COVID Reading List, Part II

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You can review my prior list of books I’ve read this year here. All of the books on this list were loaned to me by my local library or Cleveland Public Library.

Stephen King books I’ve read:

The Outsider. Read it after watching “The Outsider” on HBO. Good, creepy book that introduced me to King’s character, Holly Gibney. Which led me to King’s “Bill Hodge’s Trilogy.”

Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch. These books center around police detective Bill Hodges. “Mr. Mercedes” is basically a police procedural. However, the final two books move into the supernatural realm. Great characters, creepy premise, and a great finale to the series.

The Institute. Parents being murdered, their kids being sent to “The Institute.” To what end? Good standalone supernatural novel.

Doctor Sleep. This book takes place many years after The Shining. After watching the movie, it was time to read the book.

Brad Thor novels I’ve read:

Near Dark. The most recent Scot Horvath novel, who is a super spy, by author Brad Thor. Never read anything by Thor until I picked this up at the library. Reading the book’s liner notes, I picked up three other novels in the series because they had won some awards.

Spymaster. An earlier novel in Brad Thor’s Scot Horvath series, because I read the most recent one first.

The Last Patriot. An award winning novel by Thor. It’s good but I need one more to see if I want to continue reading about Scot Horvath’s adventures.

Backlash. With this one, I think I’m done with Scot Horvath. Didn’t really connect with him like I do with other characters, like Jack Reacher, John Rain, or Joe Pickett.

Graphic novels:

Battle Born: Lapis Lazuli. The author, Maximilian Uriarte, is the creator of the comic “Terminal Lance” and this is his second graphic novel. Gorgeous artwork, great story centered on Marine Sergeant King.

Kent State: Four Dead in Ohio. Easily the best graphic novel I’ve ever read. Meticulously researched, wrenching story. Highly recommended.

Miscellaneous authors:

Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump. Because I really enjoy golf and author Rick Reilly. You can tell a lot about a person when you play golf with them because the game is based on honesty.

Blood Cruise. How about some horror on a cruiseferry in the Baltic Sea? Sign me up!

Pocket Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will. Fun facts about remote islands, some of which are rather disturbing.

Ready Player Two. The sequel to the blockbuster Ready Player One. After much consideration, I didn’t think it was as much fun as Ready Player One but I had to read it.

The Hollow Ones. Book one in a series concerning grisly murders that happen across history, a rookie FBI agent, and, it seems, a hero that will put an end to the killings. After finishing this horror novel, I cannot wait for the next installment.

Squeeze Me. If you’ve read any of Carl Hiassen’s novels, you know exactly what you will be getting in this, his latest novel. It did not disappoint and brought some much needed laughs after a bunch of horror novels.

Zoey Punches the Future in the Dick. Saw this title on the “New Books” shelf at the library and, with a title like that, I had to read it. Turns out, I’ve read a couple of David Wong’s previous novels, John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders. This is a hilarious look at a dystopian future. I now have to read the first book in his Zoey Ashe series, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits.

Shit, Actually: The Definitive, 100% Objective Guide to Modern Cinema. Author Linda West revisits some of the 20th Century’s movies with hilarious results. All of her reviews are funny, but I found her review of Harry Potter to be absolutely hilarious. If you’re a big fan of any of the movies in this book, I hope you have some sense of humor.

The Book of Eels: Our Enduring Fascination with the Most Mysterious Creature in the Natural World. Truly, one of the most unusual animals on Earth as so little is known about them, as compared to other creatures. I think my only experience with them is when I see them in zoos or aquariums. Still, this is an enlightening and fascinating book.

My COVID Reading List, So Far

With the lockdown, came the closure of the libraries. Luckily, I had a veritable pile of books that I had borrowed from the library at home. With, at the time, no timetable to return them.

Then, the libraries opened. That meant instead of actually going into the library, they allowed holds using their mobile apps, online catalogs, or simply calling the library. Both libraries I use have mobile apps, although they do not use the same app.

No problem, I use each library differently.

My local library is a “popular library.” They have popular authors, books on the best seller lists, and so forth. The other library is Cleveland Public Library. A “research library.” Yes, they have the popular books, but they also have a broad and deep collection (their graphic novel collection for example is, simply, amazing). Plus, they allow you to put on hold books that have not yet been published. This is a great feature when you subscribe to several book sites and know when your favorite authors are publishing their next books.

Any way, here’s what I’ve read so far, from mid March until now.

The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson. I’ve read everything Larson has published and each is better than the last. This book was wonderful. I have to read a Churchill biography soon.

Snow, by Giles Whittell. Everything you ever wanted to know about snow written in a entertaining and informative style.

Secondhand, by Adam Minter. Great book about what happens to the stuff you take to Goodwill or other secondhand stores, where the stuff goes, what’s done with it, and more. Especially topical when you have to clean out your house or, worse, when you have to clean out your parent’s house. Also, how much crap we acquire that has no value whatsoever. Except, perhaps, the memories that they elicit.

The Logan Pike series, by Brad Taylor. Fourteen books, so far, in the series. Logan and his team are, in a word, badass.

