What I’ve Been Reading This Week – Divergent and The Stand

Image result for divergent book

In the last week I’ve finished two books. Both being something I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I was recommended Divergent way back in University, which feels longer than four years ago. I also started reading The Stand over ten years ago back in secondary school. I’ve finally finished them both.

I’ll start with Divergent, which I think is a damn good book. I’ve never seen the films, so I knew nothing about the story before reading. I really enjoyed it. The characters are well written, and are fully developed people. The plot moves along at a good pace, with good twists and turns coming throughout. I didn’t see the final act coming at all, not untill it was already happening.

The book presents a very possible and a little frightening dystopian vision of our society. There is a hint of the past, but there’s no dwelling on what came before, just future bleakness. With strong political undertones, Divergent is a pretty standard book about growing up and moving away from parents to find yourself in the world. It’s just presented in a very unique and engaging way.

I couldn’t put the book down, even staying up late to carry on reading. The ending was satisfying and set up the sequel perfectly. I can’t wait to read the second book. I know I’m a bit late to the party but this is a really good book and I highly recommend it.

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This is without a doubt the longest book I’ve ever gotten through. I did listen to it as an audio book, so I technically didn’t read it, but in my mind it still counts. I’m not sure where to start with this one. It’s humongous, over 1100 pages, or 48 hours of audio book.

I’m already a fan of Stephen King. I’m going to get round to reading everything he’s written eventually, so I already knew I was going to enjoy this. I’ve heard nothing but good things. The epic story deals with a post apocalyptic world and the raging battle between good and evil.

While there is a grand scale battle propelling the plot forward, most of the book focuses on a handful of characters on either side. While there are thousands of people living in both Boulder and Las Vegas we only really find out about a select few. Throughout the novel each of these characters is developed completely. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’ve known characters as fully developed as these. I found myself caring about each of these characters and feeling their struggle. The villains feel like real people as well, especially Harold Lauder whose story is simply tragic.

The book is very well written, and I loved the details that goes not only into the main characters but also random characters who die during the outbreak of the virus or just after. There are a couple of chapters that just deals with little characters who serve no purpose to the plot, but it all builds the world.

Overall I’ve finished two very good books in the last week. This week I’m going to be finishing Bonfire by Krysten Ritter and a short story collection, Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories by Bram Stoker.

Let me know if you have any recommendations?

Also check out my Facebook and Twitter pages and Patreon, where you can read chapters to my own book earlier than on here.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Time Heals… – Chapter One

I fell asleep at the desk again. Another deadline missed. I haven’t published anything in months, not even some stupid click bait crap. What’s the time? The red numbers are flashing at me in the darkness. The clock isn’t even set. What the hell happened? I spin the chair away from the table and kick a glass bottle, oh, that happened. My head. Why do I do this. Because I’m a failure? Obviously. I know that. Casey is going to be so angry with me, again. Another deadline missed means one less article for her website. I’m lucky she hasn’t sacked me already.

The phone has been ringing the whole time. That’s what woke me up, I just wasn’t completely aware of the world yet. It stops and the silence continues. At least I work from home, for now. I’m behind on bills, barely enough money for food and now I’ve messed up again. I don’t think I can borrow any more from anyone else. Casey gave me money for five, two thousand word pieces in advance after that first one. I succeeded on three of them. All crap, stuff that I researched from home. Click bait titles, nothing of substance but hey people click on them. I should just churn out two more and then settle. She’s never going to give me another advance though. If it wasn’t for that first article I would never have gotten the first one. I was able to expose a cheating ring run by the teachers at a local rich-kids school. Where their coursework was finished for them, as long as the parents paid. Big scandal, and it all broke on Casey’s website. Since then, nothing. A one time thing.

I wanted to be a big time reporter, actually report on things. That one story fell on my lap, and after that? Nothing. I was able to get some science research group from some university to lend me enough credibility to tell the world that sleeping with your legs straight helps blood flow – “Is the Way you Sleep Killing You?”. I wasn’t happy with the title either, but I needed to get something in. Since then it’s been two more badly researched, probably completely made up, articles. God, I don’t know what I’m doing.

The phone chimes up again. Should have switched it to voicemail.

“Hello?” I croak.

“Chris? It’s Casey. It’s Tuesday and no article in my inbox. What’s the deal? You told me it would be today.”

“Just a bit of a hang-up, give me a couple of hours. It’ll be there. I promise.”

“Your promises mean nothing to me. You’re just going to churn out some more crap that you’ve made up. What happened? I thought you actually wanted this job.”

