Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Year in Books 2014

    And so another year of reading comes to a close. The story of 2014 ends and the tale of 2015 begins. 
It's been another great year of books for me, I managed to make my way through a hundred books, smashing my target of seventy five (but to be fair, a lot of them were short...).
   It's been a year of surprises, I've been disappointed by some of my favourite authors, surprised by authors I dislike and discovered many beautiful new stories that are sure to stick with me for years to come. 

   I'll be posting videos of my top and bottom five books in the next few days but in the meantime, enjoy this list (in reverse order because that's how GoodReads lists them) of the books I read over 2014 and be sure to tell me some of your favourite discoveries from the past twelve months in the comments below. 

Wishing you a happy new year of reading,

Monday, 29 December 2014

Notes on a Scandal

Notes on a Scandal
Notes on a Scandal 
Zoë Heller
 "Schoolteacher Barbara Covett has led a solitary life until Sheba Hart, the new art teacher at St. George's, befriends her. But even as their relationship develops, so too does another: Sheba has begun an illicit affair with an underage male student. When the scandal turns into a media circus, Barbara decides to write an account in her friend's defense—and ends up revealing not only Sheba's secrets, but also her own."

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Further Tales of the City

Further Tales of the City
Further Tales of the City
Armistead Maupin
 "The residents of 28 Barbary Lane are back again in this racy, suspenseful and wildly romantic sequel to Tales of the City and More Tales of the City.
DeDe Halcyon Day and Mary Ann Singleton track down a charismatic psychopath, Michael Tolliver looks for love, landlady Anna Madrigal imprisons an anchorwoman in her basement storeroom, and Armistead Maupin is in firm control."

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Moominpappa at Sea

Moominpappa at Sea
Moominpappa at Sea
Tove Jansson
 "When the Moomin family members need a change of scenery, they decide to take up residence in a lighthouse. As they discover their new home, the family also discover surprising, and wonderfully funny, new things about themselves."

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Interesting Times

Interesting Times
Interesting Times
Terry Pratchett
 "There are many who say that the art of diplomacy is an intricate and complex dance. There are others who maintain that it's merely a matter of who carries the biggest stick. The oldest and most inscrutable (not to mention heavily fortified) empire on the Discworld is in turmoil, brought about by the revolutionary treatise "What I did on My Holidays". Workers are uniting, with nothing to lose but their water buffaloes; warlords are struggling for power - and what the nation wants, to avoid terrible doom for everyone, is a wizard. Rincewind is not the Disc’s premier wizard – in fact, he can’t even spell ‘wizard’ – but no-one specified whether competence was an issue. And they do have a very big stick…"

Thursday, 4 December 2014

The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures

Sherlock Holmes
The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures
Edited by Mike Ashley
 "The biggest collection of stories about the world's greatest detective ever published. The majority are entirely new and specially commissioned, but there are also rare reprints of special appeal to the dedicated Holmes collectors."

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Marvel Mangaverse Volume 1

Marvel MangaverseMarvel Mangaverse
Volume 1
Ben Dunn

 "It's an all new, all different Marvel when the Marvel Universe is reinterpreted within the popular art form known as Manga. Hulk is a 20-story tall monster; Spider-man is a ninja; the Fantastic Four investigate paranormal anomolies as the Megascale Metatalent Response Team. It's Marvel mayhem in the Mangaverse manner!"

Friday, 21 November 2014

Minutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen

Minutes to midnightMinutes to Midnight: Twelve Essays on Watchmen
Edited by Richard Bensam
 "MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT examines WATCHMEN from a variety of perspectives and uncovers surprising answers about the history of scientific theory, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, WATCHMEN's murder mystery, Rorschach and Steve Ditko, the secrets of Captain Metropolis and the Minutemen, whether the Comedian was right, who shouldn't read WATCHMEN, and how the motion picture adaptation illuminates the original text."

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Emerald City of Oz

The Emerald City of OzThe Emerald City of Oz
L. Frank Baum
 "The Nome King was in an angry mood, and at such times he was very disagreeable. Every one kept away from him, even his Chief Steward Kaliko. Therefore the King stormed and raved all by himself, walking up and down in his jewel-studded cavern and getting angrier all the time. Then he remembered that it was no fun being angry unless he had some one to frighten and make miserable."

Friday, 7 November 2014

Holly Prickles Finds a New Home

Holly Prickles Finds a New HomeHolly Prickles the Hedgehog 1:
Holly Prickles 
Finds a New Home

Brenda May Williams

   The first book in a series, which follows hedgehog Holly Prickles as she helps her woodland friends find some breakfast and somewhere warm to bed down for the night.

