a lifelong habit.

Those are my resolutions for 2014 — wish me luck! I hope all of us have a year to remember!

Here's the blurb for The Wedding Favor (coming out Tuesday!):

In her deliciously sexy debut, Cara Connelly gives a whole new meaning to crashing a wedding.

Before the wedding... Tyrell Brown wanted to get the hell out of Houston and back to his ranch. Instead, he's stuck on a flight to France for his best friend's wedding. To top it off, he discovers he's sharing a seat with Victoria Westin, the blue-eyed, stiletto-heeled lawyer who's been a thorn in his side for months.

At the wedding... Victoria can't believe it! How can she be at the same wedding as this long, lean cowboy with a killer smile? So what if they shared a few in-flight cocktails, some serious flirting, and a near-miss at the mile-high club? She still can't stand the man!

After the wedding...The wedding disaster's in the rearview, but the sizzle between these two is still red-hot. They tried to be on their best behavior in France, but back in the States all bets are off ...

Find out more at www.caraconnelly.com.

Byliner Publishes New Leonard Stories

(from publishersweekly.com)

Byliner announced the release of two new stories by Elmore Leonard, who passed away in August. Both stories, Confession and Trespassers, were written in 1958 while Leonard was working at a Detroit-based advertising agency.

The stories are free to Byliner subscribers, and available for $1.99 each as Kindle Singles at Amazon, a Quick Read at Apple’s iBooks store, a Nook Snap at Barnes and Noble, and a Short Read at Kobo.

P. Craig Russell on the new edition of ‘Murder Mysteries’

(from comicbookresources.com
by Brigid Alverson)

Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russell’s Murder Mysteries returns in May in a new edition from Dark Horse that will feature new extras as well as a new cover.

The story, originally published as a short story in Gaiman’s 1998 collection Smoke and Mirrors, is set on the streets of Los Angeles, where a lost angel tells a stranded traveler about being sent by God to solve the mystery of another angel’s murder — and to exact vengeance for the crime.

The graphic novel version, initially published in 2002, was described by Publishers Weekly this way: “Using sharp, crystalline drawings of the eternal city and ribbons of color that suggest creation’s simultaneous plasticity and solidity, Russell conveys a bright, illuminated world of purity and divine experimentation. His crisp and vividly rendered drawings capture the haunting sense of loss and isolation Gaiman expresses in this mythic tale of love and jealousy.”

Russell and Gaiman famously collaborated on The Sandman #50, “Ramadan,” and on The Sandman: Endless Nights story “Death and Venice”; the artist also adapted Gaiman’s prose works The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, One Life Furnished in Early Moorcock, Coraline and The Graveyard Book for comics. Russell’s adaptations of Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales are currently being published by NBM.

Brigid Alverson: Given that the book was first published over a decade ago, a lot of people are probably unfamiliar with it. Can you explain briefly what the story is about?

P. Craig Russell: The story tells of the first murder, a murder in Heaven at the dawn of creation. Lucifer has not yet fallen. The story is told in the present day by an older man to a younger man, somewhat in the style of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Why this younger man is the focus of the older man’s story and who the older man really is is what gives Murder Mysteries its edge.

How do you feel about this work, when you look back at the distance of year? Does it reflect a particular preoccupation or direction you were going in at the time? Do you feel the art has held up well over the years? Were you tempted to redraw any of the images, and if so, did you?

As well as any artist can judge their own work, and you have to if you’re going to progress in any way, I put Murder Mysteries on my short list of works I’d show non-comics readers as an example of what the form can do. An adaptation should always add a layer of meaning to the story or include images that comment on the script in a way not spelled out in the original story. It should never be just a visual illustration of the dialogue and events of the story.

I’ve re-worked stories and illustrations over the years but didn’t feel the need to go for any in-depth changes on this one.

You have done a lot of adaptations of classic works such as the fairy tales of Oscar Wilde and the opera adaptations, and you have collaborated with writers, including Gaiman, on comics like Sandman. For this project, you were adapting an already completed story by a living writer — was the dynamic different in this case? How closely did you and Gaiman work together?

The different dynamic is stark and simple. One author is dead and the other is alive. Though I’ve never had a living author complain about my adaptations of their work I do, nevertheless, feel them peering over my shoulder, especially when I am carving out and disposing of great bloody chunks of prose. I do try to do it in such a way that the stitches don’t show when I sew it back together.

On the projects I’ve done with Neil two were original scripts, written for pictures. These have been fairly straightforward in that there was nothing I had to do as far as scripting goes. I merely had to find the visual structure for his script. The others, Coraline, One Life Furnished in Early Moorcock, The Graveyard Book, The Dream Hunters, Murder Mysteries, Neil provided me with a few pointers or notes to be mindful of at the beginning and then set me loose. If in the course of doing script and layouts I have questions, and I usually have a few, I simply drop him a line and he gives me what I need to proceed.

Why does this particular moment seem like the best time to revive this book?

I’m not sure why this particular moment is a good one to do a new edition of Murder Mysteries other than it’s been 10 years since its first printing, and Neil’s growing and enormous popularity means there are a lot of people who never saw the graphic adaptation of 10 years ago and will be glad to see it now.

How will the new edition differ from the old?

