Like many if not all of you I found myself with some extra time around the house this spring. It just so happened I was between jobs (my last day was literally the day they first closed schools here) so I was fortunate to be home with the kiddos as we navigated COVID world and online learning.
Sure we had time to watch TV (I’m sure you’ve all picked up on GhostAndy’s love of Community by now) but a lot of the time I would read while the kids played or ran around outside. Luckily we visited the library just before it closed and picked up some good books, plus I was able to download a bunch through Hoopla which our library participates in.
You may have noticed that I fell off the face of the earth with my article contributions for Ghosts of the Stratosphere–let’s just say my life was consumed with all I could handle and penning anything worth reading was out of the question. But things are better now and what better way to jump back in than to bring back the Comic Bookworm bookshelf!
I’m actually going to give you a run down of everything I read (in the order I read them) during my personal quarantine, which ended up being 7 weeks of reading! (Major kudos for Goodreads for helping me track all my reading!).
Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks
Yep, that Tom Hanks. Is there anything this man can’t do? I mean everyone has flaws but this guy is seriously amazing and definitely one of my favorite actors. Turns out he has a brilliant mind for writing too! I’m normally not really much of a short story type of gal but I was at the library actually looking for another book in the H section and my eye just happened to catch Hanks’ name on the spine of this book.
I took a quick glace and said to myself, sure! why not? I didn’t know what to expect but what I found was a diverse collection of stories in a variety of settings, time periods and moods. From witty to brooding to heart warming to heart breaking, these stories were so interesting. If dear Tom ever puts out another book you’ll find me lined up at the door to get it!
Little Lady, Big Apple by Hester Browne
This is the second book in the Little Lady series, I read the first one sometime last year. This Rom-com novel was a perfect little read that filled a weekend. The main character Melissa had bad luck with love until she finds her perfect match in an American business man who comes to London.
Problem is, she was pretending to be someone else, someone more flashy and confident than her normal self. So who did prince charming fall for–the real Melissa or her alter-ego Honey? In this second installment we follow the couple back to New York where their relationship is put to the test.
The Martian by Andy Weir
So honestly I was just going to watch the movie version of this story–I mean Matt Damon trapped on Mars? Pretty amazing! But I am in the book was better camp 99% of the time so this was another book I picked up on our last pre-quarantine library stop. This book had me hooked in 30 seconds and I was barely able to put it down at times.
Holy crap! If you need a book to, 1) make you realize you don’t have it so bad and 2) how freaking amazing the human mind and spirit can be, this is it! Definitely along the Apollo 13/Armageddon vibe Weir crafted together another intriguing story of human drive to survive. This actually turned out to be a perfect quarantine read–reminding us of the power of perseverance and ingenuity. One day I’ll watch the movie…maybe 🙂
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I confess, I didn’t read this whole book on quarantine. I had actually started this as a family read-aloud months ago but had kind of fallen off track. I picked it back up with the kids home from school and would often read it aloud while they were eating lunch. (If you are curious about the benefits of reading aloud to your children no matter the age, check out The Read Aloud Family by Sarah MacKenzie).
It is amazing to re-read books from your childhood again as an adult and even more amazing to share them with your kids. You know it, you love it, maybe read it again! (Or watch the movie!)
Daytripper by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba
So at this point in the quarantine we hit a time when I was scheduled to record a show with the guys featuring one of our comic book swaps. These tend to be a little more difficult for me as you might imagine. I have to find something that my assigned person hasn’t read before and it is hard to even know what someone like Chad has or has not read let alone find something he hasn’t read that I think he’ll like!
As you may know, I tend to go for indie, short series or self-contained stories and I actually have a fairly decent want-to-read pile. So when these comic book swaps come up I frantically start reading comics to find my pick for the show (you’ll see some of the other contenders as you scroll down). I ended up going with this one for good ol’ Chad and I have to pat myself on the back because he loved it as much as I did. I’m gonna leave it at that for now–if you want more…
Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz
While I was scouring for my comic swap pick I was also reading this novel. I’ve had Anthony Horowitz on my bookshelf before with the delightful Magpie Murders. I picked up this book on that last trip to the library before it closed and it was what you might surmise from the title. This is the second in a series of Sherlock Holmes books authorized by the estate of Conan Doyle and in this case you are thrust into the aftermath just after Holmes and his rival Moriarty have allegedly met their demise together at Reichenbach Falls.
This book was a little hard for me to get into at first as it seemed a little rehashing of the recent movies but by the end Horowitz had my attention for sure. I still would recommend Magpie over this but I will continue to explore Horowitz’s work. I plan on picking up his first Sherlock Holmes book, The House of Silk, at some point.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
I really hit my stride with reading while I was off. I honestly just wasn’t into that much TV aside from old episodes of the Great British Bake off so books were my thing! I was lucky enough to find a virtual book club through the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and this was the first pick! I hate to admit that this was the only discussion I was able to attend although I have mostly continued to keep up with reading their picks!
I had never heard of this book and I probably wouldn’t have given it a second look if i had. Definitely not in my normal repertoire, this was an interesting little book focusing on the seemingly mundane life of a convenience store woman who doesn’t fit into the mold of a “normal woman” in her community. She is shunned for not keeping to these norms and when she tries to change herself to “fit in” she finds herself lost more than ever.
Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict
I’ve been a fan of other Marie Benedict books, which are historical fiction portraits of influential women with whom the world may not be as familiar with such as Einstein’s wife (who turns out was just about as smart as him) and a maid with whom Andrew Carnegie had a relationship and influenced his philanthropic efforts.
This novel is the tale of Clementine Churchill, the woman behind the powerhouse himself. Like Benedict’s other novels I found the value of the book not so much in the actual book itself but the way it peaked my interest to learn about things I hadn’t previously considered. I actually found this novel a little drier than her others but so many things were mentioned that were worth the extra effort to look them up on the side.
Like Einstein’s wife though, there is also a twinge of sadness knowing what these extraordinary women gave up to let their husbands progress–taking a backseat to history when they certainly had the means to create history themselves.
Essex County by Jeff Lemire
Back to some comics! Essex County has been on my to-read list for quite sometime. This collection focuses on the relationships and community bonds in rural Canada, from brothers that once were thick as thieves and now find themselves separated by an impassible chasm to the loneliness of an old man who’s only companionship is his visiting nurse.
This book was so raw I literally was in tears multiple times. It was simple and the art didn’t need words to help tell the story. While heartbreaking at times it also reminds you of what it means to be human–and all the emotions that entails. It was beautiful and hopefully one of these days I can get around to giving it a proper review and maybe even get the Ghosts to read it.
How to Talk to Girls at Parties by Neil Gaiman
In my search for my comic book swap pick I also ran across this little short comic because it was a collaboration between Neil Gaiman, Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. I’ve only recently started exploring Neil Gaiman and anyone who has read him has to admit he’s got a quirky mind.
This certainly feel into that domain as two young guys, one of whom lacks experience and confidence when dealing with the finer sex, find themselves at a party where the women turn out to be a lot more than they can handle. Part coming of age, part sci-fi “aliens” will take over the world, this quick read was “interesting” we’ll say. If you have a few minutes give it a gander, it’s a quick 64 pages!
Waves by Ingrid Chabbert
They say not to judge a book by its cover, but don’t you think that’s a little harder with comics? I mean, isn’t the art kinda the point? Anyway, this cover caught my eye so I downloaded it kinda without knowing what it was about. It turns out its a very touching story of a couple who goes through infertility issues and then the loss of their long desired child and more importantly the journey to the other side after plunging into the darkness of grief.
It was beautifully done, I would say it could have actually been a little longer to give more time for development but overall worth the read.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Vol. 1 by Ryan North and Erica Henderson
Finally, I had to read Chad’s pick for me for our comic book swap! While I’m not usually into “capes” Chad picked a good one for me. It was light-hearted, coming of age meets bad-ass super hero, and of course there was a scurry of squirrels who I actually think stole the show! I didn’t really have any previous experience with Squirrel Girl aside from in Marvel Puzzle Quest so I found this quite delightful.
Creatures by Chrissy Van Meter
This was the second book chosen (by vote) for my virtual book club. I have to be honest and say it took me quite a bit to get into this book. It follows the life of a woman who lives the “island” life; not the mai tai life but the beaten and weathered island life. The book meanders through her life, present and past and at times it could be a little difficult to tell “when” you were. She had a difficult upbringing with a mother who left her and her father, who was essentially a vagabond drunk who drags her from random peoples couches to a boat to an abandoned sea lab. In the end, she is a strong front outwardly but on the inside she wonders if she is even living in the true sense of the word, and more importantly can she ever be vulnerable to love in her life.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
For our second family read aloud I picked this famous classic. Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever read the actual book but of course I love the movie (the Gene Wilder version from 1971 of course! sorry Johnny Depp but I’ll stick with the original). This was so much fun! As each Golden Ticket was found and Charlie was more desperate to find one, the kids were right there with him.
And as each kid was picked off by bad behavior they were enthralled!
We were reading this book leading up to Jakob’s 8th birthday and to top off his quarantine birthday we watched the movie after his family Zoom call. Oompa Loompa songs could be heard for days afterward and I’m pretty sure we made some awesome family memories with this one!
Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson
Speaking of families…what is family? Is it limited to the genetically related? Or can a group of random strangers come together to create the “perfect family”? Maybe they do but then how does said family interact with the imperfect world around it? This work of fiction could easily pass as a study on psychology, sociology and biology all in one while simultaneously entertaining and encouraging the reader to probe deep into our societal values. This book had me hooked from the start and my to-read list just got a little longer after adding all of Kevin Wilson’s other books and short story collections.
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The third and final pick of my virtual book club (during my quarantine at least) was this lovely novel by British author Ruth Hogan. After losing the love of his life just before they were to marry, Andrew Peardew spends the rest of this long days accumulating Lost Things and writing short stories about them–a piece of a puzzle, a hair barrette, a biscuit tin full of ashes–all in an attempt to make up for what he’s lost. When he passes and bequeaths his estate to his long time housekeeper Laura, she is tasked with attempting to return the Lost Things to their rightful owners. Having long written off any chance of personal happiness after a tumultuous divorce, she not only is able to reconnect these random items with their owners but is able to reconnect the pieces of her own life and find happiness again.
Blending the past and the present and all the lessons we can learn from both, this was a sweet novel that made me want to hunt down this fictitious house and explore all its treasures.
Whew! That was a lot! I hope you have found some interesting reads to add to your to-read pile. I hope to be back soon with another edition of the Comic Bookworm Book Shelf. In the meantime, stay safe out there everyone!