The Book Pile

During lockdown and working from home, I’ve found that I’ve had more time to read books. I used to read a hell of a lot when I was younger, but life gets in the way and I don’t read as much as I’d like to. Without commuting and having lunch breaks in my living room, I can get a lot more reading done without skipping the chores that need doing. I’ve read quite a few books over the last couple of months and wanted to write about them.

I bought The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern a few years ago on a friend’s recommendation. They said it was their favourite book and I trust their opinions. It just took me a while to actually get around to it. The story of a magical circus that is the secret battle ground between two magicians. The first fifty or so pages didn’t grip me and I almost gave up on the book. But I gave it another go and read a few more chapters and then everything clicked. Sometimes books are just like that. I did enjoy this book, although I wouldn’t say it was spellbinding. It was a fun journey while it lasted but it is forgetable. That might have something to do with the next book I read.

Literally the same day I started The Red House by Mark Haddon. I loved The Curioius Incident of the Dog at Night Time when I read it, about 15 years ago. At the time I considered it my favourite book. I tried A Spot of Bother and was just too young to really get it. I think I would like it more now to be honest. My nan gave me The Red House a couple of years ago and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it. The first twenty or so pages are confusing and disjointed. Telling the story of a family going on holiday for a week with relatives they don’t really know. It’s a strange book that jumps between perspectives so quickly that you have to get used to it. It felt like the beginning was entering a dream world and once I was used to it I was hooked. I read it over two days and honestly couldn’t recommend it enough.

Back in April Darren Shan stealth released not one, not two, but three books. His new YA series. I’ve been waiting years for this. When I was a teenager I would eagerly await each release from Darren Shan and it’s nice for him to be back doing what he does best. Archibald Lox follows the titular character, who has recently lost his brother. He’s walking through London when he sees a girl being chased by two men. She somehow makes a hole in a bridge, escaping and Archibald follows, changing his life forever. These are very enjoyable books that are so easy to read. I started the first one, before work one morning and before I knew I was gripped and involed in the story. I loved it and can’t recommend it enough. I’ve only read the first two and about a tenth of the third book. As much as I’m enjoying them, my kindle was kidnapped by Tabby while she catches up with shows that have a limited time on streaming. I’m going to finish what I’m reading now and then get back to it.

I’m a massive Star Trek fan. I’m sure that’s no surprise to those that know me. Last year while at Star Trek convention I bought a couple of books, the first two in the Shatner-Verse. After Captain Kirk died in Star Trek Generations, William Shatner along with Judith Reeves-Stevens and Garfield Reeves-Stevens wrote a series of books that chronicle the resurection of James T Kirk. The first book The Ashes of Eden, takes place shortly before Generations and honestly feels like the seventh Original Series movie that we never got. I really enjoyed it. A big problem with most books based on existing franchises is that they don’t capture the characters, words come out of their mouths that don’t sound right. In the Ashes of Eden, this isn’t a problem at all. Every character sounds perfect. I really enjoyed this one. The second book, The Return, picks up where the first one ends almost to the word. It took a bit longer to get into this one, but I ended up enjoying it. I’m looking forward to picking up the rest of the series and can only hope they live up to the first two.

Stephen King released a story collection If It Bleeds, back in April. I had it sitting there since release day and have finally gotten around to it. There are four stories in the collection. Mr Harrigan’s Phone starts the collection. A young boy calls an elderly friend’s phone after he dies and get his voicemail. Strange events follow. I really enjoyed this one. It’s spooky and suspenseful and as always Stephen King has created characters that are so realistic I can’t help but continue reading. The Life of Chuck is a strange one, that I don’t want to spoil at all. It’s good, that’s enough. If It Bleeds is a sequel to The Outside, one of King’s best books in recent years. It was nice to catch up with Holly, but I do think this is the weakest book in the collection. Rat, follows a struggling writer who has been tryin to finish his first novel his whole life. A nice shorter and unsettling story to wrap up the collection.

I have a few more books that I want to talk about that I’ve read, along with a couple more that I’m looking forward to reading soon. I’ll be back on Monday.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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August

Hey, it’s been a little while. I’m sure everyone is feeling it at the moment, how this year is both the longest and shortest year ever. I’ve lost track of time completely. Things that happened in April seem like yesterday, while last week seems like last year.

Writing has been going reasonably well. I think I mentioned before that I was writing a new story, a shorter one that I had hoped would be ready for halloween. The working title is The Vampire. Well it’s probably not going to be ready for halloween. What I thought was going to be a short story has developed beyond that and is much longer than I thought it would be. I just hit 21000 words this morning and feel about half way through or so. The new plan is to put the first chapter up on halloweed and then hopefully the whole story at the beginning of next year by the latest. I’m enjoying this one and as always can’t wait to share it.