The new edition features a new cover and new and heretofore unseen visual extras. The new cover couldn’t be more different from the old. The first edition had an extremely simple cover, a couple of feathers and a title. For contrast we’ve made this one a full out ‘situational’ illustration and included material inside that shows its work-in-progress evolution.

Spider-Man Prepares For New Year’s Eve

(from comicbookresources.com
by TJ Dietsch)

Spider-Man has been popping up all over New York City, which is an everyday event in the Marvel Universe. However, we’re talking about the real world here. Just the other day the hero appeared on Good Morning America with The Amazing Spider-Man 2 director Marc Webb to talk about the upcoming film as well as the webslinger’s role in tonight’s big New Year’s Eve ball drop.

Now Marvel has released the above video showing Spider-Man training for the festivities, and also posing for some pictures. Dubbed “the official superhero of Times Square 2014,” Spidey looks ready to help ring in the new year. The televised event will also feature a first look at a scene or two from the Sony sequel.

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Dane DeHaan, Jamie Foxx and Paul Giamatti. It opens May 2.

Book Bits

(from USA Today
By Lindsay Deutsch)

New and noteworthy: Noteworthy books on sale this week include Super Shred, a diet book for those getting a head start on their New Year's resolutions, and Rosarito Beach by M.A. Lawson, a novel that has been optioned for TV by CBS. Plus, check out a review of Inside the Dream Palace: The Life and Times of New York's Legendary Chelsea Hotel by Sherill Tippins (*** out of four).

Elmore Leonard: Byliner has published two previously unseen stories by lauded crime writer Elmore Leonard, who died in August at 87. Both stories, "Confession" and "The Trespassers," were written in 1958 while Leonard worked at an ad agency in Detroit. Leonard wrote 50 novels including Get Shorty and Raylan.

Bibliotherapy: Reading can heal, literally. Doctors are now prescribing books to treat depression, reports The Boston Globe. A program in the United Kingdom that launched in June advocates for "a planned reading program designated to facilitate the recovery of patients suffering from mental illness or emotional disturbance."

Great audiobooks: Rest your eyes and delve into the world of audiobooks with this list of 10 greatest audio adaptions, including Slaughterhouse Five read by Ethan Hawke and Not Taco Bell Material read by author and podcaster Adam Carolla.

Writers' routines: E.B. White never listened to music while writing. Jack Kerouaconce had a ritual of writing by candlelight and praying before he brought pen to paper. Susan Sontag would never take calls in the morning. Whether you're an aspiring writer or simply a fan, Brain Pickings' compilation of the daily routines of famous writers is a fascinating read. Plus, check out the site's visualization of famous writers' sleep habits and literary productivity.

Death of Neruda: While a toxicology report has proven that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda died of natural causes in 1973, some of his family still contends that the famed writer and activist was poisoned by the Pinochet regime. At The Guardian, Neruda biographer Adam Feinstein explains why the death remains a mystery.

'The Last Bookstore': Read a humorous (and very, very bleak) short story by Susan Coll, a writer who works at the Washington, D.C., bookstore Politics & Prose, about the sad state of bookstores. Spoiler alert: It includes Amazon and drones.

End Of The Year Lists

It is funny to me. I am sitting here scouring my favorite book sites and everyone seems to have some sort of wrap up or favorite (or not favorite) list of books from 2013.

My question is, how many do I present to you? Because it is making my head spin.

And on top of it, some are already starting 2014 lists.

So what to do?

Well all of my regular watering holes I have written on a piece of paper. Two pieces actually. Front and back. So I figured I would rewrite it and make it neater and, in the process, click on each one as I rewrite it and see what kind of lists they have. I know a lot of the lists are close, maybe off by a book or two (or a comic book in some cases). For example a book on one list is number 4 overall where on another list it is number 7 overall.

I was thinking of making a list of my favorite books of 2013, but I just started, as you all know, reading in the middle of September. I think a year is more of a good time to go over all the books you read in a years span of time and to make a top 10 or top 20 list. I read 59 out of 35 books which is the goal I set for myself when I started reading again. The original goal was 20. Then 25, then 30, then 35. Then I said "Let me leave it". It is only 7pm so you may see a top 10 list from me yet. I do have ones that come to mind.

As the end of the year draws near, I think about how lucky I am to be reading again. I am even more happy to share my passion with all of you.

I do not want to bombard you with lists. So I will do my best to bring you my original posts and book reviews and other things that I like to do.

I have a feeling that tomorrow will be a list day, or sorry, not everything is in print tomorrow, Thursday will be the day of lists.

I am also thinking about doing a new year's resolution list. But it is a little private. I will see how that goes.

So enjoy my blog. Enjoy the lists and look for your favorite books on the list. If it is not on there, you are unique and you can make your own list!

Best Book For Anyone With the Holiday Blues: Survival Lessons

(from theguardian.com
by Emma G. Keller)

Alice Hoffman offers beautifully written, priceless advice for anyone finding the joys of the season rather too much to bare

The holiday season is endless. Having had to endure plenty of miserable ones over the years, I would argue that it's particularly interminable for anyone whose life isn’t completely great. All that forced gaiety, during the period of “look at my tree/gifts/family/massive spread of food”, is made worse in this time of social media. But it's no secret that Christmas in general often makes the lonely, the traumatised and the depressed feel even more isolated and grim.