“I do. I just.”

“Stop making excuses. There are plenty of stories out there. Not everything has to be some kind of scandal. There are other avenues.”

“Yeah, but that’s not how I work.”

“You don’t work at all. Don’t start with your crap again. I know you. I’ve known you since Uni. You always procrastinated. That’s why you nearly got kicked out twice. I stood by you then, but now. This is costing me money. I paid for your articles. I need those articles. Or the money back. It’s as simple as that. I can’t buy other people’s stories if I don’t have money. And if you aren’t going to make me money, then I want that money back.”

“Jesus, Casey. Call me at three in the morning. And expect me to just hand over all that money. I don’t have your money.”

“Chris, it’s half ten in the morning. If you looked outside your window, you’d know that.” Blackout curtains, a gift and a curse. “And you better have that money. I don’t want to get lawyers involved.”

“Come on, Casey. I don’t want lawyers either. Not that they would do much. It was just an agreement between friends.”

“That you signed on. It still counts if you were drunk. 5 articles. £250 each. Plus £1000 for the original article. You signed, and took the money. It’s been three months since the last one. How are you even affording to live?”

“Rent’s cheap when you don’t pay it, and claim unemployment at the same time.”

“Jesus. David. Get yourself together. You’re a joke.”

I know. I’m not proud of what I am. But what can I do. I’m a hack. I knew someone whose kids were going to that school. They told me about the deal, they didn’t want to pay it. They paid me instead to expose it. Since I was a journalist. I was sticking my neck on the line I told them. Fortunately they hadn’t read the crap I’d written up to that point. Ten things to do with a wet sponge. I hate my life. That’s how I afforded life. Click bait sells. Sells well. I thought this was my big break, it wasn’t. But I thought it was. I quit my other job, the original click bait crap. I was born anew. Going to stay sober and get things sorted. A proper journalist. Took me a while to get there, but I was still going to do it. My life dream was coming true. An actual story that actually mattered. And then nothing. I was a hack. Didn’t know where to start with the follow-up, wouldn’t have even got the first one published if it wasn’t for Casey.

“David. Are you there?”

“Yeah, Casey, I’m here. I’m sorry I messed up. I didn’t mean for it to get out of hand again, I thought this was my big break.”

“It was. You messed it up. But I still need those articles.”

“I know you do. I’ll get to work on it right now, I’ll have some crap by mid day, and then the next one will be something good. So good, you’ll want another contract signed straight away. I’ll even be sober for this one.”

“I don’t want more crap. No one actually reads that stuff. They might click it, but they don’t read past the title. I’ve got other writers, they write good stuff. But I need you to do this for me. Pull yourself together. I don’t like seeing you like this.”

Jesus, she actually cares that I’m a mess. Bless her.

“I don’t have any leads, and I don’t even know where to start. It’s been a real mess over here. I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”

“You don’t need to, I have a story. I have a friend, who works at a hospital. She told me about this suicide.”

“Yeah? And?”

“It happened in this nearby town. Where there hasn’t been a suicide in years. I’m talking a decade. No reported crime either. Nothing. This town hasn’t made a peep in a decade.”

“That doesn’t sound like a story.”

“It does. If everything is perfect there, why did someone suddenly commit suicide.”

“People get depressed. It’s not like there’s going to be some weird supernatural thing going on. I’m sure whatever town you’re on about has its own baggage. Everywhere does. Where is this anyway?”

“The hospital, it’s called Holy Trinity Hospital.”

“No.”

“Please you owe me.”

“I don’t owe you that much. I won’t do it. Get someone else. I’m not going back. I’ve spent my whole life escaping that place, I’m not going back.”

“Come on, it’s been like what? A decade?”

“I’m not doing it. I will hang up if you ask again.”

“Come on, we both know you’re not going to do that. It just requires a little bit of leg work. You’re the best person for the job. There is literally no better person. You know that. You’re from Westmeadow, literally the only I’ve ever met from the place. You have to go back at some point, might as well make it now.”

“I’m not going back, Case, listen to me. This is final. I will write you five more pieces today, all crap and all will get you clicks. That’s the end of it. I’m not going back there. I told you about my past in secret. Not for you to turn it against me. This is the end of the conversation.”

To Be Continued

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New Story Tomorrow (Or right now on Patreon!!)

Tomorrow I’ll be uploading the first chapter of “Time Heals…”, my new novel. I can’t wait for people to read it, I’m very happy with it so far. If like me you can’t wait that long then you can jump onto my patreon page and read it a day early. You’ll have access to my posts a day in advance and be supporting me at the same time. The story will be on here tomorrow either way so don’t feel like you have to.