I’ve always wanted to write a story about vampires. I used to write a lot of vampires stories in school. I watched Buffy when I was around 10 years old and was always drawn to vampire stories. It’s how I found out about Darren Shan. In fact, To The Other started as a vampire story in 2009. The only reason it changed was due to the amount of vampire stories out around then. Twilight was the biggest thing in the world at that point. Everyone I told I was writing a vampire story had the same look, oh not another one. It’s still always been somethin that I wanted to do, and I’m finally doing it properly.

My other story, which is going to be the longest thing I’ve ever written, and probably will stay that way, is still on the backburner for now. There was some writer’s block that made it harder to write. Once I’ve finished The Vampire I’m going to take another stab at it probably get another chunk done and then start on the next story. I had 2 pretty fleshed out stories in my mind and they will be put down in words sooner or later.

I’ve been reading a fair bit recently, and a real mixture. I will write another post about everything I’ve read in the last few weeks soon, probably next week. I’ve always watched quite a few films lately. Tabby’s favourite actor at the moment, so we’ve been making our way through his films. Logan Lucky was really good. I didn’t know a thing about it before and it flew by. I would recommend that.

I also watched Ad Astra last week. when that came out there was a lot of negativity towards it, at least from what I saw. It put me off seeing it, but at the same time the advert appealed so I wanted to give it a go. I really enjoyed it. A slowburning sci-fi film that grabbed my attention and didn’t really let go for the whole time. I’m not sure what people didn’t like about it. I would recommend it.

For this weekend, we have The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable to watch. I’ve never seen a film by M Night Shyamalan. The ending of The Sixth Sense was spoiled for me years before I was old enough to watch it, and most of his other films just didn’t appeal to me. I did want to see Split, but when I found out it was a sequel to Unbreakable, I needed to see that one first. At least I will finally get to watch Split and eventually Glass. I did watch Wayward Pines, which started off great and then lost everything good about it by the end of season 1. Season 2 was so bad, I never actually finished it. I did read all three books last year, and they are so much better than the tv show.

I’m going to write a post about the books that I’ve read at some point in the next week. For now I’m off.

A quick update. I wrote this post last week and forget to upload it. I’ve watched both The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable now, and loved them both. Knowing the twist in The Sixth Sense doesn’t really spoil the film, it works knowing it. I think it would have been better going in blind, but that’s as hard as not knowing who Darth Vader is. Unbreakable was even better. I loved it from start to finish. It will rank very highly among my favourite superhero films. We have Split to watch this week and then Glass, hopefully next week. I doubt they will live up to Unbreakable though.

Thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

I was quite surpsied when this was aannouced a few months back. I didn’t think we would get another Hunger Games book. I read the original trilogy back towards the end of sixth form. I read them all in one week, one day after another. I borrowed each of them from the library and read them all evening and into the night by lamplight. They were so thilling and exciting and easy to read. But that was almost a decade ago.

When this book was announced, I was excited. I pre-ordered it and once it arrived, I placed the book I was reading to one side and started this straight away. It was as I started that it fully dawned on me that I don’t remember anything about The Hunger Games, besides the braod strokes and general idea. I wasn’t that worried as this is a stand alone prequel. But for example, it wasn’t until the closing chapters of this book that I figured out that Coriolanus Snow would be come President Snow in his future.

I think not remembering much made this book even better. I didn’t remember the end of this characters arc, so every twist was even more shocking. This book is so gripping and unlike many prequels, worth reading. It is completley accessible to anyone who hasn’t read the originals, and adds to the world that many fell in love with way back when.

The story centres around Coriolanus Snow, who is one of the few chosen students in the capital to mentor a tribute in the 10th annual Hunger Games. The tribute he is mentoring is Lucy Gray from District 12. She may not look like she can fight, but her spirit and personality wins the crowd over to her, which in some instances is more important than strength.

As the story unfolds, the difference between the capital and the districts start to blur and in the end it becomes a story of control over chaos. At the heart of the story is a trio of characters that made me want to turn page after page until I reached the end.

Without spoiling anything, there were twists that I didn’t expect, tension that made me stay up late to read just one more chapter and I enjoyed the book so much I want to go back and read the originals again.

Even if you haven’t read The Hunger Games, or seen the films (I haven’t seen them, as when they came out they just didn’t appeal to me. I liked the books too much), I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s an exciting thrillride that I’m sure most people will enjoy.

