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Naked Reading 2023

This is a series of self portraits chronicling my reading activities. Born out of an older series, I decided to renew it in 2023 with the intent to capture every book I read. 

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Star Wars: Yoda #10: The Cave

In this final issue of the Yoda comics maxiseries, Yoda enters the dark side cave on Dagobah to work through his sense of failure and revisit some of the ideas and people from the previous story arcs in the series, and Yoda's history more broadly. A satisfying conclusion to the series that pulled together the previous stories nicely, while giving a good insight into Yoda's state of mind just before we first met him in The Empire Strikes Back. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Disney Villains: Scar

This four-part comic miniseries is set within the early part of The Lion King, focusing on how Scar formed his allies and schemes. I can't say I really needed or even much appreciated that pre-plot plotting story. Yet I did enjoy a lot of the comic for the surprising world building it gave us, including a prey-animal's point of view of living in The Lion King's circle of life, and an enjoyable companionship between Scar and Rafiki. Also Scar was drawn and written to perfection, and I could feel his attitude and aloofness dripping off the page. Check out my full review on my book review blog.


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The Matrix Comics

This anthology comic omnibus collects twenty-eight comics (including a couple of illustrated short stories) based on The Matrix. It offers a wide range of tales of life inside the Matrix, encounters with agents, and the machines and free-humans in the real world. Among my favourite stories were how the machines dealt with an alien invasion(!), how the free humans were able to grow wheat to bake bread, how one lone human in the wastelands of Earth survived on his own among the machines, and how a Matrix dweller views the world having been taken over by an agent. And there's a lot more than that! A real treat for Matrix fans. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Darth Vader - Black, White & Red

This four-part anthology comic miniseries, features numerous stories about Darth Vader, near-universally showing how he is undefeatable! All the artwork is presented in only black white and red. Sometimes, in the stories featuring the most creative artwork, this works great, but mostly I felt it added little. A mixed bag of stories with a few interesting highlights (the ones led by the more creative artwork generally), but mostly not much I found very memorable. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Doctor Aphra (and Luke Skywalker?!) #31-34

A short story arc featuring Doctor Aphra teaming-up with Luke Skywalker, on a good old fashioned (Indiana Jones style) archaeological quest, complete with booby traps, supernatural beings, and Clone Wars era flashbacks. A really refreshing change of pace from the preceding Spark Eternal arc. Aphra and Luke are a really fun combination, that bring out some nice qualities in each other. I'd love to see more of them together, and more of this adventurous sort of story. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Yoda #7-9: Size Matters Not

We get a Clone Wars era adventure for this third story arc in the Yoda comic maxiseries, which sees a rare and enjoyable team-up of Yoda and Anakin Skywalker, abundant with quippy dialogue between the two. There's also a cool battle between Yoda and General Grievous, and a fun rescue making the most of Star Wars' sci-fi and fantastical elements simultaneously. A lighter tale than the previous arcs despite the darkness of the war setting. Very fun. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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The Idiot Gods

This book is an astonishing tale of an orca who learns to speak to humans. In doing so he and we explore many facets of human nature; our beliefs, our culture, and most of all our willingness to destroy each other and the planet. It features world building on par with any great sci-fi, except the alien featured here is a familiar species already, shown to have a depth of culture and understanding of the world far beyond our own shallow interests. A truly fantastic book which should delight anyone with an interest in nature, linguistics, philosophy and more! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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The World of Pooh

This omnibus edition includes both of the original A.A. Milne Pooh novels, Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, illustrated charmingly by E.H. Shepard. Both books are essentially a series of short stories, sharing the very funny, very sweet, and nature loving adventures and everyday ponderances and wonderings of an utterly delightful cast of characters. They're stories I knew well as a child, and probably adore even more as an adult. Perfection. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Don't Spit in the Wind

This four-part comic miniseries envisions a world so wrecked by humans that most have abandoned it to live on a space station while a few remain to try and clean it up. It has some interesting nuggets of ideas and commentaries on the environmental damage done by humans, and how our culture responds or ignores that. The narrative is fairly lightly sketched though, with the artwork really driving the story thanks to some fantastic and creative visuals, all presented in bright colour and grimy detail. It appealed to my tastes, but I could imagine being hit or miss for others. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: Defiant #1-5

This first story arc in the second series in IDWs recent interconnected world of Star Trek comics sees Worf steal the USS Defiant and assemble a crew of outcasts and rogues to try and hunt down the cult leader Kahless. The assembled characters make for a very odd and moody crew, but once you get over the awkward feeling setup the series is a lot of fun, thanks entirely to the great selection of characters and how they work together. A weird but promising start to the series. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek #7–10: The Red Path

This second arc in the crossover Star Trek series sees a visit to Cardassia in a welcome follow-up to the Dominion War, giving an interesting new take on the post-war situation. Meanwhile the crew of the USS Theseus, now with Lower Decks' Shaxs on board, head off to discover more about the Red Path cult's plans for the galaxy. A really strong second arc, with a pleasing follow-up to DS9 and good growth of this series' original story. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars #34–36: A Fractured Alliance, et al.

