What I’ve Read (2018)

I have been keeping track of the books I read for years.  This year, I have decided to commit them to digital memory (but I will probably back this up on paper).

This is by no means a place to boast, but rather just to record because there will (hopefully) be some great books here, but there will also be some pretty standard books and probably a few stinkers.

January

A Death at the Yoga Café–Michelle Kelly

Something Like Happy by Eva Woods

The premise of this book is not particularly new: A person who is dying wants to make the most of the last days of her life, and she wants to help a complete stranger make her life better.  However, I think Eva Woods handles it well.  She gives us characters that are human.  They are fallible, moody, and despite the positive optimism that envelops the book, the dread is not necessarily tucked away in the corner.

The idea that you can influence the life of someone is fantastic and I wish more of us would pay attention to that.  We go about our daily life, but we are not in the bubble we think we are.  Our words and actions have consequences both good and bad.

The book is both funny and moving, in unexpected ways. 

The Drop by Michael Connelly

The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman (channeling Robert B. Parker)

Coleman has done a good job continuing the adventures of Jesse Stone.  He has managed to write some good mysteries as well as develop and challenge the characters.

Road To Valour by Aili and Andres McConnon

Books about cycling and stars of cycling mostly focus on doping and winning.  This book is so much better than that.  It is a book about a man who not only was a great cyclist, but was also a great human being.  War might have interrupted Gino Bartali’s career, but his accomplishments go beyond the bicycle.  This would make an excellent movie.

Crisis Four by Andy McNab

I’ve put myself in a series of books again.  There are lots of these to read and if I so choose, I ‘ve got a couple of years worth of catch-ups. (It is better than when you catch up and have to wait a year or more for the next book in the series) Of course, as usual, thanks to my library, I am not reading them in the correct order.

Typical of the genre, a very skilled operator fulfils missions.  There are wrinkles, life or death moments.  People die, things blow up.  Atypical of the genre, the hero is not a multi-lingual, brilliant thinker king of sexual conquest.  He is more of a meat and potatoes, sometimes rather thick man.  However, he will go to great lengths to get the job done.

I enjoyed it for the technical aspects of it.  The plot was quite fast paced and as believable as any in the genre.

February

bike book

It’s All About The Bike by Robert Penn

The premise is pretty simple:  A man who has cycled around the world decides the time has come to have his very own, custom made bicycle; from the frame to the all the minor and major components to the paint job.  Not only that, but he is going to personally visit the factories and shops where these components are built.   Oh, and he is going to recount the technological advances these parts represent as well as the history of the bicycle.

His dream read so cool for me.  I would love to have my own custom built frame and very high end (and durable) components.  Come to think of it, most cyclists probably feel the same way.

The book had a very clean and readable style, despite having to impart some rather technical information at times.  Anyone who has ever been on a bike and gone for a club ride or a solo ride of any length will appreciate this book.

Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben

I picked this up because it was described as a perfect antidote to the Trump era.  While it isn’t a direct critique of the administration, it is a beautiful idea of how one voice can sway people and disseminate ideas.  It is also a beautiful treatise on how small is better than big–big corporations, big farming, big taxation……you get the idea.

It is definitely worth reading, and I highly recommend it.

Legoland by Gerard Woodward

A book of short stories. Very modernist–which really means that most stories have a less than satisfactory ending.

Nightkill by F. Paul Wilson

Last Light by Andy McNab

Technically accurate, but predictable plot twists.  The hero is likeable, but …it just didn’t do anything for me.

Slugfest: Inside the Epic 50 Year Battle Between DC and Marvel by Reed Tucker

This was an awesome pick for the fan-boy inside me.  It chronicled the rivalry without favouring one side too much.  It had information from people on both sides of the struggle–who usually worked for each other at one time or another.

It had a lot of history to cover, so this book covered more of the management and parent company side, rather than the work of individual creators.  It really opened up my eyes to the world behind comic books.  It was fascinating and a little sad at times.

This is definitely a book for people who have ever read comics.  As well, fans of the current onslaught of superhero movies should love it too.

March

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Marco Effect by Jussi Adler-Olsen

A very enjoyable read.

