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August 25, 2006

From the Corner of His Eye













From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz
Thriller
Finished on 8/24/06
Rating: C (3/10 Ho-hum)


I started keeping a reading journal about 10 years ago and have recently begun my 10th book. Some are very simple, wire-bound notebooks with a pretty cover and others are specifically made to keep track of the books read, including sections for favorite passages, book group notes, books lent/borrowed, book stores & services, and recommendations. These are charming journals with literary quotes sprinkled here and there, making for enjoyable reading as well as writing. Up until my recent leap into the blogosphere, these journals have been a great source of valuable information to this bibliophile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referred back to an earlier entry, looking for a specific quote or my thoughts about a particular book. My favorite excuse for sitting on the guest room floor, reading journals scattered about me, lost in my long-forgotten words, is the pursuit of a list of titles to recommend to an inquiring friend or relative. I’m always flattered when I get a phone call from my daughter (as she waits to board a plane in the DFW airport) or the son of a good friend or an email from a friend who needs a list of titles to recommend to her face-to-face book group, all asking, “Hey, Les (or Mom in the kid’s case), I need something to read. What do you recommend?” Eeeek! I’m supposed to come up with suggestions at the drop of a hat? I need preparation! I need at least an afternoon searching for the perfect titles for the specific taste of each reader. I need more time!! These things can’t be rushed.

One thing I’ve discovered is there’s nothing worse (ok, that’s a bit extreme – we all know there are worse things in life) than raving about one of your favorite books to a fellow reader, eager for her to share your joy and enlightenment in the lyrical prose of your favorite author, only to hear months later, “Oh, ya. I read that book you told me about. Gawd, it was the worst thing I’ve read in ages. The author yadayadayada…” and so it goes. Not only will this person never call you again for a book rec, but your credibility as a well-read individual has just been shot to hell. Sigh.

But wait. We all have our own specific reasons for enjoying a book. Sometimes it’s simply the right time or the right place. Or we find something with which to identify that another wouldn’t (or couldn’t), based merely on our particular life experiences. There’s no rhyme or reason as to why some books strike us so powerfully when others are fodder for the recycle bin. So why take it personally when a recommendation is stomped all over?

Which brings me to my point. (I know, finally!) What happens when a very dear friend (whom I’ll just call "Heidi" because...well, that happens to be her name) not only raves about From the Corner of His Eye, but gives me a copy for my birthday and I finally get around to reading it and about halfway through, I start thinking, Oh, no. I don’t like this book. What am I going to tell Heidi when she asks? Do I tell her my husband left it on an airplane and I haven’t had the time to get another copy? Do I write an honest review, but change my Blogger address and accidentally forget to give her the new one so she can’t read it? Do I fudge a bit (ok, lie) and say it was good, but gee, I have so many books to read and thanks but I really don’t need any more recommendations for, say, another five or 10 years?

I think I’ll just tell the truth. (Who knows, maybe she’ll never ask, and since she’s one of the busiest people I know, she’ll probably never read this blog anyway!). I didn’t love the book. I didn’t even really like it. The first few chapters were good and the closing chapters were satisfying, but that leaves about 600 pages that I struggled through for two whole weeks! Why? Because I had to see how it ended and I’m not a skimmer. And besides, some of my most favorite books took anywhere between 50-200 pages before I got hooked. So I figured I'd better stick it out. This book (a mass market – hard on the eyes, but easy to hold up in bed) is a whopping 729 pages! I don’t usually mind long books, but this one really needed a more stringent editor. If Koontz really felt compelled to drag the plot on for that many pages, he should’ve increased the tension just a notch or two. I liked the main characters and came to care about them (especially the two young children) and their individual plights, but got a little frustrated with the constant introduction of new characters far into the narrative, making me wonder if and when all the separate storylines would converge. The plot-related particulars about quantum physics and parallel universe theories were intriguing, but I had to suspend disbelief many times over, and couldn’t help but wonder if Koontz truly believes in what he describes.

