With 2020 coming to an end we decided to choose our Top Books and Comics of the year! Let us know what would make it in your top list for 2020.
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
Being the new kid at school was hard enough, add Muslim and gay on top of that and life becomes a lot more complicated. Amir never thought on that first day a few years ago the star football player he was paired up with as a welcome buddy would be his boyfriend. The pair spent years hiding their relationship in cars and movie theaters, but that all blows up when a classmate takes a picture of them kissing and threatens to out Amir to the whole school and his family. Once Amir knows he can’t meet the monetary demands of the bully he takes off - first to NY and then to Rome. This book takes place in chapters that switch between his time in Rome where Amir finds an amazing group of LGBT folx and the present where he and his family members are in interrogation rooms at the airport after getting in a fight on the plane ride home. Putting this book down was not an option - I read it in one day! How It All Blew Up made me laugh out loud and even more desperately made me want to travel!
K-Pop Confidential by Stephan Lee
2020 has been a year of K-pop for me - I stan Twice, BlackPink, Loona, IU, Somi, and ITZY to name a few, but my love was fed even more when I discovered Stephan Lee’s K-Pop Confidential. Candace’s mother wants her to continue to pursue the violin, but she wants to write songs and strum her guitar instead. On a whim, she decides to go to an open audition for a Korean production company and manages to make it even though her dance skills are lacking. After convincing her parents she is whisked away to Korea where she becomes a trainee. Things escalate from there as the competition to debut in the new girl group heats up. Exhausted is an understatement! Throw in a romantic storyline and this book has everything. I savored reading this book while recovering from my back surgery earlier this year. Plus, look at that cover by Erick Dávila!
Clown in a Cornfield by Adam Cesare
Are you in the mood for a good old slasher horror story? If yes, then have I got the book for you! The wide grinning face of Frendo the Clown looms over the town as he was once the mascot of Kettle Spring’s moneymaker, the Baypen Corn Syrup Factory. The family-owned business has since shut down since the tragic loss of their daughter last year. With the business's failure, the town has felt the repercussions. Quinn and her father are trying to start a new life in the small town, but things just don’t seem right. To try and make some friends Quinn decides to attend a party at a barn in a cornfield. What she thought might be an awkward night of small talk turns deadly with the thwack of an arrow piercing one of her classmate’s skulls. From this moment on the book turns into a bloodbath (in the best ways possible)!
If It Bleeds by Stephen King
When it comes to terrifying short stories and novellas Stephen King reigns supreme. Collecting four bone-chilling tales, Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat, and the title story If It Bleeds (a sort of sequel to The Outsider) you're bound to find a story in here that will make you stay up at night. In Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, with signature Stephen King finesse he introduces characters so vivid they could be standing next to you. The opening pages of The Life of Chuck are soaked in intrigue and promise what could be a thrill ride as dramatic as “The Mist.” King's flavor of cat-and-mouse crime mystery with supernatural elements has been a winning formula for me from the beginning and If It Bleeds hits that mark. This new mystery is fully engaging with an on-the-edge-of-your-seat climax. Rat has both The Shining and The Stand vibes to it and feels like early King writings, not as enduring but very entertaining!
Ring Shout by P. Djèlí Clark
A refreshing novella that is so important today. Hatred and rage can be seductive and it can turn the best into the worst, one of the many things Ring Shout explores.
The plot of this novella can be summed up in a few sentences: “D.W. Griffith is a sorcerer, and The Birth of a Nation is a spell that summoned the darkest thoughts and wishes from the heart of America. Now rising with terrifying power, the Klan has a plot to unleash Hell on Earth.” How does that not immediately grab your attention?
Dark fantasy meets historical fiction meets supernatural horror, what more could you ask for??
The Extraordinaries by T.J. Klune
The Extraordinaries is an explosion of quick wit and good humor; oh, it also has Queer Superheroes and relatable fandom vibes.
Need I say more?
Set in a fictional city where superheroes are very real and are called Extraordinaries, it follows the story of one Nick Bell and his quest to become something more...and maybe find love along the way. The dialogue will definitely keep you on your toes. The main character suffers from severe ADHD, and in a way, the narrative seemed to reflect that. From real-world issues to classic superhero story arcs, I for one can't wait for the sequel!
