Getting Back Into It – My 2019 Reading List

Years ago, when depression hit hard, I slowly stopped doing the things I loved.  Since then, I have been trying to re-engage with my hobbies.  And with everything I went through in 2018, I was determined that 2019 would be a year of self improvement.  One of my personal goals was to get back into reading more, and since I ended up with a longer commute to work, I had no excuse not to read.  Although I had a good streak going for most of the year, the transfer to the LRT shortened my reading time during my commute to work (it’s so hard to find a seat on those crowded trains). And extra work in November and December meant I spent a lot of time trying to keep from falling asleep on the bus (I could barely keep my eyes open long enough most days to get through a page). But, all in all, this is the most I’ve managed to read in a year in a long time and I’m confident I can keep up the reading and get through the backlog of books on my shelves.  So, without further ado, here are my thoughts on the stories I read in 2019!

img_8700Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King: One of King’s short story collections, this book had a decent mix of good and less than good stories.  But overall this was a very good read.  It’s hard to pick a favourite story, but some highlights for me were: “The Moving Finger”, “The Rainy Season”, and “Home Delivery”.

Swearing is Good for You by Emma Byrne: A ****ing good book that looks at the science behind the bad words we love to use.  Each chapter looks at the language of swearing in a different way: swearing at work, swearing moneys, swearing because of Tourette’s Syndrome, and more! Definitely got some interesting looks while reading this one on the bus.

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman: This book made me so uncomfortable in a good way.  Fat Charlie’s embarrassment really affected me and I squirmed uncomfortably while reading it.  After Fat Charlie tries to take charge of the awkward situations in his life, however, the action became so intense I couldn’t put the book down.

Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh and Yuko Ota: This cute comic was a quick read for me.  It was very “slice of life” for the most part, with a little fantasy thrown in.  Not something I would normally read but I did end up enjoying it; even though it felt like it was mostly fluff without much substance.

Watership Down Richard Adams: I only read this because it’s “a classic”. I did not expect to like rabbits this much, but once I really got into this book I was hooked.  Adored the use of mythology and language, and I even cried at the end.  I loved the story so much I proceeded to binge the 4 part Netflix series.

The Death of a Stranger by Anne Perry: One of the many novels in Perry’s William Monk series.  In terms of the mystery itself, it’s not one of my favourites but it is still quite the page turner.  This installment in the series finally provides more background on Monk’s relationship with his former mentor, Arroll Dundas.

Rose Madder by Stephen King: The real horror of this story is the abuse Rosie suffers at the hands of her (ex)husband Norman. The chapters that take place inside the painting did not quite seem to go with the rest of the story. Yet it just wouldn’t quite be a Stephen King book without the weird supernatural stuff.

Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero: When I saw The Room I thought “that was funny but I never need to waste my time on that again.” Reading this behind-the-scenes look at this disastrous undertaking (and then immediately watching Franco’s film adaptation), now I actually want to watch The Room again – maybe see a midnight screening?

Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman: This feels like a children’s book, but it is creepy in a way that only a Gaiman story can be. It is a coming of age story that is rich with macabre lore and lovable characters.  This book is dark, but not scary, and makes for a quick, but satisfying, read.

Jaws 2 by Hank Searles (Based on the Screenplay by Howard Sackler and Dorothy Tristan, and the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley): Only loosely based on the screenplay, this is more like a sequel to the book. The story was so much better than the story for the film; in fact, I would watch the hell out of this film. The chapters from the POV of the various marine animals were the best part.

img_8701Journey to the West: The Monkey King’s Amazing Adventures by Wu Cheng’En (Retold by Timothy Richard): This story is everywhere in pop culture, so it’s always been on my “to read” list. The introduction warned that it would be a dry read, and it was, but I am glad I read it anyway. Personally, the Monkey King’s origin story was much more interesting than the journey itself.

The Shifting Tide by Anne Perry: The next Monk novel starts out as if the main crime is that of theft.  But it turns out the real crime at the heart of this story revolves around the Bubonic Plague.  All of the main characters suffer heartbreak in some way/shape/form as they try to prevent word of the plague, and the plague itself, from spreading.

The Green Mile by Stephen King: One of my favourite King stories to date.  It was such a good read, and an engrossing story.  I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.  And it was so different from other King books I’ve read so far; there’s a bit of magic and horror, but the tone/setting seemed more realistic.

The Sandman Companion by Hy Bender: A fascinating read if you’re a fan of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics. Also interesting if you like learning about the history/making of comics. More than just a synopsis of an iconic series, it is a collection of anecdotes and interviews that give an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at everything that makes up The Sandman.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins: An intense, pot-boiler kind of read.  I also really enjoy stories like this with an unreliable narrator. Even without the mystery aspect of the novel, it is an interesting look at abusive/manipulative relationships.  Also, I managed to figure out the identity of the killer before they were revealed.