April

The Hanging Girl by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Normally, reading a book series back to back isn’t something I consider wise.  This time, I was pleasantly surprised.  This one was entertaining, not predictable, and showed real growth of characters.

The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart by Lawrence Block

Stripmalling by Jon Paul Fiorentino

stripmalling

I have to admit it.  I laughed out loud on the bus and subway while I was reading this today.  It isn’t a straightforward narrative, but I enjoyed it nevertheless.  Books need to challenge you at times.  This one does it in a way that isn’t off-putting.

My only complaint would be that it was too short.  I could have used more of the adventures of Jonny and the various people who bounce in and out of his life….or whose lives he bounces in an out of.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly

The Crossing by Michael Connelly

A Walk Among the Tombstones by Lawrence Block

Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord

hector

I thought this was a cute story and there are definitely some lessons for life here.  It didn’t impact me as much as some other books like this, but it was a good flowing read with some nice touches of humour.

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

I had heard a lot about this book before I read it.  I had even taken the DVD out of the library but had run out of time to watch it.  I had heard lots of pronouncements about the person at the heart of the story, but didn’t give it too much thought.

Krakauer is a strong writer and the story is a good one.  Definitely worth reading.

May

The Troop by Nick Cutter (aka Craig Davidson)

First and foremost, in this digital age, I wonder why people bother using aliases when writing.  Other than making me look him up (which I would have done if I enjoyed the book), I don’t see any other reason.  I guess some people will look him up regardless and that might boost his SEO rankings or something.

As for the book….pretty good.  Not horrific as my librarian promised, but decent enough.  The author used some insertions of transcripts and news reports to spice up the book.  They were mostly useful.

This was a story right up Michael Crichton’s alley and had he written it, it would have been fantastic.

The Orenda by Joseph Boyden

People rave about this book and the author.  I admit that the writing is definitely quality, but I just couldn’t get into it.  I could only read a chapter or two at a time and had to put the book down.  It took me about double the time I would normally take.

I am not doing a good job of reviewing the book.  Probably that period in Canadian history is too disturbing for me.  I was definitely siding with the aboriginal people in this one–as was no doubt intended.  However, I didn’t feel connected or sympathetic to any of the characters.

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck

Strongly written characters and the most delicate of scenes and circumstances made this a joy to read.  I might even have to tackle the Grapes of Wrath next.

The Devil Knows You’re Dead by Lawrence Block

The Matthew Scudder novels are interesting.  The plots are strong and definitely keep you guessing.  I would call them unflinching, but I am starting to sound a tad cliché. Read them.  Enjoy them.

June

The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky by Jana Casale

Okay, I admit it.  I was captivated by the title and picked it up for that reason only–the cover is uninspiring.

What can I say.  It is a novel with a very well written and strong female protagonist.  I appreciate being given access to her thoughts and her emotions.  I laughed when it was funny and I enjoyed it when it was sexually and satirically bold.  I genuinely cared about the characters and revelled in their triumphs and commiserated in their failures.

The book has a linear structure, but I don’t know if I would say it had a driving storyline.

Rollback by Robert J. Sawyer.

I have read a number of this author’s books (Flashforward might be the most famous) and I enjoy them.  Perhaps what I love best is how he puts science fiction in a very Canadian setting with very Canadian characters.

8 Million Ways to Die by Lawrence Block.

People who have read the Matthew Scudder novels would probably recognize this as the dividing line between the hard drinking Scudder and the reformed alcoholic.  I have yet to red the novels where he drank, but I am aware of the debate.

Lawrence Block put together an awesome detective story without the cheats and without the shortcuts that many novels take.  It’s fast paced but the frustrations of the detective is clear.  I wouldn’t make this my first read, but if you did, it certainly wouldn’t be your last.

Hope to Die by Lawrence Block

The biggest problem with reading a book series from the library is that they may not have all the volumes you are looking for.  I have been reading these books completely out of sequence and while it doesn’t affect the book I am reading, I find it bothers me.  The obvious solution would be to stop reading them out of sequence and have a bit more patience–if only that were possible.