One final note: I’ve never been a huge fan of Koontz. I think Whispers was the first book of his I read (back in the early 80s, if I remember correctly). I never gave him much consideration until the summer of 2004 when I read Odd Thomas (which I read again this past February). It turned out to be one of the best books I’d read in a long time. Eager for more, I checked out The Taking from the library. Good, but not as good as Odd Thomas. I was thrilled when Forever Odd was released, but deeply disappointed that it failed to live up to my expectations. And now this dissatisfying read. So, are we through? Do I banish him to the list of authors I’ll never read again? (I just discovered another title, Velocity, in one of my previous blog entries. So unimpressive I'd forgotten I'd even read it!)

I suppose that all depends on whether a well-intentioned friend or relative raves about Koontz’s future release of Brother Odd. I’m pretty sure I won’t get a copy for my birthday or Christmas this year. However, gift certificates are always greatly appreciated. ;)

15 comments:

  1. Roddy Reta6:16 PM

    Try WATCHERS, which is what many people consider his best book. I loved ODD THOMAS and didn't really care for the sequel either.

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  2. I've never read a book by Koontz, and I can't say I'm terribly compelled to start now. :)

    What intrigues me the most about what you wrote was keeping a journal for the books you've read. I've been an avid journal writer all my life, seriously since I was five, and I've recorded the books I've read in the back of each journal. But, I've only written the titles. I like how you added quotes and summaries and much more important information. That's a goal of mine in the future. The great part about real paper and pen journals is that they are a legacy. I wonder what happens to blogs in fifty years?

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  3. Hi Les!

    What a great post! I could relate to everything you mentioned. :)

    My first Koontz was ODD THOMAS and loved it. I didn't enjoy the second one nearly as much. Despite that, I will read the third and actually look forward to it because simply I like Odd.

    Recommending books can be awful! I had a horrible experience not too long ago. Why did I take it so personally? Why do I care what "they" think anyway? UGH!

    As for the journaling, I have only recorded the books I've read since 2003 and that only consisted of the title, author, and personal rating. In July of this year, I started collecting quotes in a word document and blogging my thoughts of books. It's been so much fun writing and reading blogs.

    Happy Reading! I hope your next one is better. :)

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  4. I think its important that you are honest about it. I experienced that for the first time recently as I started developing a friendship with a guy and his family and we started passing books back and forth. Despite very similar tastes in books and movies there are just some things that my wife and I love and they just don't get into. It is a bit off-putting the first time you rave about something and the person you thought would love it too says they couldn't get into it. Its off-putting every time as a matter of fact, because it makes you somewhat question your ability to read people and also can make you wonder what is wrong with your taste. But you have to get past that and realize that we are all eclectic readers in our own ways and what is wonderful for me may just be garbage to my friend...more often than not I think it is because it wasn't the right time for him to read that book or watch the movie. I think mood really effects one's acceptance or rejection of certain books and movies. You could watch read something at the wrong time just because you feel like you should and hate it and then come back to it years later and realize that you really did like it after all, the timing was just off.

    In the end I'm sure your friend appreciates the honesty and it shouldn't take away from her love of that book.

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  5. Roddy - I may try Watchers, but I think I need a break from Koontz for a while. Thanks for stopping by!

    Bellezza - If you only read one book by Koontz, you simply must read Odd Thomas. It's quite remarkable. Regarding journaling, I used to keep a daily journal, on and off for many years, but for whatever reason I was never disciplined enough and days, weeks and months would pass by before a new entry. I now find that my weekly/monthly letters/emails to friends and relatives serve as a journal of sorts and I've enjoyed looking back on what I've written over the years. Good luck with your endeavor to keep a more thorough reading journal. I do love pen & paper, but find I write in greater detail when sitting before the keyboard and monitor. I honestly believe I've become a much more polished writer than the days of snail-mail and bound notebooks. And look how far my world has expanded. No wonder my TBR list is in the hundreds!

    Joy - maybe I'll wait to hear how you like Brother Odd before I read it. At this point, I'll wait my turn for a library copy. Not ready to fork out $25 for a hard cover!

    Carl - Thanks for the advice. I agree. We all are eclectic readers and that's what makes discussing books so interesting. It'd be so boring if we all sat around nodding our heads saying, "Yeah, I liked it, too." "Yeah, me, too. Good book."

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  6. Loved your post. I understand what you mean about being enthusiastic about a book and then someone not liking it. I feel so responsible. But, like you said there are many reasons why someone will or won't like a book the same way.