I, Robot by Isaac Asimov: A collection of short stories revolving around a central theme and a few recurring characters.  It chronicles the evolution of robots while presenting potential dilemmas that could arise with these technological improvements.  The stories in the first half of the book seemed to me to be stronger than some of the later ones.

The Invisible Entente by Krista Walsh: A “locked room” mystery in an urban fantasy setting.  This novel, by a local indie author, is presented in a kind of episodic fashion as each suspect shares their experiences that have led them to this moment. I am ashamed to admit, I didn’t figure out who the killer was until they were revealed.

Dark Assassin by Anne Perry: Monk is a part of the River Police now?! He is investigating supposed suicides that might just be murder.  The mystery revolves around the sewers of London, and the red herring is very obviously a red herring.  Hester is still a bad-ass and gets to cross dress.

Desperation by Stephen King: The beginning of this novel is pure horror, but as it continues on it becomes weird in that special Stephen King kind of way.  Peppered with religion, myth, and legend this story starts as a road-trip gone wrong before evolving into a battle between supernatural forces.

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales From The Making Of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden: A fun, behind-the-scenes look at the iconic fantasy movie we all know and love.  Told from the point of view of Cary Elwes and featuring snippets from other members of the cast and crew, this book is fun, lighthearted, and informative.  I doubt I’ll ever be able to watch the film the same way again.

img_8698Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman, Adam Rex: Super quick and easy read, especially for a children’s book.  Snagged this at a garage sale to add to my Gaiman collection and read it in under a minute.  Fun, lighthearted, and clearly meant for much younger readers.  This is still a really adorable story with gorgeous pictures.

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, The “Good Parts” Version by William Goldman: Obviously, I was familiar with the story before I started reading; I bought the book because I love the movie so much.  This is such a great read for all ages.  I particularly enjoy the fact that, being a book, there is more insight into the characters’ backgrounds and motivations.

The Dreaming Vol 1 Pathways and Emanations by Neil Gaiman, Simon Spurrier, Bilquis Evely, Mat Lopes: This graphic novel is utterly amazing.  I love this dark and dystopic version of the dream world.  The plot and character development is really appropriate given what is happening in the US and the world right now.  I’m really enjoying Dora and I can’t wait to see more of her.

Lucifer Vol 1 The Infernal Comedy by Neil Gaiman, Dan Watters, Max Fiumara, Sebastian Fiumara, Dave McCaig: Having only seen Lucifer through Sandman and the Lucifer show I was not expecting something so dark.  But this was truly a horror comic and I loved it.  The plot had some interesting twists and turns, and the art was really thoughtful in showcasing the moods of the different story lines.

Books of Magic Vol 1 Movable Type by Neil Gaiman, Kat Howard, Tom Fowler, Jordan Boyd: This is an interesting story, but compared to the other Sandman Universe stories so far, this one feels like it is mostly exposition.  The basics have been established, but not a whole lot has actually happened.  Still, I love the story, the characters, and the strong Harry Potter vibes.

Transformers Ghostbusters Issue 1 Ghosts of Cybertron Parts 1, 2, 3 & 4 by Erik Burnham, Dan Schoening, Luis Antonio Delgado: Fun crossover that presents an alternate history of Cybertron while serving as a sequel to the events in Ghostbusters. Eck is really lovable and I think he’s the perfect Autobot for this story.  And I really enjoy the Cybertonian references to Ghostbusters. Such a fun read and the art is gorgeous.

The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Nate Piekos: I love weird comics, and this was a weird comic.  I enjoyed the story so much that this was a fast read.  If I hadn’t watched the Netflix show I probably would be craving more background info, but I also love the fact that there are unknown elements.

The Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way, Gabriel Ba, Dave Stewart, Nate Piekos: Still weird, still fantastic.  This story is more of a collage of different genres and I enjoyed that there was more of a horror comic vibe, especially where Hazel and Cha-cha were concerned. I prefer the plot of Apocalypse Suite, but I think the character development is stronger in Dallas.

Jurassic Park: The Lost World by Michael Crichton: Although I enjoyed the first book, I knew that this one wouldn’t be as good.  I  was right. It’s much better than the second movie, but not better than the first book.  It’s a quick read, and some parts are pretty fun, but the story isn’t as strong.

Execution Dock by Anne Perry: I really enjoyed the character development in this one. It was great that I got to see a different side of characters that I have become accustomed to over the course of the series.  And I also loved the contrasts between the marriages of Hester/Monk, Margaret/Rathbone, and Claudine/Wallace.

img_8699The Regulators by Richard Bachman (a.k.a. Stephen King): Companion novel to Desperation, this book featured familiar characters in an unfamiliar way. Although this is the weaker of the two novels, I did enjoy how it took the characters/situations of Desperation and presented their total opposites. I also loved the inclusion of the texts (i.e. newspapers, scripts, journals) between each chapter.

