Adventure, suspense, childhood, a memoir and a touch of the supernatural

Tick Tock – Dean Koontz

There was a time, years ago, when I went through a Dean Koontz phase and read a bunch of his books and enjoyed most of them. Then I moved on to other writers. And not long ago I found this book at a clearance sale and thought, hey, it’s been a while, let’s see what this one is about.
Tommy Phan is an American of Vietnamese origin. He finally has the job of his dreams and has bought a car to celebrate. That night he finds a doll on his doorstep, a cotton doll with stitches for eyes and mouth – and he brings it inside the house. Big mistake. The doll has a plan and that’s not good news for Tommy who finds himself running to stay alive. The deadline is dawn and in that one crazy night he meets a woman who will help him, learns new things about his family and gets the shock of his life when he finds out who made the doll and why.
I was surprised as well, which was great. The book however falls into the “light read” category, and because of its silly action and dialogue, I was relieved to find out from the note to the reader at the back, that it was meant to be like that, just a bit of fun after writing another one of his books which the author describes as “one of the most intense and arguably most complex books I had ever done”. Ok then, that makes sense.

Tales of the Otherworld – Kelley Armstrong

Just reading the blurb on the back of this one made my fingers ache to start turning the pages. And because it was a short story collection I decided to start in the middle, with a story called Beginnings, in which Clayton, a young professor, falls in love with Elena, one of his students. The real trouble begins when he finds himself caught between the desire to tell her who he really is, and trying to lead a normal life under the pretense of being a normal person. But that’s difficult because he’s a werewolf and she’s a normal human girl. I liked how the story unfolded and how “normal” it seemed. I was sorry to reach the end but then, big surprise, I found out this is just a part of a bigger story, a series to be more exact. Ah, I hate it when that happens…. This story took about one third of the book.
Rebirth is about Aaron, a young farmer who gets stabbed one night and wakes up to discover he’s a vampire, not because he was attacked by one, but because it was a trait passed down from generations on his mother’s side. What I liked about the story was the different take on the vampire myth and how it was seen as a blessing rather than a curse. In a way, the whole story made sense.

The stories in the book are connected through different characters. I just wish I knew that this was a series, because apart from the Beginnings and Rebirth, the other stories didn’t really click with me. Witches working as detectives in the real world did not appeal to me as much as werewolves and vampires, but most likely it’s just a question of preference rather than a fault of the stories.

She, A History of Adventure – H. Rider Haggard

After reading King Solomon’s Mines years ago and enjoying it very much I was curious to see if this book was just as good.
A family story that descends to the times of pharaohs, a love story that spans centuries and a terrible act that changes the fate of a family and its descendants, Haggard’s book was a delight to read. Holly and Leo embark on the adventure of their lives when they decide to solve the mystery that’s always been in Leo’s family. Holly is his guardian and friend, and on their journey to the heart of Africa they survive a storm, travel along a mosquito infested river, live among the Amahagger and at last meet She-who-must-be-obeyed who holds the key to the mystery. She had been alive for centuries, waiting for the rebirth of the man she had killed in a fit of jealousy, and she believes Leo is that man, the reincarnation of her beloved Kallikrates. History and philosophy, religion, the quest for immortality and above all this, love and obsession, make this classic story one of a kind. Written in 1887, the author says about the book:

“The fact is that it was written at a white heat, almost without rest…I remember that when I sat down to the task, my ideas as to its development were of the vaguest. The only clear notion that I had in my head was that of an immortal woman inspired by an immortal love. All the rest shaped itself round this figure.”

One of my favorite passages:

“But so it has always been; man can never be content with that which his hand may pluck. If a lamp shines for him to light him through the darkness, straightaway he casts it down because it is no star. Happiness dances ever a pace before his feet, like the marsh-fire in the swamps, and he must catch the fire, and he must win the star! Beauty is naught to him, because there are lips more honey-sweet; and wealth is poverty, because others can weigh him down with heavier shekels; and fame is emptiness, because there have been greater men than he. Well, thou dreamiest that thou shall clasp the star. I believe it not, and I name thee fool, my Holly, to throw away the lamp.”