Which is where Survival Lessons comes in. Alice Hoffman is a superb writer, as fans of her novels know. But I am new to her. Reading this book, I remembered awful Christmases I suffered through in my 20s and 30s. Times when my father refused to invite me home to meet his appalling new wife; the year my mother died; the Christmas I broke up with my boyfriend. Those ones.

You’ve either had ones like them too or you will. Maybe the last thing you'll feel like doing is reading. Maybe you've clicked on this page en route to Candy Crush. Whatever. The last thing you want to read while you’re wondering whether or not to even get out of bed is some sappy book telling you that Better Times Are On Their Way. Hoffman, thank God, doesn’t do that – although she is pro adopting a puppy. This was the only point in her terrific book at which I wrote “No!” in the margin.

Don’t get a puppy. You never know – you might want to get the hell out of here in January. And then what are you meant to do with it?

Hoffman doesn’t deal with Christmas, per se. Her trauma came when she discovered she had cancer. Which was a shock. She writes:

I was the person who sat by bedsides, accompanied friends to doctor’s appointments … went to meetings with lawyers when divorce was the only option, found therapists for depressed teenagers.

You get the picture. But then she found the tumour and straight away she figured out that: “Good fortune and bad luck are always tied together with invisible, unbreakable thread. It happens to everyone, in one way or another, sooner or later.”

In other words: you are not alone. Or as Hoffman puts it, so much more eloquently: “When it comes to sorrow no one is immune … I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and it is impossible to have one without the other.”

When I was at my lowest, I didn’t buy books. I’d go into bookshops – into the section where you might find this type of book – and sit on the floor and read them. But you might actually want to buy this book. You’ll want to highlight lines like the following:

• “There is always a before and an after.”

• “It is difficult to measure a personal tragedy. How much bad fortune does it take to destroy a person? How much strength must someone possess in order to survive against the odds?

• “Life is beautiful, just very unfair.”

• “Start by eating chocolate.”

• ”Stay in your pajamas for days.”

• “Write your troubles on a slip of paper and burn it.”

• “Just buy the ticket and stop thinking so much. You’ll pay it off later.”

And my favourite:

The truth is, some of your closest friends may disappear during your most difficult times. These people have their own history and traumas; they may not be able to deal with yours. They may belong to the before … If people aren’t there for you now, when you really need them, they never will be, and it’s time to move on.

Hoffman ends by writing that some things stay with you forever. I can attest to that. Every Christmas, I try to create the warmest, coziest home for my family, to erase the memories of misery and loss that I experienced in my youth. Every year, I create beauty. But every year the memories are still there.

“You are a different person now,” Hoffman concludes. “You know it and I know it. You’re not the same. You’re a survivor. Congratulations.”

Gift pairings

Survival Lessons is not a gift. It’s the book you buy for yourself. But while you’re about it, splurge on a book that follows it nicely and will actually make you laugh from time to time. It’s Sister Mother Husband Dog: Etc, by Delia Ephron (Blue Rider Press). The first chapter is entitled "Losing Nora", which explains a lot.

Take it from there. It will help.

If you have any other books you have found helpful during times like this, please share them in the comments section.

Meanwhile, instead of wishing you a happy new year, let me pass on this memory from Delia Ephron:

There was also a song that freaked me out: 'What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?' Ella Fitzgerald sang it (quite inappropriately, in my opinion) on a record of Christmas songs. When the record … got to that song, I would pick up the needle, very carefully so as not to scratch the record, and skip it to the next song.

2013 in Books: The Unlikely, Belated Year of Renata Adler

(from flavorwire.com
by Jason Diamond)

The last time I saw Renata Adler was not when her 2004 book, Irreparable Harm: The U.S. Supreme Court and the Decision that Made George W. Bush President, came out, but a year or two later on a rerun of the “Secret Societies” episode of History’s Mysteries on the History Channel. Of course, I recognized Adler’s name, but I wasn’t as familiar with the face, since the acclaimed author had spent the last few years moving further and further away from the public spotlight, producing less and less as the years went on. At the time, her acclaimed 1976 novel Speedboat had been nearing the top of my books-to-read pile, thanks to a suggestion from a friend, and a misplaced hardcover copy I happened upon in the basement of The Strand that was far away from its fellow novels. Seeing Adler wedged in the middle of lizard people conspiracy types like David Icke talking about the Bilderbergers made me wonder whatever happened to Renata Adler: novelist. I’d known about her storied career as a journalist and critic, as well as her middle finger to the current era of the magazine where she made her name, The New Yorker, in her 2001 book about the publication’s “last days,” Gone. She proclaims in the book’s preface, “As I write this, The New Yorker is dead.” It was a bold thing to say, and it made me wonder, while watching her talk on the television show about conspiracy theories, if Adler, and her novels which had massive amounts of acclaim since they were released in the late 1970s and early 1980s, was herself a victim of some sort of conspiracy.

People love to talk about great authors, from Franz Kafka to Herman Melville, who didn’t gain widespread fame or weren’t recognized as geniuses during their lifetimes. The lack of fulfillment those authors experienced when they were living and breathing hangs over our literary aspirations like those motivational posters high school teachers always have up on the wall—a beautiful landscape or cute animal coupled with a motivational quote. In this case, “Don’t worry: even James Joyce had a hard time making a living as a writer.”