Sleeping In The Ground by Peter Robinson

The Inspector Banks novels are really good.  The main character doesn’t have a drinking or gambling problem.  His only problem is a severely stunted love life.  He does okay, but never seems to find lasting love.  Maybe this is because he loves his job too much.

This particular volume was quite good.  If you’ve never read these novels, you should….and I will envy you because you can start at the beginning and you will have plenty of good things to read.

July

Jack’s Book: An Oral Biography of Jack Kerouac by Barry Gifford and Lawrence Lee

Beyond Belfast: A 560 Mile Walk Across Northern Ireland on Sore Feet by Will Ferguson

Will Ferguson is funny–Bill Bryson kind of funny.  His book actually made laugh out loud while I was reading it on the bus and on the subway.  People might have looked at me with concern, but I didn’t care.  It was brilliant.

A Perfect Shot by Robin Yocum

The blurb on the back sold me on the book.  The Duke, as he is known, is a basketball legend for his championship winning shot.  Twenty years later, despite being stuck in the same small town, he is still trading off that glory.

It sounded like a great idea for a story.  Instead it was more of a crime story.  It was good, but the idea held so much more promise.

One Good Thing by Rebecca Hendry

August

Catfish and Mandala by Andrew X Pham

catfish

A very good story of a Vietnamese American (Viet Kieu) who decides to cycle in Vietnam to connect with his roots.  He faces hardship, discomfort, illness, discrimination, acceptance, love.  Having cycled over some of the same routes that he did, I can at least understand some of his discomfort.  However, he did it twenty years before me without van support to carry his luggage and provide him with drinks every 15 or 20 kilometres. (Thank you again Exodus staff–you have been awesome on all my trips).

If you are interested in reading how I came upon this gem, please check out my main blog.  I will have the post up shortly.

The Code by G.B. Joyce.

I started watching the TV series Private Eyes because Nicole DeBoer is in it–though not often enough for my taste.  I have enjoyed it, so I thought I would check out the source material.

This was actually pretty unique and much much better than I thought it would be.  This is a detective novel that has a hero who is an ex-hockey player turned scout who happened to study criminology to soothe his father, a policeman.  If you’re saying this has only a passing resemblance to the TV series, I would have to agree with you.

Nevertheless, the characters are good and the motivations are clear.  On top of that, it’s pretty funny.  It isn’t hard core gritty, but there are enough slimy characters around to give it some seediness.

The Black Ace by G.B. Joyce

The second installment in the Brad Shade series was almost as good as the first one.  I had hoped there were a few more of these books, but this looks to be all for now.

These Days Are Ours by Michelle Haimoff

I picked up this book because I was looking for something different.  I definitely think I got that and I really enjoyed it.  The blurb on the cover likened it to Bright Lights Big City….and I kind of get where the person is going with that.  It is definitely a New York story, and it has elements of Story of My Life (Jay McInerny–same author as Bright Lights Big City) but lacks the in your face sex and drugs.

Strip by Thomas Perry.

A solid thriller with a bit of an unconventional ending.  This is not a book of heroic characters, but rather some less than model citizens from any side of the aisle.  Some get there just desserts, while others make out better.  I guess in that way it is just like real life.

Definitely a worthy read.

September

The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes by Lawrence Block

I enjoyed the book.  It was more sexually explicit than his other books, but they were going for a kind of niche here.

The throwback cover art, if I am being completely honest, didn’t seem like something I wanted to show people on the bus and subway, so I tried to keep the cover hidden.  I don’t know why I became so prudish–I mean, I have had frank conversations with my friend the SM mistress on the bus without worrying….funny.

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer

Whether or not you buy into the whole controversy behind the events depicted in the book, the truth is that it is a fascinating read and the writing is fantastic.

Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress

Some SF heavyweights lent their names to praise on the front and back cover….and I can only yawn.  I enjoyed the beginning, but shortly after that I had thoughts of abandonment.  I had taken the sequel out of the library as well as this–but I returned it and a few other books unread.

The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

This was the perfect antidote to some of dreck I have been reading.  Strong characters, inventive story, and not entirely predictable.  A very enjoyable read.

