From the Corner of His Eye: Review

IMG_4477I don’t know if it should come as much of a surprise to anyone that I am much belated on posting this review (particularly if you listen to the podcast).  Such is the life of someone with many, many ideas, but low executive function and personal discipline.  Plus, writing is so much scarier in my head.  This is, admittedly, a subpar introduction, so let’s get onto the book!

From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz was the first book Eric chose for me in my personal reading challenge.  I read it quite soon after my last post, so you can see for yourself the disparity in time frames.  Fortunately, I took some notes, so I am prepared to discuss this with you still.  Go past me, but only sort of.

To give you, dear reader, a few details and some summary without spoilers:

From the Corner of His Eye is listed on GoodReads in the genre of horror, fiction, and thriller.  Personally, I would list it as a supernatural thriller.  Two characters, Barty Lampion and Enoch Cain “Junior,” are entwined in a timeless struggle of good and evil, with it being alarmingly clear who falls on which side.  Barty, a young boy borne of unfortunate circumstances, loses his sight at a young age, regains it a still fairly young age, and must ultimately confront his nemesis, who he seems lightly unaware of in a vague sort of way.  We have a nice, but not overwhelming, cast of supporting characters who aid Barty in this endeavor and all suffer, in one way or another, at the hands of the obviously sinister Cain.

I have never read a Dean Koontz book before this one.  I’ve always meant to pursue the Odd Thomas series, which I have been recommended several times; however, I’m a book snob, and I tend to avoid pulp novels.  Not by active practice, mind you.  It’s an implicit bias stored deep in my brain.

As I navigated through this first Koontz novel, I instantly liked the concept.  I always love to hate a character, and the villain in this story, though obvious, is so easy to loathe.  Within the first 15 pages of the book, I had a legitimately jaw dropping moment that I did not see coming (probably should have in retrospect – alas, we can’t always be as sharp as we once were).  Through Junior, Koontz goes on to weave a sense of dread, suspense, and revulsion throughout the multiple narratives juggled in the book.

It is in this that I took my first issue with the story.  Once I moved into the main story line (the life and times of Barty Lampion), I lost interest in the progression of the book.  Barty and his mother are such wholesome characters, it was hard to believe they would ever experience authentic danger.  Sure, they experience hardship and loss, but I never thought they wouldn’t be victorious by the end of the story.

Additionally, this is a thick boy of a book.  The copy I read tops out at 729 pages.  That’s a fair bit of time and investment in some entertaining media, and I can’t honestly say this book deserved it.  I think there were about 200 pages that I could have easily seen cut and not lost any of the impact of the main plot or development of the characters.  Part of this unneeded length stems from the undeniably preachy overtones of Koontz’s text.

Beginning this story, I had no idea that Koontz would be considered a religious/spiritual author.  While I’ve read many stories with religious characters, Koontz, as the author, has a clear message he’s communicating to his audience, and much of it revolves around Christianity.  After doing nine years in Catholic school, it was easy to pick up on the implications of character’s names (Enoch Cain – of the brother-slaying variety; Bartholomew, Agnes, and Thomas – of the saintly folk), but the overall preachy tone of the text became, frankly, overbearing and simplistic.  It took me out of the story and caused the story line to wander in a way that I did not find beneficial.  I’m also not inherently opposed to an author with an overt agenda; however, I would like to be trusted to discern the message for myself, instead of having it so blatantly repeated as it was throughout the second half of this book.

All this to say, I found the book entertaining enough in the beginning, but I thought the plot, character development, and tone to be lacking in the second half of the story.  In an effort to avoid too many spoilers, I haven’t discussed the plot holes in the conclusion, but I did find them to be rather… gaping.  Had the entire novel proceeded with the momentum established in the first half, I might feel very differently about the experience.

Overall Rating: Three out of five stars.

Recommendation: Go for it if you have time?  I didn’t love this book, but I didn’t hate it.  I don’t think I would ever want to read it again, which is why it can’t receive more than three stars for me personally.  Lots of people seem rabid for Dean Koontz books, so if you know you already like his style, you might really enjoy this.  You might also like this if, unlike me – no judgement, you’re into Christian messages.

I would like to note that we spend a lot of time in the villain’s head at the beginning of this book, and he is truly awful, as I have indicated in this post.  If you are someone sensitive to material focusing on sexual assault, I would not recommend this book at all.




Samm’s TBR Challenge

I’m the sort of person that loves goals.  Truly, if I did not set regular goals for myself, I feel very confident I would never complete anything at all, including books.  I have a fear of commitment, don’t judge.  Thanks to my love of goal setting, I love New Years.   I’m not a subscriber to the “new year, new me” philosophy; however, I do love what feels like a time of opportunity.

