Monday, November 28, 2016

Finished Koontz's 'Ashley Bell'

Finished Dean Koontz’s epic novel Ashley Bell last night. I say “epic” because it’s over 700 pages. Being a huge fan, I was hoping more Koontz meant more to enjoy. I was wrong.

I’m not a guy who likes long books. I have weak wrists to hold such a book in long sittings and have even less patience. So what I find myself doing is speed reading and seldom falling into “the zone” every reader likes where time flies by. I kept doing the math in my head to see how many pages where left before what I hoped was a lollapalooza of an ending to make it worthwhile. Koontz does a great job of making me wonder “where is he going with this?” and “how is going to tie it all together?” That’s what kept me going.

From Goodreads:
At twenty-two, Bibi Blair’s doctors tell her that she’s dying. Two days later, she’s impossibly cured. Fierce, funny, dauntless, she becomes obsessed with the idea that she was spared because she is meant to save someone else. Someone named Ashley Bell. This proves to be a dangerous idea.
There’s no denying Koontz has a rare gift of an uber imagination. (Oddly, he uses “uber” a lot in this book.) But I get the feeling he’s just showing off now. I love how his novels weave the mystical, religious, and sixth-sense kind of thing. But this one was a reach, and a long one. Did I mention the book was long? It’s almost like he was bragging about being a writer with an out-of-this-world imagination and drawing it all together. His sermons on fiction were a little over-bearing.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I read it. It was different. His talent for plotting is rare. I wish I had it. If I did, I’d write a lot more and shorter books.

I thought the Washington Post summed it up well:
By then, my view of the novel had progressed from an admiring “What lovely writing!” to a weary “What pretentious hokum!” There’s much to treasure in magical writing, but “Ashley Bell” is hardly an example of the style at its best. Still, one reader’s hokum is another reader’s happiness. I imagine that countless Koontz fans will delight in Bibi’s strange adventures, and I’d be the last to begrudge them their pleasures.
Goodreaders give it a 3.6 of 5. B&N’ers slightly lower at 3.5. The10-point Haugenometer only gave it a 6-.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Places to go, people to see, so some random links on the fly:

*** The oldest Tuskegee Airman dies at 101.

*** The top 10 books of 2016 according to … Glamour! Consider the source please.

*** The bromance between John Carson and William F. Buckley.

*** General Mattis, rumored to be next Sec. Def., writes about the importance of professional reading.

*** How Duke and Kentucky came to rule college basketball.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Last night I pre-ordered what I think will be a pretty cool book: “In Sunlight or In Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper”

Lawrence Block invited 17 of his friends, including Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King, to write a story as they see depicted in Hopper’s paintings. Pretty cool idea.

I have Hopper’s most-famous “Nighthawks” in our house. It’s fun to look at, imagine the conversation and what the creepy guy sitting by himself is up to. It will be interesting to see which writer writes the story to go with it.

*** This has always been a bugaboo of mine and while he was forced to read a lot in high school I’m worried it may not turn into a lifelong passion for him as it was for me and my father. But then again, ya never know. How to get your boy reading.
So what can we do to stimulate the left brains of squirmy boys and get them reading with as much commitment as their sisters? Don’t underestimate the power of example, for a start. Boys need to see older males reading joyfully – otherwise they risk writing it off as a “girly” thing. So that’s down to dads and other male role models. Primary schools – female dominated environments, usually – should regularly invite in male authors, librarians and volunteers to talk about reading and share books. A footballer with a passion for books would be good, for instance.
*** This guy isn’t too fond of the direction The National Book Award is going.

*** A look at John Grisham’s newest book: The Whistler

*** The 10 must-read books for November.

Saturday, November 5, 2016


Hiking with wifey and daughter this morning by Slate Creek west of Hill City and found one fella with a better view of the Black Hills than us.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Finished: 'Songs of Innocence'

Recently finished "Songs of Innocence" by Richard Aleas. It's book #33 from Hard Case Crime publishing.

Aleas, whose real name is Charles Ardai, is the founder of the publishing company and this was his debut novel.

As mentioned before, I'm into the crime/mystery thing, particularly the old-style 1950s hard-boiled crime noir. Donald Westlake and Lawrence Block are my faves. Some of them get pretty gritty and dirty, but none more so than this one.
Three years ago, detective John Blake solved a mystery that changed his life forever — and left a woman he loved dead. Now Blake is back, to investigate the apparent suicide of Dorothy Louise Burke, a beautiful college student with a double life. The secrets Blake uncovers could blow the lid off New York City’s sex trade...if they don’t kill him first.
It was a little darker than most. Dealt with some disturbing topics like suicide and another I can't tell you about without ruining the ending. So I won't. And it's that ending. Man, it made the novel great, the plot awesome, but also made me not like the book. Hard to explain. The Washington Post pretty much nails it with this:
"Songs of Innocence[’s] devastating final scenes elevate the novel to an instant classic. The painful climax of this novel, as unexpected as it is powerful, will move you in ways that crime fiction rarely can." 
Goodreaders give it a 3.8 out of 5. I'm torn, but will defer to the writing skills of the author and will give it a 7- out of 10 on the Haugenometer.

As a pallet-cleanser I've moved on to Dean Koontz's "Ashley Bell."

I'm about 100 pages into this 700-page tome and it's vintage Koontz. The only reason I don't like reading Koontz is because he makes me feel so inadequate as a writer. This could be one of those losing-sleep knockout novels.

Koontz gives me pen envy.