Monthly Archives: November 2018

Watching You

You’d never know it, because I write these in advance, but I started this book in the middle of November, and I hadn’t read a book in two or three weeks. That’s a long time for me. I just couldn’t get into the other book I was trying. I finally gave it up and turned to my reliable advanced readers.

I’ve seen Lisa Jewell’s books around a lot, and I knew she did some suspense/thrillers, but now I’ve finally had a chance to read her when I snagged an advanced copy of her latest book.

In Watching You, Jewell weaves together the stories of several people, none of whom you know who to believe.

Joey Mullen and her new husband have recently moved in with her brother and his pregnant wife and are adjusting to life in a ritzier neighborhood. But Joey’s never had her life together, and even though she’s got a job, a husband, and a place to live, she’s still being tempted by the wrong choices.

When murder comes to their quiet little village, no one is sure who to suspect: Joey, who a witness places near the scene, the neighbor boy who spies on everyone, but especially women and high school girls, or the neighbor woman who displays hints of mental illness. Everyone’s got motive and secrets, but the police are going to find the truth.

Jewell’s book is written mostly as the weeks/months leading up to the crime. Interspersed are transcriptions of police interviews with various characters. Jewell never reveals who the victim was until the end, which aids her in keeping readers guessing about the perpetrator as well. While the book was a fast read, I’m not completely sure that the twists had enough hints throughout the story. Plenty of thrillers simply throw a curve ball at the end as a way to catch readers off guard, but a good book will have just enough clues that, once you know the answer, they seem obvious, even though they were obscure during the reading. Jewell planted some, but I think it could have used more, instead of focusing so much on Joey and her poor choices.

That said, Joey’s poor choices were a crucial part of the story, setting up the motive. Joey finds herself enamored with the head of the local school, despite both of them being married. But the Joey isn’t the only one enamored with him, and he’s got secrets to hide, just like the rest of the neighborhood.

Overall, despite how creepy I found several aspects of Jewell’s characters, I did enjoy her book (enough to start in on one of her others). I’m interested to see how her other thrillers hold up. And when you’re considering how to spend your Christmas money, put Watching You on your list, it’ll be available December 26th.

Journey to the Center of the Earth

I haven’t read Jules Verne since high school, so I was interested in giving him another try. I remember 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea being tough to read, but, the older I get, the more I realize age plays an important role for me. I’m enjoying certain classics more now that I’m older. Plus, I think I’m slowing down more in reading, which makes a difference too.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is a short book that kicks off quickly with Axel and his uncle Otto Lidenbrock discovering an ancient document claiming to show the way to the center of the Earth. Lidenbrock is obsessed with making the journey, while Axel is more reserved. But off they set, to Iceland and below. With just a few clues, they must make a journey only one person has made before, and one that no one is even dreaming about. And among the dangers, they’ll also see things no one’s ever seen before.

I will say, the book wasn’t quite what I expected. I’ve never seen any of the movies, but, I expected a little more conclusive journey, although I will say that it’s likely I didn’t completely understand the significance of the ending.

But this book was easier to read than I remember 20,000 Leagues being. It was a quick read with short chapters. Occasionally Verne gets a little bogged down in science, but it is at least in keeping with the characters.

All in all, it’s a fun read that paints elaborate pictures for an active imagination. Definitely worth the read for anyone who’s interested in the classics.

Rise of the Mystics

Ted Dekker wasted no time in writing the second book to his two-part series that returns to the world of the circle trilogy.

In the first book, The 49th Mystic, a young girl named Rachelle Matthews suddenly finds herself thrust into a strange new world where she is the only one who can bring peace and fulfill an old prophecy. Rachelle lives both on Earth and Other Earth, dreaming of one world when she falls asleep in the other. In both worlds, though, she’s in terrible danger. And fast learning that nothing is what it appears to be.

Now, in Rise of the Mystics, Rachelle is still in danger. With the crumbling of everything she once knew on Earth, Rachelle has been convinced that she is schizophrenic and subject to various hallucinations. But the fate of both worlds still hangs on her shoulders, even though she doesn’t dream anymore. But in both worlds, she’s finding that blindness can refer to so much more than sight, and that sight doesn’t necessarily mean seeing truly. But time is running out, and if Rachelle doesn’t get back on track and complete her quest, it will be the end for everyone.

