Sunday Book Review – The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

This weekend’s book review post is going to be a bit different than usual.

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted a Sunday Book Review, but I have a legitimate excuse. Originally, my intent was to review an indie book each weekend (and that’s still the goal, for the most part). However, as some of you saw on Twitter, a couple weeks ago I discovered a used English bookstore in downtown Barcelona, so I simply had to go. Twice. Possibly three times.

For less than twenty euros I picked up a beautiful copy of the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with Fragile Things, Neverwhere, and the Ocean At The End Of The Lane, all by Neil Gaiman.

How am I supposed to set those books on the shelf and not read them? Before discovering this wonderful little place tucked away in a smelly side street behind some random cathedral, I was reading As The Crow Flies, by Robin Lythgoe, and believe me I was enjoying it. But…but…Neil Gaiman, people!

Now, a week or two later, I’ve finished The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and Neverwhere and am 100 pages into The Fellowship Of The Ring. I still fully intend to finish ATCF and review it, but I’m a reader before I’m a blogger, so I’m allowing myself this divergence.

That being said, I simply cannot withhold a review of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, even if it’s not an indie book. So, here we go! Don’t worry, no spoilers here.


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The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

by Neil Gaiman

Genre according to Amazon: contemporary fantasy.

Length (print): 243 pages.

How I found it: by hunting down every Neil Gaiman book ever written.

Blurb (dust jacket): 

It began for our narrator forty years ago when the family lodger stole their car and committed suicide in it, stirring up ancient powers best left undisturbed. Dark creatures from beyond this world are on the loose, and it will take everything our narrator has just to stay alive: there is primal horror here, and menace unleashed–within his family and from the forces that have gathered to destroy it.

His only defence is three women, on a farm at the end of the lane. The youngest of them claims that her duckpond is an ocean. The oldest can remember the Big Bang.

My thoughts

Simply put, this book is amazing. Here are some of it’s greatest strengths (in my opinion):

  1. A lovable narrator/protagonist for whom you cheer from the first sentence. He’s so well developed that it wasn’t until a few days after finishing the book that I realized we never actually find out his name.
  2. Intense and sometimes dark scenes/moments told oh so efficiently and innocently from the eyes of a seven-year-old.
  3. An ending that left me with water coming out of my face and that little ache in my chest that only comes at the end of such a book.
  4. Can easily be read in 1-2 sittings, due to both its brevity and its pacing.
  5. An appreciation for mystery and the unknown (not everything gets spelled out clearly; I will probably re-read just for that reason).
  6. The cover. I know it’s just a cover…but come on. It’s gorgeous.
  7. A perfect blend of fantastical and magical elements with tangible, mundane places and habits from the author’s own childhood.
  8. Did I mention the emotion-overflow-inducing ending?

Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, so I’m a bit biased, but I honestly don’t know if there was anything in this book that I didn’t like. I will, however, point out that there is one instance of (merely mentioned) nudity and one (separate) instance of sexual implications. Both have their part in the plot and are told very briefly from the perspective of the seven-year-old narrator, so there is nothing explicit or unwarranted. The book may look like a children’s story, but I wouldn’t consider it so, nor would the author, in my understanding/reading of his own take on the story.

My rating: 5/5 stars. 

(It’s a no-brainer)

Once again, this review is just my opinion. Yours may differ, and that’s fine! My plan is to finish As The Crow Flies by next weekend and thus get back on track with indie reviews. For more reviews and other posts, be sure to subscribe!

Top 10 Fantasy Books (So Far)

I read a lot of fantasy. In fact, I read almost exclusively fantasy. It dominates my bookshelf and my Kindle. Because of my love for the genre, I was quite surprised this morning when I realized I hadn’t ever made a list of my favorite fantasy books (I love lists almost as much as I love books).

My listlessly listless existence ends today, though it is not listlessly that I list this list. Here are my top 10 fantasy books so far. Don’t worry, no spoilers!