A Season of Unlikely Happiness – Laura Munson

I’m beginning to like memoirs more and more – the idea of reading about someone’s true experience makes the whole story very appealing and this book was no exception. Laura Munson has one great quality I admire: she never gave up. She never gave up when her marriage started to crumble, and never gave up on her dream of publishing a book, even if that meant to keep writing a good number of novels that met with rejection. Just reading about how many she actually wrote made me admire her even more. Maybe it’s no surprise that the book that got published was one based on her experience. In this memoir she writes about her marriage and love and kids and how difficult it was sometimes to balance all of them. I’m glad I read it and even though her writing doesn’t have that polished quality that makes you think of words flowing effortlessly on the page, she makes up for it with her own style which rings true and very life-like.

Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

This book was given to me by one of my friends, and because she has never recommended a book I didn’t like, I was curious to read it.
Anne is an orphan girl sent to live with Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew. She is eleven years old, with red hair and a lot of energy, and also with a penchant to speak up her mind about everything. The tranquil life at Green Gables, the small farm owned by the Cuthberts, is turned upside down by her arrival, as Anne’s vivacity and rich imagination get her into trouble frequently.
This is a book I loved – I was afraid that the story of an American childhood would feel alien to me but it wasn’t. It reminded me of holidays spent in the countryside when I was the same age as Anne, it made me feel nostalgic and also grateful for having had the chance to experience that. As for Anne, she was an interesting character whose adventures kept the story alive to the last page. Even though she talked too much – a trait I’m fine with in books but which I find annoying in real life – there was an innocence to her words and a heartwarming sincerity which I found endearing. I would like to re-read this book one day, and also the other books in the series (there are eight of them, including this one).

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13 Responses to Adventure, suspense, childhood, a memoir and a touch of the supernatural

  1. M-----l says:

    The plot of the Koontz sounds a lot like the plot of a Stephen King short story I read a couple years ago.

  2. Vishy says:

    Nice mini-reviews, Delia! I liked the storyline of ‘Tick Tock’. I would like to read it sometime. I loved Rider Haggard’s ‘She’ when I read it. I think I liked all his books 🙂 What Haggard said about the book is quite interesting. I also like the passage you have quoted from the book. Your comment on people who talk too much, made me smile 🙂 Thanks for these wonderful reviews.

    • Delia says:

      I’ve had these books on my desk for weeks so I decided to put them together and write slightly shorter reviews so I can move them to the shelf. My desk looks better uncluttered. 🙂
      “Tick Tock” is a really silly book. The only reason I stuck with it was because I really wanted to find out the mystery behind that creepy doll thing.
      I’d love to read the sequel to “She” and see what other adventures do Holly and Leo go through this time.
      I was thinking, if Anne was a real person, would I like her just as much? Tough question, all that talking would drive me nuts, I think. Have you read the book?

  3. Nice roundup of your recent reading! In the photo my eye was caught by the phrase “This is not the story you think it is”, and kept waiting for you to review that book, but then realised it was not the title after all! Interesting that they made that bigger than the title. It certainly is intriguing, though. Sounds like an interesting memoir.

    I love that extract from the H Rider Haggard book too! So true – we’re always looking for the next thing, and ignoring what we already have or what’s within reach.

    • Delia says:

      That’s a catchy phrase, isn’t it? I’m both intrigued and somehow annoyed by it – how do the publishers know what I think it is? But then they must come up with lines like that to attract the reader. What grabbed my attention was that symbol for good luck on the cover.
      The book is interesting because it brings to light many aspects of a marriage, ups and downs (especially a big down) and what was her strategy to overcome that problem, and also her struggles to publish her books. She’s a very patient woman, I give her that. 🙂

      “She” was a great book which I’ve enjoyed a lot. There are many quotes like that throughout the book, so very true!

  4. Jenners says:

    What a mix of books! I love memoirs too. I think people’s real-life stories are as fascinating as made-up ones. And Anne of Green Gables is hard not to love, isn’t it?

    • Delia says:

      That’s true, memoirs are fascinating, especially the ones dealing with relationships.
      I liked Anne, she is like a ray of sunshine, I had a friend like her once (she didn’t talk quite as much as her though, which is a good thing :)).

  5. Pingback: Books of 2012 – the great, the good, and the disappointing | Postcards from Asia

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