   Despite this book being so slim, it’s a deceptively long read and makes for the perfect story to spend half an hour with at bedtime reading to small children.
   The story is simple but incredibly sweet and does a good job of balancing story telling with some subtle lessons about the various creatures living in the bottom of the garden.
   Holly is an adorable character, always willing to help out her friends, though she also has a stern side and refuses to be taken advantage of when the various insects of the garden all try to lay claim to the leaves she has gathered for her bed.
   This makes for a pretty cool lesson to teach to children, to be helpful to others, but also to be firm and stand up for yourself when you need to. It’s a good message, and one that some adults could do with learning too.

   The only real problem I have with the book are the illustrations which simply aren’t to my taste. They have a simple, childlike quality to them which I suppose works well with the intended age group, but personally I think something with a bit more polish would really have helped bring out the best in this tale and bring the characters to life.

   Overall though, this is a charming book either to read to a small child or to help them on their first steps to reading for themselves and it would make a great addition to any parent’s bookshelf. 

Brenda May Williams

I don't write about kids books too often, but you might also like to check out my review of 

This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus

or, The Modern Prometheus
Mary Shelly
 "Begun when the author was only eighteen and conceived from a nightmare, Frankenstein is the deeply disturbing story of a monstrous creation which has terrified and chilled readers since its first publication in 1818. The novel has thus seared its way into the popular imagination while establishing itself as one of the pioneering works of modern science fiction."

Monday, 27 October 2014

Sonic The Comic-Con

Sonic the Comic-Con
Sonic the Comic-Con 2014

   This Sunday I made the trip to York in England to attend the first ever Sonic the Comic-Con, a one day event celebrating Sonic the Comic, the UK's Sega comic book which ran from 1993 to 2002 and Sonic the Comic Online, the semi-offical fan continuation that has been running online since 2003.
   I've written about STC before and my feelings on the book should be pretty clear, it's a series that meant a huge deal to me growing up, scenes from the comic continue to be vivid in my memory and it's impressive story telling and beautiful art have heavily influenced my creative work well into my adult life. 

   During the day several of the artists and writers of the series were present, signing issues, offering sketches, getting on stage for Q&A sessions and even running art classes. There was also merch for sale, and entertainment in the form of the quiz show 8 out of 10 Caterkillers and a live edition of Sonic the podcast. 

   It was a really great day and I hope that STCC continues to run into the future. It was an honour too meet so many of the people who helped create a series that means so much to me, I had an amazing time.

   But enough rambling, here's the photos I took during the day, and some pictures of what I got signed. 

First up, the awesome banner that greeted fans as they piled into the building, this art also graced the T-shirt that was handed out to backers. 

Another banner featuring some key moments from throughout the series. 

The Guests
Richard Elson & Nigel Kitching

Richard Elson and Nigel Kitching, the duo responsible for many of the series greatest moments, from the Death Egg and Metalix sagas to the pivotal arcs surrounding issue 100 and the Robotnik Reigns storylines, without these two, STC wouldn't have been half as impressive as it went on to become. 

Richard Elson also provided new covers for the series when the book moved onto being full reprints, providing probably the only reason to continue buying the series up to its last issue. 
Nigel Kitching wrote and drew the long running series Decap Attack, a strip based on a little known megadrive game which went on to be far more successful than the game ever was.

Carl Flint & Kev Hopgood
Carl Flint, the man responsible for many covers throughout the series as well as many back up stories including impressive runs with Tails and Amy, he also created Shortfuse the Cybernik who was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever inside his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic.
Also, Kev Hopgood, the artist behind thecovers for the first two issues way back in 93.

Nigel Dobbyn
Nigel Dobbyn, the artist behind many of my favourite strips across the series, most notably his work with Captain Plunder and Knuckles' world tour arcs, probalby the greatest Knuckles strips in the whole series. 

Ferran Rodriguez
Ferran Rodriguez flew all the way from Barcelona to join the con, he's the artist behind many strips and covers from early in the series' run as well as the Badnik pinups which made up the magazines centrefolds throughout the years.

Jon Haward
...and finally, Jon Haward, the artist behind the Shinobi and Eternal Champions strips from the early days of the series where the book was more of a Sega comic than one that focused solely on Sonic.
He also tweeted a picture of that happened.

The Event
During the day there were two Q&A sessions, a quiz show, live edition of Sonic the Podcast and art classes.