This three-issue run of comics gives us two short adventures between bigger stories. The first featuring Luke on a quest to fix his lightsaber was a satisfying exploration of Luke's Jedi training with some intriguing characters I wish we'd had more time with. The second tale focuses on a mission led by Lando which felt a little pointless, but had some good moments for Lando at least. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Darth Vader #33-36: Unbound Force and Target Aphra

This pair of two-part stories follow Vader has he deals with losing control of the force, and the consequences and help his sidekicks Sabé, Doctor Aphra, and Ochi of Bestoon face as a result. An impactful and visually impressive end to Sabé arc, and a pleasing reunion with Vader for Aphra. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Dinosaur Sanctuary 2

This second volume of stories showing the everyday reality of dinosaurs and their keepers at a struggling dinosaur attraction continues to show utter charm and humanity in how it depicts the beautifully rendered and characterised dinosaurs and the world they live in. This volume especially brings to life the life-cycle of dinosaurs, with stories focused on both a lively hatchling and a very aged T-Rex. Full of cuteness and heart, but also the struggles and dangers of life with dinosaurs, this series is shaping up to be one of my all time favourites. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Spider-Man: India (2004)

This four-issue miniseries takes the well known Spider-Man origin story and gives it an Indian twist. Filling it with Indian cultural references, a setting in Mumbai rather than New York, and populating it with multiple villains which are Indian-style demons rather than technological menaces. It mostly works great. The design of Indian Spider-Man is delightful, and the reimagining of his universe as being part of a millennia-spanning demonic epic is a great twist. The series could have done with a longer run to really expand on its cool concepts, but what we got was enjoyable, and it’s surprising the character hasn’t been used that much again until very recently. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Sana Starros - Family Matters

This five-issue miniseries is the first to be headlined by the Star Wars comics original character Sana Starros. We get to know the extended Starros family in a twisty series of hijinks and adventure (including a fairly random but enjoyable wildlife rescue sub-plot) as the varying motivations of each family member gradually become clear. Throughout Sana has to deal with the frustrations of dealing with the conflicting and not always clear motivations of the other family members, and her lingering angst from her breakup with Doctor Aphra in her previous comic book appearances. A swift and fun read that feels like it sets up more stories to come. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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This Is Vegan Propaganda

In comprehensive and unflinching detail this book goes through the numerous reasons that you should go vegan and that a vegan world would be a better one not just for no-longer-exploited-animals, but also for the environment, and human health. As a vegan of over a decade now I was familiar with many of the points raised, but all were explained in great and compelling detail, and many issues were new to me, making me feel better informed than ever before. A fantastic book for already-vegans, could-be-vegans, or even open-minded critical-of-vegans, to understand all the reasons we should indeed be vegan. A must read! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: Voyager - Distant Shores

This short story anthology takes us through adventures set throughout Star Trek: Voyager’s entire journey through the Delta Quadrant, tying up more than a few loose threads along the way. In picking up on the impacts of key episodes, and exploring relationships in a way the TV series dared not, it adds a whole new layer to the entire series, making it feel a more cohesive and complete whole. Quite an achievement for a single book of short stories, and a very rewarding read as a result. Without a doubt one of my favourite Voyager books ever. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek Annual (2023)

This first annual in the recent crossover Star Trek comic series adds even more crossover to the mix, with a holographic mishap that leads the crew of the USS Theseus to encounter characters and ships from almost every corner of the Star Trek universe. A really fun book that revels in being packed full of easter eggs; this pleasing integrates elements of newer Star Trek series with old, making them feel like they’ve always been a part of the wider universe. Along the way it lets us get to know the new cast from the comic better, with especially delightful moments for the Andorian Lily and her ancestor Hoshi Sato. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Battle of the Bounty Hunters

A pop-up comic! A pop-up Star Wars comic even. Those facts alone make this a delightful book to me, and it was actually a pretty good little story too. Set after The Empire Strikes Back, this book follows Boba Fett as he faces various obstacles while trying to deliver Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt. The pop-ups bring all the problems Fett faces to life, with clever design that doesn’t just feel a novelty, but actually enhances the storytelling. A very pleasing fusion of comic book and pop-up book formats! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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New Think

This five-issue comics miniseries looks at the social implications of current technology and media, reframing reality as sci-fi and fantasy fables. While a little repetitive thematically, the artwork and storytelling style offered a lot of variety from issue to issue. My favourites of the five included framing the pervasiveness of screen technology as an alien invasion, and a story that shows the modern world as the day-dreams of ancient people. Otherwise a bit hit and miss, and rather preachy, but pleasingly thought-provoking and observant. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Naked Feminism: Breaking the Cult of Female Modesty