Then there are the writers whose work gets filed away under “lost classics,” whose books may have found an audience only upon their initial release or fell through the cracks even then, and never received the acclaim they truly deserved. One of the best examples of a lost-then-found book is the 1965 novel Stoner, by 1973 National Book Award winner John Williams. The book received even higher praise as a rediscovered classic than upon its publication — to the extent that it even elicited a backlash, with Daily Beast writer Drew Smith taking the literary world to task for what he saw as beating a once-dead, now-zombie literary horse. “Are all these people who are ‘discovering’ Stoner actually just falling in love with an image they have of themselves,” Smith wondered, arguing that once a book has had sufficient time to be rediscovered, it is no longer a “lost classic.”

I respectfully disagree with Smith, since, as even he admits, “[l]iterature is essentially a niche interest” — one that can always use more new fans discovering titles, from Stoner to the book I feel he unfairly compared it to in his piece, John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. There are so many great books, and so few people reading them. It is that lack of readership that makes me thankful for presses like Stoner’s latest publisher, NYRB Classics, that put out “lost” and overlooked books on a regular basis.

This year, while some of us were still busy catching up on Stoner (republished in 2006), or writing pieces about it, NYRB Classics was busy with another very important job: reacquainting us with Adler’s novels, Speedboat and Pitch Dark, as well as announcing a 2015 release of Adler’s essays. And unlike other great writers who weren’t around to enjoy their belated resurgence in popularity, the 75-year-old Adler is still very much alive, and once again the toast of a literary world that she famously looks upon with ambivalence.

While it’s hard to say one writer had a better year than others, with all the Jonathan Franzen bashing and various literary feuds that took place, Adler, with her long gray ponytail (that might actually contain all of the secrets of the universe) and her return to the highest rank of literary celebrity was one of the best things to happen to literature in 2013. From the discussions about her novels’ importance and influence on contemporary writers, to Adler’s image gracing the cover of Bookforum’s Feburary/March issue, it was Adler and her works as not-so-lost lost classics that truly deserved all the reading and celebrating. Adler’s Speedboat protagonist navigating New York City in the 1970s, going to now-closed literary hot spots (“’To Elaine’s,’ I said. That was where we went. To Elaine’s, to the Dow-Jones averages, to the future, then, to preserve the domestic tranquility”) felt as, or in some cases, more contemporary than other novels that debuted in 2013.

Maybe because a book like Rachel Kushner’s mega-successful novel The Flamethrowers (which was released this year, slightly after all the newfound adoration for Adler began going public) also took place around the same time and used the same city Adler wrote about in such dizzying and exciting detail; or possibly it was because, reading Speedboat, one could see the influence Adler had on writers like David Shields and David Foster Wallace. But I’m going to say that, like in the case of Stoner or whatever book from 10, 20, 30… years ago that you just found, Adler’s work is timeless. It’s filled with lines you can’t kick out of your head, that you find yourself rereading over and over, amazed that something so inconsequential as cooking a meal could turn into something so profound:

The onset of the state of mind consisted in a loyalty to objects. She apologized to the egg for having boiled it, to another for not selecting it to boil. Since it was impossible to know with much precision whether an egg prefers to be boiled or not to, she was always in a state of indecision, followed, as soon as she had taken any action, by extreme remorse.

Or just stripped down and honest:

We may win this year. We may lose it all. It is not going as well as we thought.

In the case of Renata Adler, 2013 — the classic that wasn’t so much lost, as she was hidden for some reason or another — she won. In doing so, she had the sort of year that was long overdue for a writer of her stature, and I’d be very fine with that not stopping anytime soon, because, lost or otherwise, some things just don’t go out of style.

Authors Share the Romances They're Looking Forward to in 2014, part 1

(from USA Today
by Joyce Lamb)

Happy New Year! 2014 kicks off a whole new year of new books to look forward to. So HEA checked in with our favorite romance authors to find out what's on their TBR list … (Check back tomorrow for even more of authors' picks.)

ALLISON BRENNAN, author of Notorious (March)

• Laura Griffin's Far Gone. I love Laura's Tracers series, and I'm so excited about her hardcover debut, a stand-alone romantic thriller.

• Darynda Jones' Charley Davidson is one of my favorite series. It's sexy, fun, and witty. I love her style. Sixth Grave on the Edge — comes out in May. I can hardly wait!

• I'm finally all caught up with the J.D. Robb series ... and am impatiently waiting for Concealed in Death.

Other books I've pre-ordered: Kendra Elliot's romantic suspense Alone; Lisa Gardner's thriller Fear Nothing; and Barbara O'Neal's latest, The All You Can Dream Buffet.

SERENA BELL, author of Still So Hot!

• Just One Night by Lauren Layne (March). I couldn't put down the first two books in the Stiletto series — that perfect cocktail of funny, sweet, and sizzling.

• Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins (March). Reading Higgins' first two Blue Heron books, I fell in love with her entire ensemble of hilarious, spunky characters.

• Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon (June). I devoured the first seven Outlander books in rapid succession and have been tapping my toe impatiently ever since.

JENNIFER ESTEP, author of The Spider

• It Happened One Wedding by Julie James. This looks like another fun, sexy contemporary romance in James's FBI/US Attorney series.

• Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge. A twist on the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale where Beauty has been trained to kill the Beast? Count me in.

• The Shadow Throne by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Can Jaron save his kingdom? Readers will find out in the conclusion to the Ascendance Trilogy.

TRACIE BANISTER, author of In Need of Therapy

• The One by Kiera Cass (May). The stakes are high in the final book of this compelling series that has a love triangle at its heart. Prince Maxon has to choose a bride on live TV. America has to choose between her first love, Aspen, and her growing attachment to the handsome, troubled prince.

• Cure for the Common Breakup by Beth Kendrick (May). A quaint, little town filled with eccentric characters, opposites attracting, lots of humor and romance ... Sounds like the perfect beach or pool read. Heck, the heroine's name is even Summer!

• The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig (August). This will be the last book of the Pink Carnation series, which I've been an ardent fan of for years. It's the most amazing hybrid of historical romance, chick lit, and spy/adventure novel. I can't wait to see how the author wraps things up.

Honorable mentions: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge (January), Sixth Grave on the Edge by Darynda Jones (May), The Sweet Spot by Stephanie Evanovich (July).

ALLIE HAWKINS, aka BARBARA PLUM, author of Presumed Guilty and Unraveled

• Concealed in Death by J.D. Robb. Eve Dallas and husband Roarke have hit a few relationship bumps recently, but I'm betting the romance continues to sizzle. Throw in the twist of a series of gruesome murders committed in the distant past of 2040, and what's not to look forward to? Coming in February, so I have to wait.

• Carolina Man by Virginia Kantra. Nobody does small-town Southern (for me) like Virginia Kantra. She also some of the best love scenes and dialogue around. Carolina Man is the third in a series and is also about second chances. Pub date, March.

LISA CARLISLE, author of Gargoyle's Embrace

• Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz. I love watching the show with my daughter. Now I have to read the book, which I'm sure I'll enjoy even more.

• Fury by Laurann Dohner. The sample drew me in and I can't wait to read more.

• A Beautiful Wedding by Jamie McGuire. I couldn't put down the first two books, losing sleep as I wanted to find out what happened next.

JANICE MAYNARD, author of Beneath the Stetson

I have sworn to myself to make more time for reading in 2014! And I'm so happy that two of my favorite authors have books coming out in the first half of the year:

• Lori Foster's Dash of Peril.

• And Sarah Morgan's Suddenly Last Summer.

Yum! :) Can't wait to dig into each of those!!

BECKY LOWER, author of The Tempestuous Debutante

I'm looking forward to reading The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty.

2013 in Comic Books: Hickman, 'Saga' Rise to the Top

(from USA Today
by Brain Truitt)

When toasting the end of 2013, clink your glasses a few times for the excellent year in comic books.

The medium continued its momentum, especially in terms of creator-owned material, where Image Comics is still the standard bearer with Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead, Ed Brubaker's Fatale and Velvet, Kurtis J. Wiebe's Rat Queens, John Layman and Rob Guillory's Chew and Ales Kot's Zero among a very deep roster of talent.

Superheroes are as big as ever, too, and Marvel and DC continue to rule the roost with good guys and bad guys aplenty — and everyone in between. Marvel rolled out a slew of high-profile fare such as Age of Ultron, Infinity and Inhumanity, while DC finally unleashed Forever Evil, an event that the publisher's been building toward since its 2011 relaunch.

There's an ocean of "cape comics," though, and the Big Two aren't the only fish in that sea anymore. In addition to being the home of Hellboy and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Horse made a big push toward the superpowered with X, Captain Midnight, Brain Boy and others, while Valiant continued to expand its roster beyond stalwart series such as X-O Manowar and Harbinger in its second year post-revamp.

The smaller companies were no slouches either, thanks to the continuing growth of digital comics and a surge in do-it-yourself quality. MonkeyBrain Comics claimed its first Eisner Award for Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover's Bandette this past summer just after the fledgling company turned 1 year old, and Titan Comics launched in 2013 on the other side of the pond with Numbercruncher and Death Sentence.

Some creators had a big 2013, too, especially Matt Kindt and Charles Soule. In addition to his own Mind MGMT, Kindt became DC's go-to guy on Justice League of America and Suicide Squad as well as the scribe on Valiant's Unity series, and Soule had a busy breakout year with the sci-fi series Letter 44 plus Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Red Lanterns and Thunderbolts. Old standbys also had memorable years — this one saw Geoff Johns put his final touches on epic runs of Green Lantern and Aquaman. (If he's looking for something extra to pass the time in 2014, Johns could write a killer Doom Patrol. Just sayin'.)

Things weren't always peachy, though. Batwoman creative team J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman left abruptly over creative differences, leaving fans atwitter on Twitter, and Apple rejected Sex Criminals and has kept it off its iOS platforms such as Comixology due to content guidelines, thereby creating a new nemesis for comic fans. (Though you can find issues at your local comic shop or digitally at the Image Comics website.) News tidbits like those were balanced with the better aspects of the industry, for example when a comic such as The Liberator comes around and pledges to donate proceeds toward animal-rescue organizations.

We're not Apple, though, and Sex Criminals gets two thumbs up from me. So with 2014 just hours away, it's time to fete that and the best of the rest that comics had to offer in the past year.

