Whitehurst’s Top 5 Reads of 2015

So many books and no time to nerd out.

Less than one book a month; that was all I could muster in ’15. I very nearly cleared twelve, so I was close. Had I finished that bad ass Six Million Dollar Man book I would have made it to one book a month, but alas. In 2015 I read eleven books, ranging from Mack Bolan Executioner novels to the California Naturalist Handbook. The Whitehurst’s Top 5 Reads of 2015, however, show a bit of appreciation for only two categories: Science Fiction and Fantasy, and two Monterey icons: Steinbeck and Miller.

A Portal in Time by Claire Fullerton

There’s a slight theme to my top five picks this year. Many of them take place in, or mention, areas in Monterey County along the California coast. Fullerton’s romantic time travel story feeds into my love of science fiction and fantasy and is set in the charming city of Carmel-by-the-Sea. The novel tells the story of Anna and Valeria (two women from different points in time) and how they came to fall in love with the respective men in their lives. You’ll have to read it for the time portal part!

Check out the book here.

A Devil in Paradise by Henry Miller

There’s nothing like a little Henry Miller to brighten one’s day. A Devil in Paradise focuses on one of Miller’s more colorful buds, who comes to visit the Miller family in lush Big Sur, and ends up being something of a massive pain in the ass. Such fun to read, likely because I can picture the area so well in my head, but also because I love the idea of living in seclusion, and furiously eschewing company in the process. As always, it takes a warmed-up “reading engine” to get the tempo of Miller’s style, but it’s always worth it.

Check out the book here.

Star Wars Aftermath by Chuck Wendig

The Battle of Endor is over, Darth Vader is cooked into a molten pile, and the world hates/loves Ewoks, but the Empire hasn’t gone away completely. The year 2015 will go down as a big one for Star Wars fans thanks to the Force Awakens (part of the reason for Aftermath’s release in the literary world no doubt). Wendig’s novel follows Wedge Antilles and other side characters from Star Wars canon on an exciting adventure of their own. For non-readers of Science Fiction, this is a simple-to-get Star Wars book. For Science Fiction fans; it’s a great addition to the universe of Jedi Knights, Wookies and people who have “a bad feeling about this.” Wendig writes in a nonchalant, almost humorous style. His Twitter feed, something I rarely read, actually led me to look past the negative reviews of his book and make my own decision – something I am glad I did. He’s a funny dude.

Find the book here.

Beacon 23 by Hugh Howey

This book was originally released in serial format. Five separate chapters popped up one after another – all forming a quirky, offbeat story of a man stationed to a lonely outpost in space named (you guessed it) Beacon 23. One thing after another happens to this station keeper, some quite funny (the rock!), and very funny (I can’t remember the last time I laughed out loud while reading). Recommended for anyone who likes Science Fiction that spends a lot of time in someone’s head.

Find the book here.

John Steinbeck: Centennial Reflections by American Writers edited by Susan Shillinglaw

This work counts as the shortest read in the bunch, but full of color. The book, edited by Susan Shillinglaw, offers views of literary icon John Steinbeck and Monterey, from writers of all flavors. Contributors include Peter Benchley, Mary Higgins Clark, Harper Lee, Ursula K. Le Guin, Norman Mailer and Tom Robbins just to name a few. Even if you hate J.S., read the book to see what these other fine writers thought. Some of them might have hated him too.

More information on the book can be found here.


High Octane Editing

While hard at work editing my soon to be published book/comic/news project “Mantula: have some discord” (collecting the entire online “Mantula” story), I thought I would share the process a little. This keeps me from editing, so it’s worth the effort. But then I thought, how boring, who actually reads blogs about someone editing a book? Instead I thought I would share the doodles I drew while I was supposed to be editing. Together they accurately describe the editing process.

And then I will edit.


Epilogue: Mantula in the news

Photo/Kip Mooney
A tarantula and a quail are clearly visible leaping from
a burning apartment in Cottownwood.

(Online news article)

Lone wolf reporter won’t stop

By Kip Mooney

Verde Valley Blog News

VERDE VALLEY, Ariz. – It’s true that I am responsible for the fire in Cottonwood that destroyed a handful of apartments. It’s true I tried to set another house on fire and that I cut the lower leg off a man there with an ax. It’s true I was out on bail for drug-related charges when all this happened.

What’s also true is that the man I attacked was once a tarantula, the very same spider I have been reporting about – both here on the Verde Valley Blog News and the Sedona Daily Reader. His name is Doug Lansing. After my initial arrest, while out on bail thanks to the good graces of my parents, I dreamed of the tarantula that assaulted me. I heard a woman’s voice in my head, though possibly it was all stress, which told me where to find him. But it wasn’t only that. Strange emails appeared in my inbox with no reply address. These were emails responding to my wanted poster, again telling me where to find Doug and his accomplices. And the voices in my head urged me to set fire to the whole place, to finish the monster once and for all. Of the dreams of a crazy old woman urging me to commit arson, urging me to kill, I have no rational answer. But they were right!

I found his apartment and the creatures congregating there. They were monsters – all of them, grotesquely large and acting, behaving, like people! The picture accompanying this piece, which shows an explosion outside of the apartment, clearly shows two survivors leaping from the apartment. Call me a lunatic, call me a psychotic, call me a freak, a villain, a loser, call me whatever you want, but I know what I have seen is real. And I will not stop until I’ve chased Lansing and his cohorts down, exposed them for the monsters they truly are.

As I write this, crews are rebuilding the apartment complex after the fire. The fate of those creatures I saw outside of the apartment are unknown to me. Diana Sturgis’s whereabouts are unknown to me, though I have no doubt in my mind she is harboring them somewhere. When I get out of prison I intend to find out.

This is my promise to you, dear readers. The Verde Valley Blog News will not rest until this story is told, until these creatures are brought under public scrutiny. Only there’s very little I can do while incarcerated for who knows how long but write these words, there are others in the community that might read these words and want to take action. I call upon you to do just that!

Unfortunately I can no longer offer any kind of reward for your services. I wish I could. My parents cancelled the check after my second arrest.