This excellent book, by Victoria Bateman, examines the imposition of modesty upon women. Looking at contemporary and historical examples in many different cultures and contexts, it reveals how modesty keeps being used as a tool to control women, and lays out the dangers of the myriad forms of oppression that results in. From the most harrowing abuses of women, through to social and economic inequalities, and slut shaming, it explores in careful detail how the culture of modesty does nothing but disadvantage and harm women and society at large. A must read. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: Discovery - Wonderlands

This cracking book by Una McCormack fills in the missing year from Discovery's season three time-jump, when Michael Burnham arrived in the 32nd century a year before the USS Discovery and crew. It does a great job filling in the events of Burnham's year of learning, as well as the backstory of the fall of the Federation. It also lets us get to know Book and Sahil really well, and most importantly shows us how Burnham became the more chilled version of herself of later Discovery seasons. A must-read for fans of the series! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Yoda #4-6: Students of the Force

This second story arc in the Yoda maxiseries sees Yoda encouraging a younger Dooku to take some time to join him in teaching padawans. Together they navigate the difficulties arising out of one of the students having a negative vision of the future, with each of the Jedi masters taking a different interpretation and offering different guidance to the students. A solid and enjoyable story in a little-explored era of Star Wars, which felt like it built nicely on the characters and the mythology. Check out my full review on my book review blog

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Star Wars: Darth Vader #28–32: Return of the Handmaidens

This five-issue run of comics sees the continuation of Darth Vader’s interactions with Padmé’s old handmaidens; in particular Sabé, who seeks to redeem him, and in doing so gets sucked into his darkness, even being vetted by the Emperor. Other Clone Wars era elements play into the story which is fun, as is much of the sneaking and conspiring Sabé and the other handmaidens undertake to go about their missions. But the whole setup of them interacting with Vader isn’t among my favourite plots, and so while it’s a good enough story, it’s not one I was hugely into. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #21–30: Spark Eternal arc

This ten-issue run of my favourite Star Wars comic series featuring my favourite Star Wars character delivered in so many ways! Two things defined the arc; the relationship between Aphra and the Spark Eternal that inhabits her body; and the efforts of all her friends and former lovers to try and rescue her. Both delivered emotional impact, some great character development, fun expansion of the ancient Star Wars world, and some spectacular, and sometimes pretty wild, visuals. Among the best story arcs in a series that is always great! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Dinosaur Sanctuary 1

A completely charming manga about everyday life in a struggling Japanese dinosaur sanctuary (in a world where dinosaurs have become commonplace attractions). The book features beautiful renderings of dinosaurs, and both the images and story draw from real dinosaur science to bring the animals to life so vividly. Refreshingly not depicting them as monsters, but real living beings with individual personalities and histories, this is such a joyful view of life working with and adoring dinosaurs. It's also wonderfully atmospheric, making you feel like you're right there in this quiet little dinosaur haven. One of my favourite books for some time. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek #1-6: Godshock

This first six-issue arc kicks off a new Star Trek crossover comic series, and the start of a wider effort to build a bigger world of Star Trek comics. With such big ambitions, the story features no less than an attempt to kill off all the “gods” of the Star Trek universe. What consistories a god in the story is a little odd in my view, but basically various forms of super-aliens. This allows for some interesting exploration of unusual aliens and ancient history in the Star Trek universe. Lots of familiar and new characters join us on an intriguing new ship, and the series consistently delivers clever ways to tie characters together and pleasing Star Trek problem-solving. A solid and enjoyable start to a bigger story to come. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Eight Billion Genies

This eight-part comic series is gloriously imaginative and visually playful, telling the story of what happens when every person on Earth gets a personal genie with one wish. Each issue covers a longer span of time, from the chaotic wishes of whim in the first eight minutes of issue one, to a world changed utterly by the final eight centuries in the last chapter. While full of outrageous ideas and imagery, intriguing rules of magic, and sometimes mischievous genies, what really ties the whole series together is the love of the three groups of characters that drives their journeys through the changing and chaotic world. A really clever, witty, and engrossing series from start to finish. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: "Q and False" and Other Stories

This short story collection features very short stories previously published in the Star Trek Explorer magazine, spanning many corners of the Star Trek universe. Some nice illustrations along with a great variety of neat little stories from some top Trek authors makes this a nice collection of fiction snacks! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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The Spectacular Suit 

This charming picture book is about a child finding their own style and freedom of expression, helped along by a wonderfully positive and supporting family. The whole book is a brilliant role model for positivity in finding your own way to be you, and a nice bit of deconstruction of gender norms and expectations. The main character's journey can be an allegory for many different ways people find themselves, and indeed one I found quite relatable! Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Hidden Empire