Best writer: Jonathan Hickman. Honestly, he belongs in this spot for just pulling off Marvel Comics' Infinity event, plus the Avengers and New Avengers tie-in issues, and making the whole thing grand as one could ever hope. Add in the wondrous Western apocalypse tale East of West, the zany and brainy The Manhattan Projects and the beginning of God is Dead (putting mankind at Ground Zero for the return of the gods) to further cement his comic-book superstardom. Honorable mention: Scott Snyder. He continued his hot streak as the man in charge of all things Gotham City with Batman and the "Zero Year" story line — including one notable issue that was more than likely the origin of his Joker — and also launched Superman Unchained with Jim Lee. The year also saw the debut of Snyder's immersive The Wake with Sean Murphy, together putting out the smartest horror comic of the year.

Best cover artist: Jenny Frison. I am far removed from college, but were I still matriculating, one could imagine I'd have all of her beautiful and usually creepy Revival covers on a dorm-room wall. In addition, she did some great stuff for Red Sonja, Mind the Gap, Pretty Deadly and many others you should have in your collection. Honorable mention: Mark Brooks. Fearless Defenders shouldn't have been cancelled for many reasons, but near the top of those would be Brooks' covers. In making them look like faux romance-novel jackets and action-figure cards, he made them distinctive from everything else on comic-store shelves.

Best artist: Fiona Staples. Saga wouldn't be such a sci-fi saga if not for the universe of strange-yet-familiar characters she draws magnificently monthly — from cosmic tabloid journalists to an old, weird one-eyed author. Honorable mention: Nicola Scott. There are a lot of superhero comics out there, but the Australian illustrator stands out among the in-crowd on Earth 2, putting a stunning alternate-universe spin on iconic characters like Batman and Hawkgirl and currently making Superman the most angry guy around.

Best ongoing series: Saga. Just when you think it couldn't get any better, Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples outdo themselves the very next issue. This year has featured bounty hunters easier to love than hate, sentimental adventures in space between a girl and the coolest kitty in the universe, and more drama and humor with Marko, Alana, Hazel and their motley clan on the lam. Honorable mention: Locke & Key. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez wrapped up their masterpiece about the Locke children and the legendary Keyhouse this year with final issues filled with shadow demons, tragedy, love and heaps of redemption. It's truly one of the best comics ever, and now is the time to give the whole darn thing to potential readers and show them what kind of brilliance can be created in this medium.

Best new series: Sex Criminals. What's criminal is how utterly outstanding Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky's randy and heartfelt outing is in a year full of tremendous debuts. Susie and Jon can both freeze time during sexual climax, and that leads to great coming-of-age moments and a current story arc where they're in the middle of a bank heist — robbus interruptus, indeed. Where the series really excels, though, is in the witty sequences when you're not expecting them, including the hilarious bathroom-wall walk-through of sex moves and Fraction's Post-It-notes explanation of getting Queen to sign off on using their lyrics while Susie belts out Fat Bottomed Girls. Honorable mention: Pretty Deadly. One doesn't normally find comic creators using the artistic stylings of blind Spanish balladeers of yesteryear. Yet, it's fitting because Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios' Western supernatural fantasy excellently departs from all sorts of conventions in telling of Death's reaper daughter and the richly realized characters around her.

Best miniseries: Polarity. Max Bemis proved he could rock it on stage (he fronts the band Say Anything) and on the page. With his comics debut, Bemis penned a memorable tale of a bipolar man who gets superpowers from his disorder that's as endlessly funny as it is dramatic. Here's hoping Bemis keeps moonlighting as a comics scribe. Honorable mention: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys. This is just a rockin' category, because 2013 also brought us the return of Gerard Way to comics with this miniseries continuing the plot from a My Chemical Romance record. Becky Cloonan's art is also killer in this futuristic ode to originality and never letting "the Man" — in this case, an evil organization with henchmen in vampire masks — get you down.

Best digital series: The Bunker. Joshua Hale Fialkov and Joe Infurnari's DIY digital comic garnered a print home with Oni Press and a TV deal, too. As it should, since its concept — a bunch of kids are faced with what their future selves will unleash — is one of the best seen in any entertainment medium this year. Honorable mention: The Private Eye. Only Brian K. Vaughan doing a surprise comic could crash a website with people wanting to peep it. He and Marcos Martin let fans pay whatever they want to for installments of their sci-fi mystery about a society where people wear masks for privacy's sake, yet it's so good, one might consider it priceless.

Best all-around: Jeff Lemire. After saying a heartfelt goodbye to his deer boy and the cast of Sweet Tooth, Lemire continued his work as one of DC's prime-time superhero writers on Justice League Dark, Green Arrow and Animal Man, but also penned and drew his own Trillium series, a neat mix of romance, sci-fi drama and time-travel intrigue. Honorable mention: Riley Rossmo. He continued to branch out this year, writing and drawing the weirdly wonderful Drumhellar, adding to the outstanding artwork he did on Bedlam and a series of variant covers for G.I. Joe: Cobra.

Rookie of the year (creator): Caitlin Kittredge. Coffin Hill, the novelist's debut horror comic about a Boston cop who returns to the Massachusetts hometown where something wicked and witchy happened in her youth, is the one book that could lead Vertigo Comics back to being on comics' cutting edge — even in a year that saw the return of Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Honorable mention: Chris Dingess. The Being Human writer crossed over into comics with Manifest Destiny, a supernatural story of a different kind where Lewis and Clark are Thomas Jefferson's chief monster hunters under the guise of Western explorers.

