Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Ashley Bell by Dean Koontz

Another lovely review book from LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. As a bonus, I already loved Koontz.

This one confused me and caused me to re-read the last chapter a few times. I think I get it now, although I do think I missed some nuances somewhere in the tome. Either way, this was a really great read with a twist I didn't see coming (although others may have).

Our basic plot revolves around Bibi Blair, an young woman who has published her first novel and has an active imagination, as backstory will share. She is diagnosed with brain cancer and told she has a year to live. The next day, her cancer is 100% gone and she has a clean bill of health. Her parents send in a Scrabblemancer to understand why Bibi was saved from cancer and there is an answer

To save Ashley Bell.

See that rabbit hole? We're about to dive down it.

The Wrong People get wind of this and begin a rather scary and hellish pursuit of Bibi to stop her from saving Ashley.


Things got pretty weird and creepy midway through the book and Bibi's quest. Creepy enough that a random tap on my window sent me scooting out of my chair and checking the locks. Thanks, Mr. Koontz!

Since this is fairly new, I'm not going to review the twist or ending except that I really enjoyed it. I don't recall reading a book that traveled along these planes before and I tore through the remaining half in an evening/into the night. I'm torn on the ending, as I have a feeling some characters are still not what they seemed. The ending also had a sequel vibe to it (am I wrong??).

Well worth picking up and scratching your head over.

Friday, January 15, 2016


Just to shake things up a bit, I decided to make some reading goals for myself for 2016. I know what I like and what I don't like to read, but I do like to travel outside my comfort zone sometimes because I've been pleasantly surprised at what I've found (Jane Austen IS readable!!!).

My standard 50 books goal still applies. Goodreads lets me track that now which is cool and most helpful. But I'm going to add some, let's call them addendums:

10% of this year's books must be classics:

Classics have broad terms so I'm mainly sticking to the 1,001 Books To Read Before You Die list. I've already knocked out Wuthering Heights this year so only 4 more to go.

10% of this year's books must be historical:

My definition is somewhat loose in that it can be an event, a person, a place. Biographies will count. Historical fiction - no matter how good - will not count. I started listening to Dead Wake and although it's about the sinking of the Lusitania, it's still fiction. Larson is an AMAZING writer who brings in a rich historical background. Still fiction.  I'll write a separate post on why I choose history for this year.

Two (2) books must be re-reads:

Ah, this one is interesting and could actually plop itself in either of the above categories as well. My postal book club is already helping with this since The Handmaid's Tale is the book I received this quarter. I recall reading this back when I started college but it is due for a re-read. My other choice for a re-read this year is The Stand. I constantly say I want to revisit it since I read it in high school (all 1100+ pages) and have it out and accessible to pick up whenever. I usually re-read To Kill A Mockingbird every 5 years or so because I really do think that books change because your perspective has changed. We're supposed to be getting older and wiser and that should reflect how we view beloved books from our past. We shall see!

I'm also keeping some other lists handy to choose from including
David Bowie's Favorites
Carrie Brownstein's Favorites

And lastly, I'm hoping to read more from my 1,200+ books at home and picking from the library. We shall see how THAT works out.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I remember some folks chatting about the great romantic stories and how they wished they could have a Mr. Darcy or a Heathcliff. I read Pride and Prejudice and didn't want a Mr. Darcy. I finished Wuthering Heights and now believe that if anyone wants a Heathcliff, they might be a sociopath or have terribly terribly terribly low self-esteem.

I listened to this book through Craftlit, which I highly recommend. Heather Ordover is excellent at the commentary and pointing out pieces that you might miss and the reader (Ruth Golding) from Librivox is just amazing. So, start there.

We start off with Lockwood coming to Thrushcross Grange to rent for a spell. He meets his landlord, Heathcliff, at Wuthering Heights and is pretty much repelled by his manner and the manner of the people in the house. Thankfully, once Lockwood is back at Thrushcross Grange, the servant there, Nelly Dean, is a bit of a gossip and was the servant at Wuthering Heights in the past. And she is more than willing to talk.

From here until nearly the ending, we're on Nelly's turf. As Heather points out in the audio commentary, Nelly is an unreliable narrator. True, she was there, but anyone who tells a tale that they are greatly involved in tend to lean towards favoritism, either making themselves out to be better than they really were or making the people they despise out to be worse than they were. We may not be able to entirely trust Nelly's tale but we dive in anyway.