One of my main focuses this year is to read more of my own books.  As in the books I already own, not books that I’m planning to purchase.  As I’ve discussed on the podcast, I’m a big library user.  Buying a book feels like I’m saving a book, oftentimes, and then I go back to the library hunting for the books I haven’t saved at my house.  Given this problem, and the fact that this doesn’t deter me in the slightest from buying new books, I have far too many unread books on my shelf.

So! With all that in mind, I peer pressured five people who came to my house in the past month into picking a set of 10 books I am going to read.  They could pick any of my books, without my input.  They had to arrange them in order, and they had to take a picture of them.

The goal is that over the course of the next year, or so, I will read all these books.  I have to read them in order, but I don’t have to read one stack at a time.  When I’m done, I’ll take the average star rating of all the books and offer the highest-rated stack-picker a prize of some sort.

  1. Eric’s Stack
    Eric, as the person who lives with me, got first dibs on the stack.  He also slightly cheated in that two of these books, Cloud Atlas and From the Corner of His Eye, were his books.
    He chose four books I’ve read before (Feed, Beloved, The Eternity Code, and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac), which I believe makes his stack the one with the most re-reads.  He also chose a book by Ernest Hemingway, who I kind of hate, so we’ll see how that goes.
    Eric’s Picks, Ratings and Reviews:

  2. Sara’s Stack
    I think Sara deserves points for picking the stack that I find most visually pleasing.  I have not fully completed any of the books she chose, and there are several in this stack that I’ve been excited to read for a while.
  3. Tyler’s Stack
    Tyler chose, unsurprisingly, the heftiest stack.  He is single-handedly the reason why I might need two years to complete this task.  Two of these books, I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Ready Player One, I have read before.  We actually covered Ready Player One for the podcast, which I believe makes this book the one I have read most recently out of any of the stacks.  I’m also not sure that I’m looking forward to reading a Tucker Max book now that I’m not in college.
    Tyler specifically picked Les Miserables because it’s the biggest looking book on my self, so we shun him a little.  However, it’s a book that I know I should read in life, so power to him.
  4. Rayanne’s Stack
    Rayanne also curated a hefty stack, though I don’t think that was her main focus.  I’m really excited about some of the books she chose, particularly The City of Brass, which I started reading a while back, was legitimately enjoying, but did not commit to finishing.  Out of all the books she chose, I haven’t finished any of these.
  5. Kelsey’s Stack
    Lastly, we have Kelsey’s stack!  I’m kind of impressed because, as we talked about on the podcast today, this stack has so many adult books!  Kelsey and I both tend to spend a fair bit of time in YA-land, which only three of these are.  I’ve read two books in this stack (The Joy Luck Club and Water for Elephants), but I read them both in high school and am very rusty on their story lines.

As I go through and read each book, my plan is to come back here and post a little review.  I’m excited to get started on this project and make some progress on my many unread books.  I’ll also be lurking around the “unread shelf challenge” on instagram, so as always, come check us out there!

Kelsey’s Most Influential Books

This post is a little tough for me, because although I am great at picking out favorites, unlike Samm, I do have a hard time analyzing exactly how something affects me. Everything I’ve ever read has had some impact on my life and who I am as a person, so determining the top three most influential is going to be difficult for me. Let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

  1. Little House in the Big Woods – Laura Ingalls Wilder

Image result for little house in the big woods coverPicture this: it’s Christmas morning, 1996, and a bleary-eyed, tousle-haired, five-year-old Kelsey is enthusiastically ripping wrapping paper off of presents. Unwrapping one such present reveals the green plaid border of a book, my very first chapter book. I didn’t know it then, but that would be the proverbial book to launch a thousand ships.

This book means so much to me, because it is the book that started my life-long love affair with reading. After finishing Little House in the Big Woods, I went on to read every book in the Little House on the Prairie series, and every companion series that they came out with. I loved Laura, and longed to be as fierce and resourceful as she was. I wanted to ride stallions across the open prairie, ford rivers, and pick fresh berries to make into pie. I wanted to experience a maple syrup tapping, and a family dance. This book, and consequently series, introduced me to the art of losing myself within someone else’s adventures, and for that I’ll forever be grateful.

2. A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Image result for a wrinkle in time bookWhen I first started reading, I tended to lean toward stories that stayed within the realm of possibility. I liked stories about things that could actually happen. If you know me, or have listened to even half an episode of the podcast, you may be surprised to learn this, since these days I am heavily entrenched in the world of magic. While Harry Potter is largely responsible for my love of all things magical, there is at least one book that predates my initial reading of Harry Potter, and that I consider my introduction to fantasy.