Rookie of the year (character): Forever from Lazarus. While she's engineered to be the perfectly trained protector of her family in a dystopian future in Greg Rucka and Michael Lark's action series, there's a lot more to the warrior underneath that adds to the Game of Thrones-meets-Mad Max atmosphere. Honorable mention: Ruben from Buzzkill. Donny Cates and Toadies drummer Mark Reznicek hatched one of 2013's more original superheroes, a guy who's torn between being sober and embracing the addictions that give him extraordinary abilities.

Most insane read: Grindhouse: Doors Open at Midnight. Quentin Tarantino would be proud of the B-movie craziness Alex De Campi hath wrought in her noteworthy paean to exploitation cinema, from Bee Vixens taking over a Texas town to a women-in-prison movie on a spaceship. Honorable mention: Ballistic. Where do you start, really, with a book that contains an air-conditioning guy as its chief protagonist, a living monster gun named Bang-Bang, a '57 Chevy with wings and rabbit porn? Quite simply the weirdest comic out there that's as enjoyable as it is certifiable.

Best horror comic: Ghosted. Josh Williamson's tale of a criminal mastermind tasked to put together a group of disparate individuals to kidnap a ghost from a haunted house melds together all sorts of horror-movie and heist-film tropes yet still manages to be original and exciting in its execution. Honorable mention: Afterlife with Archie. Archie ain't just for kids anymore with this horrific masterpiece that turns Jughead into a zombie and puts an adult spin on Riverdale. The all-ages stuff has done well for the publisher for decades, but man, they might have a future with a mature-readers line, too.

Best throwback: Star Wars. Dark Horse Comics also began an adaptation of George Lucas' original screenplay with The Star Wars, but Brian Wood's terrific return to the classic trilogy with Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader and a squadron of X-Wings almost makes up for Jar-Jar Binks and midichlorians. Almost. Honorable mention: A whole heap of The Shadow. Dynamite Entertainment offers the old-school pulp hero in as many flavors as possible. Like the classic? There's The Shadow. Dig team-ups? There's Masks and The Shadow/Green Hornet: Dark Nights. Modern day more your thing? There's The Shadow Noir. The Shadow knows ... and also fills up your pullbox.

Best team-up: Quantum & Woody. Valiant's new series that brought back "the world's worst superteam" balanced the oddball and the dramatic with two estranged adopted brothers brought back together when their father is killed. The publisher is doing a lot of good things with its superheroes, with Woody right up there with Shadowman and Archer & Armstrong as the line's finest. Honorable mention: Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber have created a lovable group of hapless supervillains that almost rival Flash's Rogues. Led by Boomerang, these guys just wanna get by and not get punched by Spidey, and we just wanna watch.

Best villain: The Crime Syndicate. It's hard to really pick out which one of these Earth 3 baddies is the worst in the current Forever Evil event. The Superman analogue Ultraman is ultra-vicious, Atomica and Johnny Quick are a straight-up brutal Bonnie and Clyde, and the alternate-universe Lois Lane, aka Superwoman, is probably the most homicidal of them all. When you make Lex Luthor look like a good guy, you're pretty bad. Honorable mention: Capitan Haken. "The Hook," as he's known in Peter Panzerfaust, is the Nazi version of Captain Hook in this World War II take on Peter Pan. Nazis always make for good villains, and this dude is right up there.

Best use of history: Uber/Three (tie). Kieron Gillen has a two-fer going: With Uber, he reimagines the waning days of World War II and changes the landscape with Nazis and their superhuman army, and the writer takes on Spartan legend with Three, centered on a trio of slaves trying to escape the vaunted army of 300. Honorable mention: Satellite Sam. Matt Fraction and Howard Chaykin dig into the real-life golden age of TV — specifically 1950s kids' shows — and the early days of networks to create a seedy episodic journey of sex, murder and mystery, all in fittingly glorious black and white.

Best indie book you should be reading: Edison Rex. MonkeyBrain's head man Chris Roberson channels Alan Moore in his superhero deconstruction efforts here with Edison, an ex-villain who wants to be a hero so bad he decides to take out the do-gooding Valiant and replace him. Honorable mention: Sheltered. Ed Brisson made a splash first with Comeback and most of all with this pre-apocalyptic comic with artist Johnnie Christmas where the kids of a survival colony revolt against their parents.

MVP: Jordie Bellaire. Unless you're a hardcore comic nerd, you might not recognize her name, but if it's a good-looking book, she probably colored it. The titles she works on — and has added a spectrum of awesomeness to — could be a best-of-the-year list on their own: Pretty Deadly, Zero, Three, Young Avengers, Mara, Deadpool, The Massive, Quantum & Woody and many, many others. So when you want to find your next favorite comic, just look for her name on the cover. Honorable mention: Tom Brevoort. The Marvel Comics executive editor is a treasure trove of knowledge about superhero comics, and, as one of comics' nicest guys, there are not many folks better to have as a public face — and voice — for the top publisher in the business.