Let me know if you’ve read this book and what were your thoughts? Had you read the originals first or seen the films? As always, thanks for reading and until next time,

Ashley

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July 3rd 2011

On Monday, a good friend of mine Reece, shared a link to song on Facebook. ‘Coffee and Cigarettes’ by Jimmy Eat World. I hadn’t heard this song before, but I like what I know by Jimmy Eat World, and since I was waiting for my dinner to be ready, I clicked on the link and listened. I really liked the song and it was stuck in my head all day. It just brought me back to a different time.

I saw Jimmy Eat World supporting Foo Fighters, way back in July 2011 at the MK Bowl. I didn’t know who they were before then, but I did enjoy their set. I even bought a couple of their albums after the concert. To be honest I still don’t really know them, beyond the Bleed American album. So I think to me that band will always remind me of 2011. This was an important year for me. It marked the end of sixth form and school, I turned 18 and I started university.

I went to the Foo Fighters concert with Tabby, now my fiance, and two friends from school. In many ways it was actually a celebration of the end of the school year and exams. We didn’t know our exam results yet, and it felt like a new beginning of hope and change. Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I was listening to the song again and all of a sudden I was there, back in the MK Bowl, sitting in the heat. All of these memories started to pour back into my mind. It was my second concert and all the nerves from the first concert weren’t present. I knew roughtly what to expect so I was just excited.

We arrived early and the doors were already open. We queued up and got in. Even though it was early, there was already piles of discarded drinks and food that the security had stopped from passing. I remember us commenting on how bad that would look in a couple of hours, because it was already attracting flies and a sickly smell in the summer sun. We got in and grabbed a bottle of coke each from the nearby stall. The MK Bowl is massive, fitting roughly 65,000 people. After grabbing a drink we found a spot on the hill, towards the back and set up camp for the rest of the day. I remember there were a couple of short arguements about where to stand. None of us really liked crowds, so being a little out of the way was fine. It was just making sure we could all see. From our spot on the hill, we could see the stage quite nicely and the screens were in perfect view.

We sat around talking, while waiting for the first band to come on. We were talking about the future, mostly. Hopes that university would bring. The first band, called The Hot Rats, I think. Yes, a quick Google confirmed that. They were laughably bad. They were a cover band, and that is all I really remember, other than they played Queen Bitch by David Bowie, and I was glad my mum wasn’t there to hear that being butchered. Even now writing that, something else came back to me. They covered The Lovecats by The Cure. Still bad, I remember us laughing about that.

It was so hot, and one drink wasn’t enough. To keep our place secure we split into two groups, one to stay at out spot on the hill and the other to grab food and drink throughout the day, each time swapping. I remember picking grass out of the ground at one point and fiddling it between my fingers. It was so hot. Jimmy Eat World came on next and they played through their set. I really enjoyed them. I remember making eye contact with Tabby, with a smile, who was also enjoying it, swaying from side to side in the hot sun while sitting on the hill. They were really great. They played Sweetness as the last song on their set and me and Tabby looked at each other. Both of us knew this song, even though we couldn’t place where.

After the band left the stage the whole place started moving again, filling up at the same time. It was my turn to go out and grab drinks. We made our way through the crowd, which was the only part of the day that I didn’t like. It felt like it took an age, weaving through the thickening crowd of people. We went the wrong way at one point and had to double back just to get to a stall selling drinks. When I came back, I remember Tabby saying that she was going to get Ice Cream, so she went off with one of our other friends and brought back Ice cream for us all. I had the nicest 99 flake ice cream in the world. There is nothing like it in the world, sitting their enjoying music in the blaring sun, eating ice cream and just not caring about anything beyond that moment.

Biffy Clyro were next and to be honest I don’t remember much about them. I really liked them before going. Their album, Only Revolutions had come out a year or two before, and I really liked that album. Seeing them live is one of the biggest disapointments of any concert I have ever been to, probably the biggest. His voice was just awful on the day. It sounded so bad. Maybe he was ill, as I’ve been told time and time again that they are usually brilliant. Maybe we were just in the wrong place or maybe the sound wasn’t mixed right. But since then, almost 9 years later I have never listened to a Biffy Clyro song again by choice. I quite liked them beforehand, and I know it’s stupid, but I’ve just really gone off them. There was also someone in the crowd filling out a crossword, which was quite funny at the time. We joked it was a tribute to their album Puzzle. That was our level of humour then, and at least for me, it hasn’t grown much since then.

Finally came the main show, the reason we were all there. The almighty Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl ran out and screamed down the microphone. He ran up and down the stage strumming and  shouting out to the audience. They then blasted into Bridges Burning from their recent album. On a side note, that is what I had guessed earlier while we were playing ‘what song will they come on to?’. For the next 3 hours, we watched them go through all the hits. They played Breakout, which was my favourite Foo Fighters song at the time, and Long Road to Ruin, which took that place shortly afterwards and still it my favourite song of theirs, along with I’ll Stick Around.

