Man vs Bookshelf: Odd Thomas (1-3)

This entry is part 34 of 40 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

I’m sure you think this series is about reviewing books.

That’s my fault.

I wasn’t clear. I’ve done enough to make you think it could be about reviewing books.

But it isn’t.

Or, at least, That’s not the thrust of what it’s about.

This series is about my attempts to read every book on my bookshelf in 210 weeks (cause 210 books). The blog is my way of keeping you up to date on my progress. To allow you to share in my struggles, my triumphs, and, where applicable, my boredom.

The reviews are added value. Unless you read them.

Still, I suppose they have become the focus of a lot of these blogs. That’s why I want to explain they aren’t the point. Because recently I’ve fallen well off the boil when it comes to reading, which comes hot on the heels of this year already being a bad year for writing.

So, there will be a review but said review will be a little further down the page. Scroll straight to it if you like, but first, let’s talk about my favourite topic.

Me.

A disclaimer

I’ve not written a blog in ages. That’s what I’ll be talking about here. But, it’s important to note, you wouldn’t have ever noticed, had I not mentioned it.

See, as I’ve said before, I try to write as far ahead as possible.

That means, although I haven’t written a blog in three weeks, they still land every five days. That’s because I was so vigilant at keeping up with my blog writing until a few weeks ago.

So, what was it that threw me off my blogging course, when I’ve been so good since I started, a few months ago?

Don’t blame the children

First off, I’d like the blame the children.

See, three weeks ago, I became the father of two beautiful boys – Rick and Daryl. Then, a week later, to a beautiful girl called Elsbeth.

Now, I know what you’re thinking.

“Mark, I know you’re girlfriend wasn’t pregnant. You would have told us. There must not be actual children, I’m thinking we’re talking pets. Hmmm, what pets though? Hamsters?”

And to that I say, yes, that’s exactly right.

Three weeks ago, on a whim, Fay and I went out and bought ourselves some pets.

Why? I’m not sure, but we don’t regret it.

I’ll talk a bit more about the hamsters next week (no, please still read). But for now, let’s talk about why they’ve damaged my blog writing.

The issue is my schedule. It used to be the case I would come home from work, watch something on telly box, then start writing.

I would work on my next book until nine, go in the bath and read, then get into bed, and read.

Often I would clock up almost three hours of reading a night, so I was going great guns. Racing through one book every three days. I would then write my blogs as at work during my lunch break, finishing up any leftovers at the weekend.

As I may have discussed before, from the beginning of the year I’ve dropped off a cliff with my fiction writing.I was doing over an hour per weekday and up to twenty hours at a weekend. All this stopped with 2018. I’ve been struggling with the plots and plans (not to be confused with my pots and pans, which have been in great form) for my latest novel and it’s killed my motivation.

Despite this drop-off, I hadn’t stopped reading. Night after night I would plough through pages and press on with my blogging during work days. It was the one scrap of productivity I had to cling to as my fiction writing continued to suffer.

Then came the hamsters.

I should say, at this juncture, I do not begrudge the hamsters anything. I love them as much as anyone has ever loved a hamster and more than it must be possible to love a child.

But, they are nocturnal. It’s in their genes. Passed down from their wild ancestors, who needed that time and a half night shift wage to pay their bills.

What this means for our hamsters is they don’t tend to rise till gone nine. Then we have to get them out of their cage and play with them as they try to make daring escape after daring escape.

It’s their favourite game.

This done, we put them back gone eleven and by then it’s time for bath and bed, with little time to spare for much else. Reading included.

Despite this, I’ve still managed to knock out a book a week. But that’s a far slower rate than it was pre-hamsters, and it’s affected my blogging output too.

The knock on effect

The knock on effect of having read less is, for a good couple of weeks, there was no blog for me to write.

As such, I got used to sitting around at lunch doing other important stuff. Reading Sky Sports News, getting caught up with Eastenders, and so on. All things that took me away from the blogging mindset.

As has been the case with my writing, once the habit has been knocked, it is hard to reinstate.

So, although I finished the last Odd Thomas book a week ago, I didn’t actually do any blogging at work during the week. It was one excuse after another.

Not good enough.

The Root Cause

As ever, while the hamsters and habit are contributing causes, there is a root cause.

Me.

The reason I’ve been blogging less is the same as the reason I’ve been writing less.

I have lost my motivation.

I have let myself down.

I have stopped trying as hard.

I know I need to get myself together and find a way to start making things work again. Whether that means working around the hamsters or forging more time to read and write elsewhere in the day, I know that I can do it.

All that needs to kick back in, is the motivation to do so.

That’s for me to sort out, and I can only promise you, my adoring fans, that I will try my best.

So, that’s my Man vs Bookshelf update, so you understand where I’m at. Now, let’s talk about them damn books.

Odd Thomas 1-3

I don’t know all too much about Dean Koontz, and I’ve never read a Koontz book before, so let’s skip that bit of the review.

All I had in my head about him was that he was a bit like Stephen King. Writing horror books that focused on the supernatural, but not much else.

As for the first three Odd Thomas books, I picked them up in The Works a few years ago. Part of one of those brilliant deals they so often have.

No one had recommended the Odd books to me. I picked them up because I read the blurb, and liked the sound of them. Besides, it didn’t matter if they were any good or not. They were books purchased by me, and that meant they were going on the bookshelf without ever being read.

Which is exactly what happened.

When it came to categorising my books into three categories (Pro, Mid and Woe) they went straight into the top bracket. Because they looked good, and I was excited to get into them.

But what did I think?

The Premise

Obviously, there are three books here and I’m not going to go much into spoiler territory. Instead, I’ll lay out the premise for you.

The Odd Thomas series is about a young man called Odd Thomas. Aside from his super powers of having a weird name and being exceedingly polite, he is also able to see dead people.

They come to him, in his small desert based California town and, although they never talk, they seek help from him. Help to find justice, and to move on from this world to the next.

It’s an intriguing premise and one that marks a fantastic starting point. But, as we all know, a great premise can be killed if not held up by a fabulous character and a stunning story.

The Character

Luckily for Odd Thomas, Odd Thomas more than holds up his end of the bargain as lead character.

Aside from the aforementioned politeness and weird name, he is also very likeable. Not least because he is intelligent and witty.

He is also a proper hero. Unlikely (in that he’s a short order cook) but willing. Driven by a sense of duty that says he has to do something with this gift, even if he does not always want to do so.

Basically, with great power comes great responsibility.

He also has a murky background. His father is useless and his mother is dangerous. He has survived a difficult upbringing and Koontz has it haunting him across the first three Odd Thomas books to fantastic effects.

Odd is never boring, and I enjoyed immensely taking the ride of each story with him.

And speaking of the story…

The Story

All three books are well plotted, well placed and well, uh, good.

That’s the least we can ask from any book, isn’t it?

What I really like about the Odd Thomas books is the period of time over which each story takes place.

Each one begins with some incident kicking off the story, thrusting Odd immediately into investigation. They do not stop until it finishes, except for short periods of sleep.

The books are no longer than two days each. This adds to the pace of the story as a whole, dragging the reader along and making it a difficult book to put down.

Round-up

I gave each of these books a four out of five, and would highly recommend them.

Maybe the above is not much of a review but that’s because, with the best books, there often isn’t so much to say.

Here we have a great premise, kicking off into a fast-paced, exciting story, all led by an interesting and witty character.

Honestly, what more could you want?

Next Time

Next time up we’re moving away from fiction once again and diving into another football autobiography

This time, it’s Harry Redknapp.

Plus probably a bit more on the hamsters.

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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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