I’ll be back next week with an update post and the second chapter of Time Heals…

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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Locked Door

There is a tree outside my window that was planted before I was born. It stretches up-towards the sky, branches spread wide, mid-yawn. A breeze pushing through the leaves is the only reminder that there is an outside. Even in summer only an autumn’s evening glaze reaches my room. My mum doesn’t like me to have the light on, unless it’s actually dark outside. My door remains closed. I want to open it, but I can’t. It’s jammed in the frame somehow. Warped. I tried pulling it and nothing happened. I’ve nearly bent the door handle off.

It doesn’t matter that I can’t get out. Someone will find me sooner or later. Mum or Dad will return from work and let me out. They always do. I could open the window, and scream for help. But no one  would listen. The tree muffles the scream of summer joy coming from children playing outside.

I should be at work today, but I’m not. They won’t mind. I called in sick, expecting some kind of questioning and got nothing. A one word answer and that was the end of it. A forgotten thought that doesn’t continue after the click. I can do everything I need to in this room. I can walk and exercise. Scraps of food will keep me going for a couple of days at least. Always a bottle of water left next to the computer.

The internet is down. Dad probably turned the plug off last night. He often does that. I can turn the computer on, but there is nothing to do. I could carry on writing a story, but no one reads it. I could play a game but I only have a couple and don’t feel like it.

I wish the sun would come into the room and perform its day long dance, slowly winding along the floor like a snake watching its prey. I would be able to tell something is moving then. That time isn’t just standing still. Frozen like a man watching a car crash.

I press the button on the remote but the red light doesn’t blink on the TV. Batteries may be dead. I don’t know. What’s the point though. Aerial TV disappeared a long time ago and I don’t have anything else to watch. I could watch static for a while, at least something would be moving. I can’t move from the bed to click the big button though.

I fetch my phone from the bed side table. The screen lights up the whole room, sucking away the darkness. My eyes transfixed. Slowly everything outside of the phone fades into complete blackness. I can’t see anything other than the screen. No new texts, no missed calls. I ran out of data so no internet for me. At least I can tell time is moving. I open the clock app and watch as the fake second hand moves around. 1 – 60. Then the fake minute hand moves once. I watch this a few times. The rest of the world has gone. The joy from outside is gone. The pale sunlight faded and it’s only eleven in the morning.

The door clicks open, I hear it but I don’t look up. I don’t move from the bed. My eyes glued to the empty screen of rotating illusion.

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Something New

It’s been a while since the last update post. I think about writing them, but I don’t want them all to just sound the same. It seems like now is a good time since The Broken Pocket Watch finished last week. I didn’t quite stick to the plan of uploading every week, but we got there in the end.

My plan is to continue editing it and then eventually release it as a physical book and ebook. It’s current state is still a bit of rough, with only a few edits. I’m sure there are tons of errors all over that I will have to find. I’m also having a cover made for the book at the moment, which seems to be coming along nicely.

This Friday I’m going to be uploading a piece of flash fiction that I wrote a couple of weeks back. I was suffering some writer’s block and decided to just write something new, quick and without much thought. I’m happy with what came out. The piece is called Locked Door. It’s not very long but I’m happy with it.

Next week I’m going to be uploading Chapter One from a new book that I’m writing. Still writing it now. It’s currently called Time Heals… but that may be changing at some point, it’s just a working title. I’m very happy with how this is turning out and am excited to hear people’s reactions. I don’t know how many chapters it will be, but I have a plan for the novel, a more detailed plan than I normally do.

Outside of writing, things in my life are pretty much the same. I’ve decided to stay away from binging TV shows, limiting it to only when I’m eating and in the evening. I’m slowly making my way through 12 Monkeys, which is dull and Jane the Virgin, which is anything but dull. There’s also the weekly shows, Star Trek Discovery, Riverdale and Black Lightning. I can take or leave any of these. Nothing special.

I’ve seen quite a few good films at the cinema recently, which isn’t surprising as it’s awards season. The Greatest Showman and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri are the standouts. Coco and The Post were also very good. Phantom Thread was decent enough.

I’ve also discovered the joys of audio books. My Mum was raving about how good they are so I started the free trial on audible, and am sold. I’ve been listening to The Stand by Stephen King which is something I’ve always wanted to read, but now I can listen while doing the washing up or walking to work. It took me a little while to actually pay attention properly but once I got used to it I was hooked. The book is great as well. I have about 9 hours left.

Thanks for Reading,

Ashley

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