I chose this book from the library because I had read the Dollhouse and the author of it (Fiona Davis) put her stamp of approval on this book.  In fact, the dual narrative in different time periods was very reminiscent of the Dollhouse.

October

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A.D. Jameson

Charting how we got from Star Wars to today’s geek culture.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman

The Third Wife by Lisa Jewell

While I liked this less than the other books of hers I have read, the characters were still well written and the story was unusual.  I just didn’t have any sympathy for the characters or their plight.  Pretty much the kiss of death for a book.

November

Paint it Black by Janet Fitch

This book was loud.  I appreciated that it cut hard and fast and really had a take no prisoners mentality.  The writing was daring and powerful.  Sadly, for me, the interior monologue of the main character was too dense and started to become less compelling as the book wore on. By page 300 I had had enough and almost gave up.

Brief Cases by Jim Butcher

I am painfully awaiting a new Dresden novel, but in the meantime this will have to do.  It is a collection of short stories which allows the author to showcase different characters in the Dresden universe and give you the perspectives he cannot give in a typical Dresden novel because those are all written from Harry’s perspective.

I cannot say I loved all of the stories, but most of them were good and were quite illuminating.  Definitely recommended for any fan.

How To Be Famous by Caitlin Moran

Despite sounding like a self help book for bloggers who want to become famous, really this book is about what it is like to become famous for some right reasons and some wrong reasons.  It is told from the perspective of a young woman who become famous as a music magazine writer and her dream love, a singer songwriter that has also hit it phenomenally big.  It is wild and loud and Britpunk.  It is raunchy and in your face, but blessed with just the right amount of restraint.  I enjoyed this one so much more than my previous foray into this area.

The Bucket List by Georgia Clark

No, not the Jack Nicholson Morgan Freeman movie adapted for a novel.  Not even about dying…not exactly.  Funny, a bit raunchy, heartfelt, and redeeming without being cliché.  I enjoyed it and think everyone should read it.

Beautiful Exiles by Meg Waite Clayton

A historical fiction novel of the turbulent romance/affair (no need for me to judge) between Hemingway and Gellhorn.  Some beautiful moments…some tough scenes.  It puts neither person on a pedestal and evokes an amazing period of history.

December

Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Blown by Mark Haskell Smith

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7 Responses to What I’ve Read (2018)

  1. I see what you meant about being drawn to graphic covers. You certainly are! (And so am I.)

  2. I enjoyed reading your book reviews. I’ve never read a Lisa Jewell book, and now I’m intending to. Which one would you recommend the most? I also am rather judgmental about book covers: I don’t like those that show photographs of people – I think the reader should decide her/himself what the main character looks like. I prefer covers like The Winters in Bloom. In my own books, I use more of a background photo with the title getting more of the attention. But…I may try to change my covers at some point, like Jewell obviously does. :-0

    • Anthony says:

      Not being in the publishing business (yet), I really have no idea who chooses the covers, or whether this had to do with different editions. I do know that I liked the drawn covers more in this case.
      I also like photographs that just depict something (like School of Terminal Velocity).
      If you do change the covers, it will mean more that you can display (on your shelf or on your wall).

      As for which Lisa Jewell book to read…..I would say Roommates Wanted or the Making of Us. They were just different enough, but full of good insights without being too heavy handed.

    • Anthony says:

      Thanks also for your compliment about my reviews. Based on what I have read on WP, most people want long very detailed book reviews–at least that is what popular bloggers seem to write.
      I am not so inclined. Maybe this is the result of too many literary essays at university. Maybe this is because I don’t want to spoil the book for you. I am not sure.

  3. Alphe says:

    That’s impressive! As a teenager, I used to devour books, reading one per 2-3 days… then life happened and I often struggle trying to read one a month. That makes me feel guilty… I think one of my New Year’s resolutions will be to make more time for books.

    • Anthony says:

      I would always encourage people to read more. Just don’t make yourself feel bad if you don’t. Reading should be a pleasure.
      In my case, I have a lengthy commute which affords me a lot of reading time.

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