Shortfuse was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic.
In the centre of the hall were several tables covered in some of the amazing artwork from across the series, including this lovely Carl Flint cover which features Shortfuse the Cybernik, who was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic. 

Chuck D. Head
A wonderful Decap Attack canvas by Nigel Kitching.

 Beautiful lineart by Richard Elson that made up the cover of one of the reprint issues.

The original painting that became the cover for issue 100, considered by many to be the greatest issue in the entire series.

A personal favourite, the original cover art for issue 101, the first ever issue I picked up. Seeing this in person was just wonderful and I was tempted to try and sneak out with it....I didn't though...honest...

I love this
An awesome sketch done for a fan by Ferran Rodriguez, which brings together his work on STC and the multiple disney comics that he has worked on. 

Impressive cosplay of Elson's version of Amy Rose and the swashbuckling Captain Plunder.

 There was also an art contest with the prize of an impressive canvas illustrated by all seven guests. I entered this...I did not win.

My entry in the guestbook.

The Haul
Of course, no trip to a comic convention is complete without stuff to spend your money's everything I picked up on the day. 
First up, the freebies, everyone attending the con was handed a wristband and a copy of the special edition of STC printed for the event. It features new strips, posters and much more, it's a really awesome item and a great tribute the series. I managed to get it signed by all the guests too which was cool. We were also given a free packet of chewits (not pictured...devoured).

 Also, the con t-shirt which was available if you backed the original kickstarter for a certain ammount or higher. The shirt was available in blue or yellow but the yellow really made the design pop out so I opted for that. 

At the merch stall I managed to pick up copies of issues 99 and 100 which was really great for me as they're the only two issues I didn't own heading into the event. So now, I have the entire run.

A sketch of Knuckles by Nigel Dobbyn.

Shortfuse was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic.
A sketch by Carl Flint of the character he helped create, Shortfuse who was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic.

How cool is this? Joe Musashi drawn by Jon Haward. 

And my final sketch, Dr Eggman by Kev Hopgood. Kev was clearly having a blast drawing all the newer characters and designs that he never got a chance to work on during the series' run. 

Next up, the issues I got signed. I took a good few issues with me, but even then it was really hard to whittle them down to the books I wanted to take. Nonetheless, I think I got a good mix of historically significant issues and issues that were of personal importance to me. 
Here's the first two issues, signed by cover artist Kev Hopgood.

Two great Shinobi covers by Jon Haward


One of my favourite strips and two covers by Ferran Rodriguez

1st birthday
 The 1st anniversary issue

and 50th issue

Shortfuse was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic.
Three great covers by Carl FLint, two featuring his creation Shortfuse who was just a normal squirrel until Robotnik trapped him forever in his invincible Cybernik armour. Shortfuse was able to rebel against his programming however and fought Robotnik alongside Sonic. 

Nigel Dobbyn's village of the damned storyline which is one of my all time favourite stories.

Oh man....this arc....
The Robotnik Reigns arc, my favourite story in the entire series. The first epic sonic story I'd read, having jumped onto the series after the Metalix and issue 100 arcs. I love this story.

Oh Johnny...never forget :'(
A series of issues signed by Kitching and Elson featuring several key moments in the series, from the first appearence of Metalix, Sonic vs Knuckles, Johnny's death and the final issue before the book went fully reprint. 

I just had to get these signed, Elson's original cover for the story where Porker is kicked out of the freedom fighters by Sonic, and the remake of the same cover for when the same story came around in the reprints. 

Two great covers by Nigel Kitching, when I handed him the Sonic/Super Sonic cover Kitching says he really hates the cover and said the art is terrible. Gotta say, I disagree.

King of the rings, the final issue
Seeing as I got the first issue signed, I had to get the last. This is the final issue of the book before it was abruptly cancelled. It also features one of Elson's greatest covers, this thing is just epic. He had the original lineart of this cover with him too which was a joy too see. 

And last but not least, a Sonic plush because....hey...who doesn't want a Sonic plush?

   And that's everything. I had a fantastic day, meeting all the guests was a dream come true and I had a great time talking to the attendees too, many of whom I've spoke with before online so it was nice to finally meet them in person.
   Whether or not STCC will become an ongoing thing or whether next year will see the return of Summer of Sonic remains to be seen, but whatever happens I look forward to seeing what the organisers put together in the future because this show was awesome.

   Also, after wearing the same outfit to MCM in Glasgow and having nobody recognise  who I was dressed as, it was nice to have folk come up and compliment me on my costume.
   Old Man Owl represent!

old man owl