Young Heathcliff was brought to Wuthering Heights as an orphan child by Mr. Earnshaw. Earnshaw already has a son, Hindley, and a daughter Catherine. It's believed that Heathcliff is a Gypsy child and immediately is disliked and, for all intents and purposes, abused. Catherine and Heathcliff grow very close even as Catherine tends to mock him and make fun (she is a bit of a mean-spirit). Hindley despises Heathcliff more and more and this will turn almost psychotic in the end.

Briefly, the father dies, Hindley takes over Wuthering Heights with his wife and new son, Hareton, Catherine marries Edgar Linton and Heathcliff disappears for a while. Catherine and Edgar have a daughter, named Cathy.

Heathcliff's love for Catherine never diminishes, although I think his sanity does.  This is a rolling story where Heathcliff tears everyone to shreds. The children of the people he loves (Cathy) and hates (Hareton) are not left untouched in this story. Nelly's story ends at the same time Lockwood entered Wuthering Heights the first time. But we're not done yet....

Lockwood goes away but when he comes back he sees a remarkable change in everyone at Wuthering Heights. There is...... happiness.  Nelly commences the storytelling to catch Lockwood up on the events.

I can't really spoil a story that was written in 1846 and it's not a twist or anything amazing. But it does lend itself to a good ending to a story full of sorry souls who could not find happiness because one man stood in their way.

Some classics are boring and hard to get through, but some, like Wuthering Heights, are classics for a reason.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkman

My original plan was to wait to read this until I got Compendium 3, then to binge on both books on vacation. I got #3 for Christmas but as I got further into #2, I got spoiled for the show. My bad. I thought #2 ended at the same time of the show....and then I realized we're only at the mid-season finale of the show and I'm just a dumbass.

So, if you don't want to be spoiled, ignore #2 until this season is over. The mid-season finale had Rick and co. quietly marching out of their house in their gore-covered ponchos to escape the herd of zombies that made it into Alexandria. I got to that part in #2 and flipped the page and .... well, shit.

I won't spoil if you haven't read #2 or seen the show up to this point. This compendium covers where #1 left off with the fallout of the Governor's prison raid and the gang gets split up. There are quite a few noticeable differences but rest assured Gabriel is there, the cannibals are there, Alexandria is there. Just not quite in the same fashion as the TV show has been telling us.

For 1,000+ pages, I read it in less than 10 days. I devoured this one. Another excellent batch of comics from Kirkman.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Subtitled Creative Living Beyond Fear

This was a good book to start 2016 off. 2015 was a year spent with deadlines and wondering where the hell my creativity went. Why couldn't I just find time to enjoy myself instead of feeling like I HAD to do all and be all?

I felt that as soon as I got a hobby and got somewhat good at it, everyone and their brother kept telling me what I needed to do now, how it should bring me money, make me that, make me this. Even before I got decent at a hobby, I heard the same thing. My creativity flat-lined.

I want to knit for myself. When the urge strikes, I want to make pretty or cool things for people as surprises. I don't want deadlines. I don't want it to make money. I want to spin for myself. To weave for myself and embroider for myself. And, quite literally, Gilbert gave me permission to do that in her book.

Gilbert speaks of creativity and creating as spiritual and she's right. When I'm creating and in that zone, it's awesome. When the fear of failure or pressure from the outside comes in, it's awful. As Gilbert points out, however, some fear is necessary... it never goes away so you need to make room for it, but don't ever, ever, ever, let it drive.

My favorite portion of the book was where she had interviewed Tom Waits. He is one of my favorite singer-songwriters-personality and even he was under pressure to produce edgy, impressive, IMPORTANT work. That kind of pressure leads to drinking, self-loathing and a dried up resource of the creative well. After watching his children play, and seeing their well was never empty and they never feared that it would be empty, he took to thinking the same way. In the end, he said his music is just jewelry for the brain. Just. Jewelry. Coming from a man who is prolific in everything he does.

I'm hoping to make 2016 about creativity. About self-care and about not letting the fear drive and making sure everyone else stays out of my head. It looks like other folks are taking the same route. One of the podcasts I frequently listen to, A Playful Day, launched The Maker's Year. The Maker's Year is a challenge to be more creative, to find the time to create and to share that with everyone else (through blogs, instagram, etc.).

I see colorful, wooly things in my future.