Best comic-book movie: Thor: The Dark World. Together, the Avengers are magnetic on screen, yet it could be argued that Chris Hemsworth's Thor thrives more in his own films, which balance huge fantasy with a healthy dose of humorous whimsy. The sequel surpassed the surprisingly good original film, and with a mid-credits tease, set up Marvel Studios' journey to the stars for Guardians of the Galaxy. Maybe we'll see Hemsworth in space for Thor 3 — is it too early to line up for the midnight show? Honorable mention: The Wolverine. After the disaster of the first Wolverine solo film, Hugh Jackman's second solo vehicle went the best and most un-superheroic direction possible: Director James Mangold's movie pulls from revenge dramas, the samurai oeuvre and old-school Westerns to set the bar higher for everybody else in the comic-movie game.

Best comic-book TV series: Arrow. The aim is true for the CW series' second season with Stephen Amell in the emerald togs and bow that Green Arrow made famous. And among the small-screen superhero fare, it's the best at reimagining the comic mythology, with Easter eggs for in-the-know fans and cool takes on everybody from Brother Blood to Black Canary to Slade Wilson to Barry Allen, a guy who might not be — ahem — a flash in the pan since he's getting his own spinoff pilot. Honorable mention: The Walking Dead. Admittedly, the AMC show's been a love/hate thing for me since the beginning — seriously, one whole season at the farm? — but the two Governor-centric episodes this year, showing many layers to David Morrissey's villain, were highlights of the series so far.

Best event: Infinity. The Avengers and pretty much the universe vs. the most powerful force imaginable. Thanos and his crew vs. Earth and a cadre of Inhumans. Jonathan Hickman sticking the landing. 'Nuff said. Honorable mention: Unity. Valiant's biggest comic doesn't have a gazillion crossovers. Instead, it just has a small cast and makes up for a quantity of tie-ins with a quality conceit, where a super team has to be formed when Aric of Dacia (in his X-O Manowar outfit) annexes Romania to be his new Visigoth nation.

Best single issue: Hawkeye No. 11. Lucky, aka Pizza Dog, gets the spotlight in Matt Fraction and David Aja's genius and mostly wordless issue from the point of view of the charismatic canine, who springs into action when a corpse is found on the roof. Honorable mention: Black Science No. 1. A spectacular splash page of giant turtles walking around with temples on their backs in the middle of a purple-tinged lightning storm wins me over every time. That scene was one of many cool aspects that caused readers to dive into Rick Remender and Matteo Scalera's dimension-hopping sci-fi drama.

Best collection: The Sixth Gun: Gunslinger Edition. Oni Press puts a faux leather cover on the first hardcover volume of Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's supernatural Western, and places it in a box made to look like General Hume's coffin along with art prints and other exclusive accoutrement. Honorable mention: The Sandman Omnibus Edition. If you've never read Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, and have an extra 500 bucks from your holiday money, here's the whole shebang in two hardcover volumes signed by Gaiman.

Best gutsy decision: Dan Slott's Superior Spider-Man. One year ago, Slott ended the long-running Amazing Spider-Man, and with it the life of Peter Parker, and launched Superior Spider-Man with the mind of nemesis Doctor Octopus guiding the body of Marvel's signature wall-crawler. What could easily have been a disaster ended up being a well-done story line that made Spidey fresh again, gave him a different kind of girlfriend and personality, and a horde of new obstacles to tackle. With "Goblin Nation" coming, change could be again on the horizon, but at this point, more fans probably have the mind-set "In Slott we trust." Honorable mention: DC's "Villains Month" 3-D covers. I wasn't a comic reader for most of the 1990s, and after seeing a decade full of foil covers and other odd gimmicks, maybe I didn't miss a whole lot. DC rolled out a whole month of bad guys in three dimensions, yet the stunt worked — the art was cool, the stories were pretty cool and the 3-D was pretty slick. Then again, I didn't have any of them melt in my vehicle.

Best series set in Oz: The Emerald City of Oz. Skottie Young's distinctive art style has fit with L. Frank Baum's Technicolor landscape for quite a few miniseries, and it's fun for all ages — literally, crazy kid-friendly — with the Nome Army and the Phantasms of Mount Phantastico when Dorothy takes Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to Oz. Honorable mention: Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz. If you like your Wizard of Oz a little more on the adult side — say, with Dorothy in a cleavage-baring crop top — then this is your Ozian jam, retelling the heroine's journey to a fantasy world in search of a mystical scepter.

Best comic to save for my daughter: Captain Marvel. No, I'm not just copying myself from last year. As long as Kelly Sue DeConnick's penning the further adventures of Carol Danvers — who's getting a relaunch in the new year — I'll keep setting them for the 1-year-old future CarolCorps member. (I might even bag and board them!) Honorable mention: Fearless Defenders. Cullen Bunn and Will Sliney's female team book was unfortunately cancelled, so thank goodness for trade collections and the like that keep the series around for future generations. It was fun, fabulous and, dare I say, fearless in its action adventure and will be sorely missed.

Pet of the year: Lying Cat. The Will's feline sidekick in Saga communicates so much with one word: "Lying." She's a walking, purring lie detector who was thought dead for a time but came back to feature in the comic's most tender moment. Honorable mention: Lockjaw. The large Inhuman dog pretty much saved Earth from blowing up in Infinity No. 6 with a well-timed bit of teleportation. Black Bolt must have thrown him a Pupperoni for that one.