Even as the show was winding down, the sun almost completely set, there were still surprises in store. A man in an inflatable boat surfing the audience sticks out in my mind. After a funny intermission video teasing us with more songs, Dave Grohl came out and sang wheels by himself. He then started Times Like These and the rest of the band came out as well. That would have been enough, really. Afterwards Dave Grohl took to the stage by himself he introduced Seasick Steve, who one of the people I was with was a fan of. We all cheered, even though beyond the name I couldn’t tell you a thing about him. More importantly he brought out John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. One of my all time favourite bands. I couldn’t believe it and I remember clapping along out of time to a song by Seasick Steve that I don’t know or remember.

After that the Foo Fighters brought the show to a close with Everlong, which I had never really liked that much until I saw it live. It was a perfect show ender, accompanied with fireworks. For a long time afterwards it was a joke between me and Tabby that a last song at a show wasn’t any good if they didn’t have fireworks. It was an unbelievable night that I think back on fondly from time to time and just wanted to share it, after that Jimmy Eat World song took me back in time to a simplier time filled with hope, music and sunlight. If everything could ever feel this real forever, if anything could ever be this good again…

Thanks for reading and if you have memories from a better time that you want to share, feel free. I look forward to reading them in the comments. And until next time,

Ashley

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May

It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on here. Too long. The last couple of months, as I’m sure for most people, have been the longest and yet shortest months of my life. Strange times we are living through. My wedding has been delayed, until possilbly late in the year. Although realistically I think we are looking more likely at next year.

I haven’t been writing much. I hit a block in the story I was writing and couldn’t break through it. I know what is coming next, but I’m just not sure on how to get there. After a month without writing a word, I thought it was best to start something new, just to get back into the flow of things. Last week I started writing a new story, that will be much shorter. It’s an idea that I’ve had for a little while now. I’m hoping it will be finished in time for halloween. The working title, is The Vampire. It will probably change, I’m not good at naming things and I also never like my titles.

After I’ve finished writing that, I’m going to go back to my main story, which has the working title of The End of Times or Jacob’s Army. Not sure which I like more. Or it may change again. That’s the biggest thing I’ve ever attempted to write and I’m no where near finished. I feel like I’m completely out of the groove, but I’m hoping that a break will do me good and get me back into the flow. It’s an idea that I’ve had for a decade or maybe even longer, so I’m determined to finish it.

My Mum recently moved and as part of that I neeed to empty the wardrobes of stuff that I left when I moved out. While doing that I found the original notes for the story that I made when in Sixth Form. It was strange to see them. Especially as I had no idea I had ever written it down. The idea is roughly the same as well, which means that it’s been sitting in my head for around 10 years. A strange thought.

I never know what to write in blog posts. I like to keep everyone updated with what’s going on, but I haven’t written any short stories to put on here in a long time. Maybe I should try to do that in the near future? I’m not sure. If there is anything that you would like me to write about, please leave a comment and I will do my best.

As with writing, reading also stopped over the last couple of months. I just felt no motivation. I downloaded Darren Shan’s new books on my kindle and still haven’t read them. I really want to read them, but I just haven’t felt like reading recently. I will get round to them eventually. I did read Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, an early Star Wars book over the last weekend and really enjoyed it. I’m catching up with comics at the moment and then I’m going to try and read some more. If you have any suggestions, feel free to let me know. Something fresh will probably be the kickstart that I need to get back into reading.

Speaking of Star Wars, Disney Plus finally launched in the UK and with it The Mandalorian. I’m glad they released it weekly as it gave me something to look forward to each Friday. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that about a TV show. I really enjoyed it and plan to rewatch the whole thing before Season 2 in October. It lives up to the hype, for sure.

I also watched the 9 Skywalker Saga films over the last week on Disney Plus. I was planning on just watching Rise of Skywalker again, but I thought it would be better to watch the whole thing as quickly as possible and I was right. I don’t think anything tops Star Wars for me, I love the whole thing and could watch the films over and over again, and have done many times. The Last Jedi still stands out as my favourite. It was the third time I saw Rise of Skywalker and I think it gets better with each viewing. This time I didn’t find the pace to be strange at the beginning at all. It’s nice to know the story and just enjoy it from start to finish. I can’t wait for Taika Waititi’s Star Wars Film. I’m a massive fan of everything he’s done and his episode of The Mandalorian was the best of the bunch.

Well that’s all for May. I will be back in June at some point with more ramblings. Until then, stay safe and thanks for reading,

Ashley

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