Doom Patrol: Weight of the Worlds Issues 1 & 2 by Gerard Way, Jeremy Lambert, James Harvey: Wacky and psychedelic looking, I’m not sure this was a great place to start reading as I was not familiar with the comics and just getting started on the tv show. But the more I read, the more I got a feel for the bizarre stories and funky artwork.

House of Whispers Volume 1 The Power Divided by Neil Gaiman, Nalo Hopkinson Dominike “DOMO” Stanton, John Rauch: Fabulous tale revolving around Voodoo spirits and humans in New Orleans.  The scenes in the Dreaming had a unique Voodoo flare that made me want to learn more about those mythologies.  And I loved the fact that this story featured strong female characters. I’m curious to see where the story goes from here.

The Art of Asking: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer: Although on the surface this is a biography of the indie artist, the more I read, the more I could see this as some kind of artistic self help book.  Among the stories of Palmer’s life and career were some powerful messages and life lessons that really spoke to me.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman: Took me a while to really get into this one. And even once the story started to draw me in a little more, I still wasn’t enjoying it as much as I had hoped I would. Interesting premise with wacky characters, but something was missing for me.

Secret Six Vol 1: Villains United by Gail Simone, Dale Eaglesham, Brad Walker: Got talked into reading this because I thought this wouldn’t be the kind of comic I would like.  I was wrong.  I really love the characters and although this particular story feels like it’s mostly exposition,  but I can’t wait to see how this series goes.

Secret Six Vol 2: Money for Murder by Gail Simone, Nicola Scott, Javier Pina: I enjoyed the stories much more in this volume, especially the one where Junior is the villain.  I find even the character development keeps improving and I really like some of the new characters that have been introduced.  I prefer the art in this volume over the previous one.

Secret Six Vol 3: Cat’s Cradle by Gail Simone, John Ostrander, J. Calafiore: Although I prefer the previous story arc involving Junior, this was also a really strong story.  I’m warming up to some characters I didn’t like too much in the beginning but I’m still not a fan of all the members of the group. And although I love Ragdoll, I had a few minor issues with him in this volume.

Secret Six Vol 4: Caution to the Wind by Gail Simone, J. Calafiore: I absolutely loved the story arc where Ragdoll is ruling in Hell – and not just because he’s my favourite. I felt that this was a very strong story and I almost wish there had been even more chapters. I adored the gorgeous cover art in this volume.

Secret Six Vol 1: Friends in Low Places by Gail Simone, Ken Lashley, Dale Eaglesham, Tom Derenick: The New 52 version was really different and weirdly interesting.  It took me longer to get into it because I was expecting the same characters I had seen before.  In the end, I did really enjoy this new cast of characters because it was made up of a lot of weirdos.

img_8697Transformers Spotlight: Mirage: This was a quick read. An interesting concept – what if Mirage had been a Decepticon instead of an Autobot. The story was fairly simple, but overall I enjoyed it.  I would be interested to see if there are other similar “what if” stories about Cybertronians hypothetically switching allegiances.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty: I love the movie and I loved the book even more.  There was a lot more depth to the novel compared to the film (as is usually the case) and I liked how the relationship between science and religion was explored more thoroughly. This was a fantastic read!

Coma by Robin Cook: Loved the movie but the book was disappointing.  I was not a fan of the style of writing. And although I liked the medical stuff, I did not enjoy the almost sexist fixation on gender and sexuality.  Even though there are some strong feminist points, the stuff on gender was just a bit too uncomfortable.

The Collector by John Fowles: I wanted to read this one because I had heard that the movie was good and wanted to read the book first.  I loved the stream-of-consciousness style of writing for both Fred and Miranda’s sections of the book.  Although the plot was fairly simplistic, there was some really interesting character development.

The Omen by David Seltzer: A fast-paced, heart-pounding read.  I tore through this action packed book fairly quickly. And I had to laugh when I realized just how much inspiration Good Omens took from this story. It was clear from the writing style that this was written with the movie in mind.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Other Strange Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson: This collection was a little disappointing as the writing style didn’t appeal to me.  I enjoyed “The Bottle Imp” but Jekyll and Hyde was lackluster because pop culture spoiled the twist ending.  I’m sure it would have been a much more interesting read if I didn’t know how it was going to end before I even began reading.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James: I enjoyed this quick read and felt that the suspense was building up well.  I started to lose interest later on and although the ending is surprising, I found it lackluster and I’m not sure why.  I think that the way the story was building up I was almost expecting a twist ending.

Here’s to more books in 2020!

Happy reading everyone!

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