Note 1: this list will indubitably change as I read more books, and I’m only including books that I have read myself, so books like the Percy Jackson series or some newer releases aren’t included .

Note 1: I’m not limiting myself to high/epic fantasy. Some of these books may technically be of another genre (sci-fi or paranormal, for instance), but I consider them to be at least partially under the fantasy umbrella.

#10 The Two Towers

by J. R. R. Tolkien

the two towers

The Lord of The Rings trilogy is legendary, both the books and the movies. I think in either case the second installment is my favorite.

#9 The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

the graveyard book

I’m on a Neil Gaiman reading spree, and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors ever. The Graveyard Book may not be the most action-packed of his stories, but it’s beautifully told, and the ending packs an emotional punch.

#8 The High King

by Lloyd Alexander

high king

Lloyd Alexander was the first author to draw me into the fantasy realm, and the final book of the Prydain Chronicles was a literary landmark in my life. The characters…read the series, and you. Will. Love. Them.

#7 Bringer of Storms

by L. B. Graham

bringer of storms

The second book of The Binding of the Blade series, Bringer of Storms is potentially the darkest of them all, but it’s a riveting installment in a very fulfilling series.

#6 Circles of Seven

by Bryan Davis

circles of seven

The Dragons In Our Midst series impacted me as a teen more than I can explain, and Circles of Seven, the third book, is my favorite. If there was ever a protagonist you can identify with and want to be more like, it’s Billy Bannister.

#5 Stardust

by Neil Gaiman

stardust

The second Neil Gaiman book to make the list, Stardust was actually the first book I read by that author. It’s short and simple, but oh so beautiful.

#4 Artemis Fowl and the Eternity Code

by Eoin Colfer

eternity code

If I’m being honest, I think any of the eight Artemis Fowl novels would be the most entertaining book on this list. The characters are so different and so much fun. Not only that, but the fourth book of the series, The Eternity Code, will entertain you and murder your emotions.

#3 The Name of the Wind

by Patrick Rothfuss

the name of the wind

With only two books written and the third on the way, either one of the Kingkiller Chronicles installments could have taken spot number three. The first book is about 1000 pages long, and I made it through in a few days. I think the best thing about it is that it focuses on a handful of characters, as opposed to the 100-point-of-view-character epics that bore me to death (no offense, Jordan).

#2 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

by J. K. Rowling

goblet of fire

I’m only specifying one book because I told myself I wasn’t allowed to include entire sagas in this list. That being said, all of the HP books deserve a spot, but I have to go with Goblet of Fire as my all-time favorite.

Honorable mentions

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (Gaiman) (currently reading), The Hobbit (Tolkien), The Horse and His Boy (Lewis), This Present Darkness (Peretti).

#1 Brisingr

by Christopher Paolini

brisingr

I’ve never enjoyed nor immersed myself in a book as much as I did when reading Brisingr for the first time. I finished Eragon and Eldest before the third book of the Inheritance Cycle came out, so I was beyond excited to get my hands on it. Out of the four books, Brisingr is the most epic, the most action-packed, the most exciting, and the most I-can’t-put-this-down. Those who know me know that I have a love-hate relationship with the Inheritance Cycle, and it’s true. I think Eldest (the second book) was tedious for the most part, and Inheritance (the final book) was a big disappointment (not to mention the multiple instances of “inspiration” also known as plagiarism). That being said, Brisingr was and is a masterpiece, and it takes my top spot of fantasy books so far.


That completes my top 10 fantasy books I’ve read so far! I’ll definitely be updating this list in the coming months, as I plan on reading a lot. I’m sure your list is different from mine, but instead of throwing baby hippos at me, let me know what some of your favorites are!

20 Things I Love To See In Books

Anyone who’s gotten to know me a bit knows that I’m both a pessimist and fanatically snarky. That combination leads to blog posts like 20 Bookish Pet Peeves, in which I spend 300 words complaining.