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  7. Anonymous8:49 AM

    Les, I know you've heard me say this like a million times, but reading taste is so very personal and so mysterious even to oneself that no one should ever feel offended if someone doesn't like the same book. Some people seem to feel so hurt, as if she made a bad suggestion or has bad taste in books, if the other person has a different opinion of a book. It isn't a criticism of the person, or her taste. I never presume to know what someone else would like. I try to never say, oh you MUST read this book. I prefer to say I LOVED this book and give the reasons and tell a bit about the book, and then the other person can make her own decision about reading it. And I agree with what you said about everyone agreeing on a book. This is one of the flaws of online book groups, I think. So many people seem to read the same books, with little consideration for the many, many books that are around. And you do know that it was you telling me about your book journal that caused me to start one back in 1999!!
    NLW

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  8. Thanks, Iliana. It was a fun post to write, in spite of my displeasure with the book.

    N - Yes, I do know that it was all my doing that got you started on book journals. :) And I love the way you recommend books without really recommending them. Your book reviews are always a joy to read.

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  9. Lesley, ever since I read that you were going to read this book I've been anxious to your thoughts. Too bad you didn't like it. I'm like your friend who recommended it - I loved it. In fact, I have 3 pages in my 'commonplace' journal with quotes just from this book. I think Koontz has such a good grasp of good and evil. It all starts with the small choices we make everyday and either good, or bad, is built on an accumulation of those. I loved Odd Thomas, too. And there are some Koontz books that I did not like, but those are mostly his earlier works.

    I agree with Carl v. So much of our reading enjoyment depends on the mood. My mother just recommended 'Nectar in a Sieve', saying it was the best book she's read recently. I didn't care that much for it and faced your same dilema in what to write on my blog. I ended up telling the truth, as well.

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  10. I take it you haven't read Life Expectancy, Les? I loved Life Expectancy. You have to get used to the idea of a homicidal clown, up front, though. :)

    I know that horrible feeling when you recommend a book and then someone dislikes it or even hates it. That's happened to me, although most of my friends are long-distance so I've actually paid to mail books I considered wonderful and my friends hated. I still do that; I guess it's natural to want to share something that gives you a great deal of pleasure and there's always a chance friends won't fall in love with the same things you do. We're all so individual.

    "I loved it; hope you do, too," is what I usually tell friends. I'm gradually learning not to let it bother me if someone rants about hating a book I adored. Actually, it can be pretty fun to just listen to a rant. People are hilarious when they get on their soapboxes, sometimes.

    Great post!

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  11. Booklogged - It's so interesting to me that some people can love a book that others can barely manage to finish. Interesting in that I'm curious as to the reason. I suppose it's no different than someone saying they prefer chocolate over vanilla ice cream, eh?

    Nancy - No, I haven't read Life Expectancy. Should I? :) Not so sure about the clown, though. Stephen King's book IT had a clown and I had nightmares while reading that one!

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  12. Les,

    I *hate* clowns and they're usually nightmare material for me; but, Life Expectancy was not really about the clown so much as the family that had to deal with him and I just fell in love with them. It's a nice, upbeat but suspenseful read. Yes, I'd recommend it. Don't expect anything deep, but I thought it was a really enjoyable book. :)

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  13. OK... twist my arm. ;) I'll put the title in my TBR list, Nancy, but it may be a long time before I get to it. You'll probably have to remind me that you were the one who told me about it! ;)

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  14. Anonymous1:55 PM

    I am just a person rummaging through blogs, but i must say that there are so many Koontz books worth your time, but i guess if you're not a thriller person he wouldnt suit you well. I havent met a person to this day who didnt like The Door To December. Intensity is also a great novel that starts with a bang. And if you cant love False Memories, there is no hope. Put False Memories at the top of your must read list ,its very compelling.

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  15. Anonymous - Thanks for rummaging through blogs and commenting on mine. It was fun for me to revisit this post after more than three years! Even more fun to see that most of the folks commenting are still reading my blog. I appreciate your recommendations and will give each a try, as I do enjoy thrillers (check out my posts about Cody McFadyen's books here on my blog).

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