Derek & Noah's Pick
Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Meet a young Coriolanus Snow who is struggling to keep his status in the Capitol’s upper echelon. The future president of Panem is only eighteen-years-old and lives with his ailing grandmother and fashion-forward cousin. Their apartment is in ruins and ever since the war they have been struggling. However, this year marks the tenth annual Hunger Games and a chance for him to become a mentor to one of the Tributes. He hopes to get one of the flashier districts but manages to get a girl named Lucy Grey from District 12. Upon their arrival, the tributes are dumped into an empty cage at the zoo to be gawked at by the rich Capitol inhabitants. It is here where we see Coriolanus begin to grapple with the realities of what they are putting the Tributes through to pay for the sins of those who came before them. A relationship forms between the two and then she is sent into the games. Coriolanus must figure out a way to help her win in the arena while also fighting his own urges to be true to the cutthroat and fancy life of the Capitol. Morality, love, treachery, and more are all themes that come up in this fascinating prequel to the Hunger Games Trilogy. We’re hoping for a second one!!!
Witch Hat Atelier Vol. 1 by Kamome Shirahama
The cuteness is strong with this one! I picked this up on a whim at a local comic book shop because I was drawn in by the delightful cover. I finally picked it up this year and decided to read it and found out that the story was just as engaging as the cover art. In fact, the art throughout is detailed, fun, and magical through and through. After an accident causes her mother to turn to stone Coco must learn magic in order to turn her back. She travels with the magician Qifrey to his atelier where he is training three other witch apprentices. Friends, rivalries, and all sorts of spells appear through the manga. The overarching question of who the mysterious figure was that gave Coco the book with the spell in it that cursed her mother remains. This first volume has lots of heart and Coco and her fellow apprentices are just the most adorable things EVER!
Flamer by Mike Curato
Loosely based on author/illustrator Mike Curato’s life, Flamer stars Aiden who is going to camp the summer between middle school and high school. As he and the other boys are growing up he notices how different he feels from them, and how they can see it too acting out against him by calling him names and even trying to start fights. Aiden knows he has feelings for another one of the campers but doesn’t want it to be true. He must navigate this summer to a path to self-acceptance, but that self-love doesn't come that easily. The black and white art with flecks of red and orange is truly effective in telling Aiden’s story. He turns to his love of comics to gain strength and ultimately sees that he has to be true to himself. The story is emotional, moving, and inspiring.
Strange Adventures by Tom King
Eisner award winner Tom King writes Adam Strange, an archeologist that was suddenly teleported to the planet Rann (via Zeta-Beams) where he became a hero. King takes a different approach to Adam Strange writing a story about the duality of myth vs truth, hero vs war criminal, and colonialism vs sovereignty. Mitch Gerads and Evan Doc Shaner helm the artwork and use their unique styles to overlap the past and present. Shaner's art sits in the past and Gerads' tackles the present. It causes a jarring experience meant to make you pay attention to the parallel stories occurring. The pacing, mystery, and characters that find themselves in this comic are worth the read!
Far Sector by N.K. Jemisin
Far Sector is N.K. Jemisin’s first step into the comic book world and she does not disappoint! The story focuses around a newly chosen Green Lantern Sojourner “Jo” Mullen as she is tasked to protect the City Enduring; 20 billion people, maintained peace for over 500 years by stripping feeling from its inhabitants and no crime or murder...until now! From Jo’s striking look to the build-up of intrigue, this is a Green Lantern comic like nothing you’ve read.
John Constantine: Hellblazer by Simon Spurrier
This tale of the reluctant, chain-smoking, and foul-mouthed sorcerer sees him struggle during dangerous moments in British history sadly ended after only 12 issues. Spurrier has John grapple with xenophobia, nationalism, misinformation, demons, devils, and on top of all that numerous issues surrounding his legacy. How often do we get unicorns and mermaids that are allegories for exploitation under unfettered capitalism? It’s no surprise he hasn't quit smoking. This is one heavy read but well worth it. Aaron Campbell and Matias Bergara do the artwork and it's spectacular and innovative.
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