A Wrinkle in Time is a book that I reread almost every single year. The story of Meg traveling through space and time to save her father is rife with messages and lessons that I still try to follow to this day. Meg not only overcomes her fears and faults throughout the book, but she embraces them and uses them to her advantage. This book showcases the dangers and stifling rigidity of conformity, and I believe it has been instrumental in my desire to always be myself.

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – J.K. RowlingImage result for goblet of fire book cover

This book. This freakin’ book. I feel as though this book needs no introduction or explanation, as I sincerely doubt I possess the words to describe what this book means to me. This is the first book whose release I actively anticipated. It was the longest book I had ever read, and contained the first impactful fictional death that I had encountered. I devoured this book, and have read it more than any other. It is my favorite book.

I don’t even know where to begin to describe the influence this book has had on me, as it has basically just become a part of who I am. The biggest impact this book has had, I suppose, is that it taught me to never give up, and to always remain constantly vigilant. Although it was a Death Eater disguised as a professor who said it, the phrase “constant vigilance” has always resonated with me, and is something I repeat to myself whenever I feel like throwing in the towel. This phrase from this book means so much to me that I recently made it a part of my body forever. And if that’s not a mark of its influence, I don’t know what is.


Samm’s Most Influential Books

Before beginning this post, I think it’s important to note the title.  This is my list of most influential books, as opposed to being my list of favorite books.  That is, of course, not to say that these aren’t some of my favorites.  However, if you know me, you know I’ve always been dreadful at forming steadfast opinions and determining favorites.  A list of books that have had an impact on me as a human is far less intimidating to determine.

  1. Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

    Image result for wild magic

    I have always liked to read.  Most of my formative years were spent with my nonna (grandmother), and she liked to read.  That meant we spent a fair amount of time at the library and inventing stories to each other.  She also didn’t mind funding my book addiction once a year during an annual trip to Borders, may it rest in peace, for my birthday.

    It was on one of those trips that I picked up this book randomly in fifth grade.  I picked it purely for the cover, something I still do.  I was weird and introverted as a child.  Like many weird, introverted girls, I liked horses.  One of our family friends let us come over to ride the horses he kept for others on our property, which led me to read an entire slew of late 90’s, early 2000’s book series with horses on the cover.

    As a young reader, Tamora Pierce figuratively blew my mind.  Aside from Harry Potter, which hadn’t fully landed with me yet, it was the first fantasy series I read that felt so real and accessible.  It was the first realm that I ached to be a part of.  I also loved Pierce’s main character, Daine, who felt unsure and timid, while being an absolutely terrifying boss-lady.  Though undoubtedly a little dated, I would still recommend this series and all the Tortall books to any fantasy lover.

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

    Image result for to kill a mockingbird

    Hands down, no questions asked, Atticus Finch is my ultimate favorite character in literature.  Now, I haven’t read Go Set a Watchman, so my opinion might change if I ever decide to crack that particular spine.  I also know that I said I was bad at picking favorites, but as a thirteen-year-old reading Mockingbird for the first time in my eighth-grade English class, Atticus Finch loomed large in my mind as not only the perfect man but also the perfect example of how we should treat other people.

    I’m older now, and admittedly, it has been a while since I revisited Maycomb County.  It doesn’t seem to matter.  When I think what kind of example I want to be for young people in my rural classroom, Atticus Finch is still the framework for my paradigm.  I strive to exhibit all the characteristics Atticus envokes in my mind: fair and honest, thoughtful and tenacious, imposing yet nurturing, moral in the face of terrible adversity.

  3. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore

    Image result for a dirty job

    This was another Border’s find that I shamelessly purchased for the packaging.  As a sophomore in high school, its adorable, bow-wearing skull babies were everything I wanted in a book cover.  It was a simpler time for me as a reader, one in which I went home and promptly read the books I purchased.  At fifteen, I had yet to inundate myself with a flood of books no sane person could possibly hope to keep up with.

    Thinking back, I believe this was one of the first books I purchased from the fiction section of the store; my previous finds came from the “teen” section.  This was also the first truly hilarious book I read.  This is the book that taught me that the inherently macabre could still be delightfully funny and that books didn’t have to sacrifice levity to make an impact.  In many ways, A Dirty Job represents some of my favorite aspects of media.  I have always loved dark symbols and imagery, but I hate being scared.  This was my gateway into the realm of dark humor, where the best parts of two genres I loved could co-exist as one.