As it’s still lockdown and you’re not meant to go further than your immediate town, we’ve got exercise from walking round what are some rather bleak roads this time of year, and for far too short walks up on our meagre bit of common. We realised the other day there is one garden we can reach and use our RHS membership to only pay for one of us, but it’s not our favourite and particularly not this time of year. This weekend just gone was miserable with icy rain. We’ve decided to make the best of this continued lockdown by giving our dining room a slight makeover, which only comprises painting two walls, and moving some furniture around. Maybe I’ll tell you the exciting details next month. Yes, that’s sarcasm. We may appreciate the necessity of staying in, but it wears thin on those of us even obeying the rules with the best intentions.
I’ve also had a few days struggling with pain. One of those days when acupuncture needles start looking good, even though I’m not going right now because of the Covid situation, and because it seems a bit of a waste trying when I don’t need to go out as have no one to visit and no travelling allowed. I’ve felt like a bouncing ball these days, which when you have to live with pain is understandable. I’m thinking there are few life lessons greater than living with pain. Focuses you on what’s important. So far, doing a little better as we roll into February. Missing a couple of friends as I could so do with a good vent, and I know they could, too.
We got through season one of Fortitude, a British horror psychological thriller television series the first season of which first aired in January 2015. Set in a fictional Arctic Norwegian settlement of Fortitude, I found the first series often beautiful in terms of scenery, very watchable, well-plotted, an eco warning in the sub-plot, with my only criticism being too many characters seem to suffer from the terminable illness of TSTL (Too Stupid Too Live). On to season two next.
Been watching a lot of old films at the weekends, like westerns or thrillers. Just watched Once Upon a Time in the West. You can see where Tarantino picked up ideas from. I’m fairly sure he’s mentioned work like this in the past, but even if he hadn’t, it’s definitely the same vibe. Also, made me think of my aunt who loved a) Doug McClure (got a signed photo from him and an invitation to drop by his place if she was ever nearby; alas, she never had the chance), b) Charlton Heston, and c) Charles Bronson (who is in this film).
How to Stop Time, Matt Haig
Sometimes you come across books with emotional meaning and theme tightly woven into the narrative, and this is one of them. Time is the enemy. Time is our friend. Maybe we don’t need to be told that (I see some reviews that seem to find this preachy), but I can’t help thinking we do (need reminding) in this modern world where we waste so much of it, and Matt Haig reminds us of what’s important superbly. The historical parts are vivid and highlight the stupidity of what we deem to be so important now. And I felt there was so much more to Tom’s life and experiences that we can alas only glimpse for the purpose of the story. The only flaw for me is I would have liked to have seen more page time spent between Tom and his modern day love interest. The book lacked the depth of love needed to make Tom want to live; his love for his daughter felt more real and a greater motivation, so if you’re looking for a hidden love story, it’s only vaguely there. Still, this is a superb book.
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
I really wish I could love this ‘Groundhog Day’ reflections of a life. Alas, it took me close to 300 pages to care about Ursula in any deep way, possibly because this is the page mark where the reader has the privilege of the longest (so far in the book at this point) chapter of her life without a restart. This happened at least three times — moments where I became engrossed only to get jerked away. Admittedly, there are joys and delight amongst the pages, and I cannot fault the writing or research, although the style is rather distinct in a way that doesn’t particularly appeal to me. Neither do I fault the author’s reasons for writing this novel, as detailed in the author’s footnotes at the end of the book. This may be for anyone who wants to ‘experience’ a historical reflection of English country life and wartime, of which this gives a real flavour. But sadly for me I felt this was time lost, reading a story that seems rather pointless other than several ‘what if’ snippets of life with no conclusions. Odd, how a book can be both excellent yet unsatisfactory, but that’s the only way I can refer to this. I have another book by this author featuring a character from this book, but though I’ve tried, I’m not sure I will read it.
Last of the Wilds, Book Two Age of the Five, Trudi Canavan
The second book in a trilogy, which I prefer over the first. This book is tough to review without giving major plot points away. Where the first book appeared to deal with a direct story of good vs evil, the second book has more layers, complicating the plot in excellent ways, making the reader ask the same questions as many characters come to debate. I often reserve 5 out of 5 scores only for books I adore and cannot stand to part with, but this book escalates the tale in book 1 to a new and more satisfying level. Whereas when I finished Book 1, I mostly delved into the second book out of curiosity, I now need to read the last of the trilogy to learn the outcome. With one or two perfect twists, I’ve enjoyed this much more than I expected to. An excellent blend of religion, and politics, and the dangerous quality of blind faith.
Incubus, Joe Donnelly
The first book I’ve read by Joe Donnelly, but it won’t be my last. Though distasteful things happen to women in this book, without them the story wouldn’t work. One might call this the ultimate in evil child tales, but it passes beyond into true monster territory. For some, the book may feel too long, but the strength comes from the inexorable build. The power comes from the writing, the sustained sense of menace, which creeps under the skin and into the mind. A brilliant idea for the horror genre, expertly executed.
The Door to December, Dean Koontz
Re-read as part of a hoped-for book clearance, though often listed as a horror writer, Koontz is really a supernatural thriller author. I’ve heard some complain about many of his recent books (of which I’m behind on), but it’s too easy to forget some of his old works are superb. Whether you like his work, many are well-plotted, well-written, create tension with simple sentences, and get in more than enough character development. Those who know about story structure can see in which books it shines out. Alas, the surprise twist is terribly simple to work out, and the ending, after a long but absorbing journey, seems to happen too fast. Still worth reading.
Well, I just finished the edit/partial rewrite of what I wanted to complete in January and in time for the last weekend. I’ll shelve it a little while now, but I think it’s okay to republish. I know it’s a lot of work but I’ve learned so much and changed my writing so much it does me a disservice not to improve things where I can. I know that’s not much news for now, but I am picking things up.
Stay happy and healthy!