The final chapter in a trilogy of Star Wars comic miniseries and crossover events, this was a big bombastic tale of conspiracy, peppered with melancholy for the inevitable failure to defeat the Sith prior to the events of Return of the Jedi. While this is built upon a lot of prior crossovers, a neat framing story makes it work well as a standalone too, and recontextualises the story as more of a win for the heroes than they might perceive. Lots of Emperor action in full Sith mode made this particularly fun to read and see on the page. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars #30-33, No Space arc

This four-issue arc saw our Rebel heroes trapped for a little while in a pocket dimension. A fun little side-quest which I enjoyed more than I anticipated, thanks to the quirky adventure, humour, some fun visuals and good action, and most of all, great character moments and development for Lando, Holdo, and Luke.  Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: Strange New Worlds - The Illyrian Enigma

The first comics series based on Star Trek's newest TV series, Strange New Worlds. This is a follow-up to the first season cliff-hanger ending, this four-issue series gave us some nice world-building backstory that revealed a lot about the enigmatic Illyrian species, as well as the well-known Vulcans. Spock and Captain Pike enjoy time in the focus, but all the main characters get some input into a story that lived the energy and character of the TV series. An enjoyable entry that did a good job expanding the Star Trek universe while bridging the two TV seasons. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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A.R.C.

A one-shot comic, the titular A.R.C. is the Animal Rights Collective, a group of anti-poaching vigilantes. Set in southern Africa in a tale spanning multiple nations, the scope of this story feels bigger than this single issue could contain. But it still managed to champion protecting the natural world, and shines a spotlight on the very real brutality of the trade in exotic animal parts, including a nuanced look at who the victims are in that trade, highlighting things like child soldiers and poverty that drives people to desperate and terrible acts. A lot of those terrible acts are depicted in what is a much more violent comic than my usual tastes. But I did enjoy someone using this format of storytelling to highlight a real issue, and having the motivation in-story for characters to actually care about protecting nature in a way we normally only see in heroic acts to save people and nations. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: Yoda #1-3: Light and Life

The first story-arc in the Yoda comic maxiseries. In which Yoda visits a tropical paradise to stop warring neighbours warring, and takes his sweet time about it! The theme of this arc is trust and patience, and Yoda certainly does his best to test both qualities, by staying on the planet for several years, and then not returning for several decades. This reveals maybe the other message of the story; that Yoda’s determination to make everything a teaching moment, while ultimately playing out for the better here, maybe could averted decades of strife if he’s been a bit more direct! A potentially interesting environmental element to the story seems just barely touched upon, something I’d have enjoyed more of. An interesting enough if not super-satisfying start to the series. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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The Sleeper Awakes

A curious dystopia by one of the pioneers of sci-fi, H.G. Wells. Full of intriguingly remarkable foresight at how the future might play out, including highly prescient ideas on urbanism, energy, transport, inequalities and the systems of exploitation that go with them. A book full of vision and commentary that applies equally for its Victorian origins, the world of today, and the future it envisions. An engaging read, sadly let down by an uncomfortable climax built on notions on race that haven't stood the test of time. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View

This collection of short stories are all set around the events of the original Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Forty stories in all, some told in quite quirky ways, expand on the events of the film, or merely see them play out in the background of other goings-on. For my part, I found the stories that featured familiar Star Wars characters that weren't A New Hope fun, not least of all my very favourite Star Wars character Doctor Aphra (from the comics). Exploring what it means to become one with the force (ie a force ghost) gave some great new insight into how the Star Wars universe works. While most movingly two tragic stories of motherhood really added some emotional weight to the collection. Built on obvious nostalgia for a much-loved film, this book delivered a very satisfying new layer to a story many of us know so very well. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats

This political and cultural history by Maya Goodfellow outlines the UK’s attitude and policy in regard to immigration. It does so via numerous case studies of decades of increasingly cruel immigration policies, and demonstrates how the current hateful Conservative government politics are built on the back of numerous governments reaching to immigration as a political weapon. Something they are able to do thanks to our failure as a nation to understand the reality of race and immigration or our colonial history. A great overview of the history, politics and cultural background of the subject. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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Star Trek: Coda - Oblivion's Gate

The first book I finished in 2023 was the final book in the Star Trek: Coda trilogy, Oblivion's Gate, by David Mack. This was an insanely huge Star Trek crossover that served as the finale for two-decades of Star Trek novels stories, which were shunted into an alternate timeline thanks to the newest Star Trek TV series establishing a new "prime" timeline. As the end of a whole bunch of long-running interconnected series it was a sorrowful farewell, especially as it was such a conclusive end to that particular narrative. But it also had some really exciting highs, including being a sequel of sorts to my favourite Star Trek movie, First Contact, and returning to the novel's rather utopian version of the mirror universe. Check out my full review on my book review blog.

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