In the spirit of compensating a bit for my general sarcasm and negativity (judge not, lest ye be judged), here is a list of 20 things I love to see in/on a book.

In/on physical books…

Black covers. I’m a sucker for black book covers (maybe because it’s my favorite color?)

Illustrated cover art.

Balanced size. I want my books to look good together on the shelf.

Contrasting colors. When do contrasting colors ever not look good?

Matte covers.

A short 1-2 paragraph blurb on the back cover, along with a quotation or snippet of dialogue.

That unique creamy paper color and the bookish smell that comes with it.

Appropriate size balance between the title and the author’s name.

Simple yet elegant title fonts.

Comfortable text/line spacing, even if it means more pages.


In the story…

Genuine relationships, romantic or otherwise.

Witty, quick humor in dialogue.

Man vs nature as a plot device.

Bittersweet endings (they hurt, but they’re the best).

Looming physical threats/stakes (as opposed to only emotional/situational).

Outdoor/nature/survival settings.

Build-up towards a climactic showdown involving major and minor characters.

A clear story structure and progression. I want to know where we’re going and how soon we have to get there.

Fantastical creatures, mythological and/or original.

A distinction of what is right and what is wrong and respect for the boundaries between the two.


Once again, this list is simply my opinion. If what you like to see in a book differs from what I like, please refrain from throwing kumquats at me. Instead, drop a comment and share what makes you grab a book and never put it down!

5 Things You Need To Be A Writer

So, you like telling stories, and you figure you’ll take a shot at getting those stories down on paper. After all, authors rake in cash on a daily basis, and you want in! Long story short, you want to be a writer. Here’s what you’ll need to get started…

A good story idea, as illustrated below.

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Desk and posture-favoring chair, as illustrated below.

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Pet or companion of choice (most writer kits come with a sample cat, as illustrated below).

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Bookshelf space for your bestseller, as illustrated below.

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Coffee or tea to keep you alert and productive, as illustrated below.

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And that’s all there is to it! Now you can be a writer!

(Disclaimer: I spent way too much time throwing this together. I should go write, as illustrated above.)

 

 

20 Bookish Pet Peeves

Here are some of my pet peeves regarding books and the stories contained in them. Some of them are widely shared, while some may just be mine to hoard because I’m…special.

Physical book pet peeves…

Books of a series with different cover designs and/or heights.

Models/stock photos on book covers.

Books that don’t stay standing up.

Mixing fiction and nonfiction on the same shelf.

When people mistreat their books (see this article).

Books too short and thick to comfortably hold open.

Book series that follow the overdone blue-red-green-gold color scheme (or similar).

Books with a massive author photo on the back cover.

Stickers on book covers.

Books without a summary/blurb on the back cover (or at least in the dust jacket).

Book/story content pet peeves…

Titles revolving around the cliche ice/fire concept.

Love triangles.

The character whose sole purpose is to foil the protagonist’s significant relationship.

Excessive or confusing description.

A protagonist motivated only by fate/destiny.

Prophecies.

Elemental (fire, water, earth…) magic.

Overly archaic dialogue.

Chapters that are only a page or two long.

Lazy or unimaginative character names.


Of course, these are all just my opinion. What are some of your bookish pet peeves? You should totally make your own list and share it! Maybe in the near future I’ll write a post on 20 things I love to see in books to make up for this one…

 

 

 

10 Ways To Kill Your Daily Writing

In which the Snark strikes again…here are ten ways to bring your writing day to a grinding halt.

Wait to start writing until inspiration hits you.

Neglect your coffee maker.

Depend on optimal circumstances for writing.

Just one more Youtube video…

Give in to the “I’m just not feeling it” vibe.

Keep social media tabs open in the background.

Get overwhelmed by unattainable word-count goals.

Do everything your cat demands of you.

Make edits at the end of each paragraph.

Stop believing that you can, in fact, sit down and write.

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Have you been following these steps today? Then congratulations! You’ve killed your writing for the day. Hurray for you! Thank you for participating, and come again soon.