Dekker’s latest series wrestles with the challenges of the Christian walk, and in some parts of each book it gets a little heavy on the teachings, paraphrasing and using new metaphors. This is definitely a series that wasn’t meant to be rushed though, as I did with it. It’s a series Dekker means to have read slowly, soaking in the metaphors of truth.

But the Mystic series maintains Dekker’s quality style, complete with twists and turns, even as he paints a broad, sweeping story with more meaning than what you see on the surface.

Jane Eyre

I don’t remember how old I was when I got Jane Eyre as a birthday present. I think maybe 12. I remember it was a birthday party at a park, and my aunt had put it in a bag that said “Have a phat birthday” or something like that. And I remember thinking it was weird, but cool.

Fast forward several years and I’m somewhere in my teens reading it for the first time, probably 15 or 16, when I got on my classic literature kick. And I still think the illustrations are weird and cool.

Fast forward another 10 years, and it’s mid-October (yes, these blog posts are written in advance. Sometimes even more than a month in advance), and I’m scrounging through my books looking for anything remotely creepy to read in an effort to be festive. I know Jane Eyre isn’t really creepy (though, secreted lunatics always make stories a little bit creepy), but the illustrations have always stuck with me, and so, Jane Eyre made the cut. Plus, I had very limited options.

I remembered most of the general plot of Charlotte Brontë’s work, but I had events out of order in my mind, so I was glad to read it again.

Jane is an orphan, and we meet her living with an aunt and cousins who dislike her, simply because she is poor, orphaned, and not one of them. It’s not long before Jane is sent off to boarding school, where she is much better off. Upon completion of her schooling, Jane advertises for and accepts a position as a governess, and flourishes in the position, teaching a young French orphan in a large mansion.

But Jane finds herself falling for her usually-absent employer, who, upon meeting Jane, seems to take up residence in Thornfield Hall. But not everything is as it seems, and just when Jane is in the cusp of achieving happiness, everything falls to pieces, and she steals away in the wee hours of the morning, looking to put herself back together. Alone, penniless, and without friends or family, all seems hopeless for Jane, until the kindness of a stranger sets in motion a second rise to happiness Jane never dreamed would be hers.

The first thing to note about this book is that it is a classic, which means, it can be a slog to get through. Modern novels don’t contain nearly as much soliloquizing as the classics. And yet, this very thing is often what gives classic novels their unique voice.

With everything that happens to poor Jane, it seems like Brontë took to heart the suggestion to constantly make things worse for the character. And yet, it moves the story along, and shows the character of Jane in a way that is more believable than a character description.

What makes this such a good story, I think, is that Jane suffers abuse upon abuse, and yet still holds herself to such standards that she will not take happiness where it isn’t moral to do so, perhaps because she is so used to having little to no happiness at all. Jane’s character is an interesting case study of how seeking approval can become an obsession when approval is rarely given.

Muppets Meet Classics: The Phantom of the Opera

This may be the best book I’ve read all year.

Naturally, as a children’s book, Erik Forrest Jackson had to make some adjustments to Gaston Leroux’s original Phantom of the Opera story, but overall, the story is largely the same.

Young Piggy Daae is coming in to stardom at the Opera, thanks to her secret and mysterious Koozebanian of Music. But when Piggy starts getting the attention of her childhood sweetheart, Viscount Kermit de Chagny, the Koozebanian gets jealous and spirits her away to his underground carnival. Kermit must find the secret entrance and rescue his love.

This book is absolutely full of puns that probably will go over the heads of any children reading it, and yet that was the best part of the book. It’s the kind of book I dream of writing. It’s so much fun.

Now, I haven’t read the original book, only ever seen the movie, but I think any creative liberties taken were well within the realm of reasonable, since this is a children’s book. And the general story is still the same.

If you’re looking for an easy read, or even something silly to share with your older child, this is it. Jackson’s writing is easy and conversational, funny and relatable. You won’t regret reading this book. But you’ll probably wish that it was a movie, too.