The Joe Pickett series, by C.J. Box. My Mom had the most recent book, and lent it to me to read. When I finished it, I started at book one, “Open Season,” and finished the rest of them. Also, read “Shots Fired,” a collection of short stories by C.J. Box, that also included a couple of short stories using the characters in the series. Phew, 23 books including the book of short stories.

The Broken Earth trilogy, by N.K. Jemisin. Phenomenal. It’s not often that when I finish a novel or a series where I am sad. This was one of those times. Jemisin built such an amazing world with exceptional characters that I didn’t want it to end. These books will be with for a long time. And, I will read them again.

The Old Guard: Opening Fire by Greg Rucka, Leandro Fernández. After watching, several times, The Old Guard on Netflix, I had to read the graphic novel. Trying to find the other books in the series.

The Boy From the Woods by Harlan Coben. I’ve read all of Coben’s books and this one did not disappoint. I think I finished it in two days. Great thriller/mystery.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. A ghost story, with interesting characters, some chills, and a twist that surprised the heck out of me. Highly recommended.

Six (so far) of the ten novels in the Quinn Colson series by Ace Atkins. Former Ranger goes back to his hometown, badness occurs, he stays and becomes the sheriff. It’s not like anything else I’ve read this year, when it comes to a series. While the main character is good but flawed, the secondary characters keep me reading. Haven’t finished the series because Broken Earth, above.

I’ve got four books currently in the pile, with several more on hold at the local library and CPL. 2020 has been a great year for reading.

More titles to come . . .

Chicago Lightning by Max Allan Collins

The short story isn’t something that I normally read, which is unfortunate. It’s a great art, where the author has to convey quite a bit in a compressed time frame. Because of this, some aspects you would normally expect while reading a novel are missing, such as detailed character development. However, if you pick up a collection of short stories centered on one figure, for example, Chicago Lightning, by Max Allan Collins, the reader is able to learn quite a bit about the central character as well as some recurring characters. Where Chicago Lightning really takes off is in the author’s use of real cases using an old form – the private detective.

Nathan “Nate” Heller is the central character and the private detective. He isn’t quite what you might expect of a 1930’s and 1940’s private eye as described by other authors, such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, or Mickey Spillane what you might expect. Actually, I find that I love reading about Nate, and his cases, than any other detective in the genre. The language, characters, and cases make this a wonderful read. Where it really shined, for me, was when Max Allan Collins put Nate Heller in cases in which I am familiar, for example, the Cleveland Torso Murders in the 1930’s. What makes that story so wonderful is that Collins brings Nate to Cleveland to work with Eliot Ness. In fact, Heller and Ness work several cases together, which brings those stories alive.

If you’re looking for something “different,” introduce yourself to the short story with a strong character like Nate Heller. The tight writing, exciting cases, and hard dialog, will keep you turning pages well after you should be turning in for the night. Chicago Lightning is an exceptional collection of stories.

Disclosure:

Obtained from: Amazon Vine

Payment: Free

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Clay Jannon is one of those people that rarely touch paper. Need news? He uses Google. Looking for a job? He scans the job openings online. Looking for something to read? He downloads books, magazine articles, blog posts to his laptop or his early version Kindle. He is a child of the internet and his job is at a startup, creating logos, web sites, administering a Twitter account. However, a severe downturn in the economy results in the loss of Clay’s job. He’s been out of work for a year, there is nothing in San Francisco for him; he is a dime a dozen.

It is paper that gets him a job.

Because he cannot concentrate on actually finding a job while he is online, one link sends him to another site, then to another until his entire day is shot and he is no closer to finding a job. What he does to combat the internet is to print out the want ads and take a walk around San Francisco while reading his printouts. Strangely, that does not help him land a job. But San Francisco is an interesting place, as he discards his latest printouts, he sees a “Help Wanted” sign in the window of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. “What the heck,” he says, walks in and interviews for the job of the night clerk at the store. He is hired.

This is not an ordinary book store. While they have some popular books, the store is dedicated to different kinds of books, strange books. Which are loaned out to a wide variety of people who arrive at the store at all hours of the day and night. Curious, Clay takes a look at some of them; they appear to be written in some sort of code.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is an incredible balance between “new” and “old.” While books are the primary focus, Robin Sloan incorporates new technologies, such as Google, OCR, crowd sourcing, and more. Old Knowledge, that which is not indexed on a search server, has a definite place in the world and is very much relevant. In addition to the wonderful characters and excellent plot, it is this balance that allows the novel to soar. Sloan really shines when he focuses on Clay, a man who may live a technical world but, underneath his web-centric world, really likes pen and ink. The reader recognizes this early, but enjoys the ride as Clay discovers this for himself. And it’s not because Clay is a Luddite at heart. He really has a deep appreciation of the glue, the feel, the smell of books (and bookstores) and ink. Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore is a fabulous page turner that is very appealing; it is very hard to put down. It is also one of those books what will remain with you long after you have powered down your e-reader or marked your place.

Disclosure:
Obtained from: Amazon
Payment: Purchased