Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (4/5)

1 Jun

As much as I hear about Neil Gaiman and how much everyone loves him, I’ve never read any of his solo books. I read Good Omens, which he co-wrote with the late Terry Pratchett, but never any solo work. Once again, book clubs come to save the day with pushing me outside my comfort zone. Yay, book clubs!

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Summary from Goodreads:

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

I didn’t know what to think of this book. It was good, I enjoyed it, but it was so short and so fantastical that I never got into it completely. I understand why this book is targeted at adults, but the content felt overly juvenile at times. I liked remembering what it was like to be a child and believe what you are told and trust things you cannot see. I liked the characters. I just never connected with them.

It’s hard to comment on the characters credibility because half of them were under a spell, and the other half were fantastical beings of otherworldly power. Old Mrs. Hempstock reminded me of my grandmother and made me so happy to read about. Lettie was the cool friend we all wanted to have, and Ursula was the evil babysitter everyone remembered. But there was a thread of magic to all of them that made them just unbelievable enough to not seem human.

Lettie was an obvious favorite. I loved her sly comments or refusals to answer some questions and her vast knowledge. Even though she was aged well beyond her 11 years, she was still a child in maturity to her mother and grandmother. She was caring when she didn’t have to be, especially to our un-named narrator. I would have loved to be her friend.

As is the case with a lot of fantasy works, I had trouble relating to the characters only because their lives are so different from my own. I’ve never had to use magic to trick my parents or had an evil worm in my foot or been stalked by hungry shadow birds. I can’t relate to this. What I can relate to is the feeling a child has that what’s going on around him seems magical and unbelievable and that it’s impossible to explain it to an adult. Adults aren’t ready to open their minds as readily to things that can’t be explained. I liked that Gaiman brought back this memory.

Neil Gaiman Image via the Huffington Post

Neil Gaiman
Image via the Huffington Post

I liked the scenes with Ursula. She was a great antagonist and embodied everything children remember hating about babysitters and adults. I liked the narrator’s reactions to her and that she was so evil in her manipulation that she was easy to hate.

I didn’t like the first time the narrator went to the Hempstock farm. There was a lot that wasn’t explained, and it frustrated me as a reader not to understand what was going on. I would have asked more questions than the narrator did because I’m not as trusting as a child.

Gaiman wants adults to remember what it’s like to be a child; to be trusting and confused and scared and innocent. It’s hard for adults to remember what this is like. I didn’t remember it well, but Gaiman’s book gave me a bit of a memory. I wonder how he’s able to remember childhood so vividly.

Writer’s Takeaway: As a writer, you are responsible to set a scene for your readers; something so intense they can believe they’re there. Suggestions I’ve heard include involving all five senses. That is much easier said than done. But Gaiman does it wonderfully. He speaks at length about the incredible food the Hempstocks cook, which helps with taste and smell. I could taste and smell the pancakes, and it helped bring the setting to life. I liked that he utilized this trick because it brought me more into the book.

Enjoyable and fun, but not the genre for me. Four out of Five stars.

Until net time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Related Posts:
Review – Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane | The Blog was Better
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Vulpes Libris
Meeting Neil Gaiman | Geek Madel

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WWW Wednesday, 20-May-2015

20 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


CloudAtlasCurrently reading:  Minor progress on La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Two more book club books coming my way so I can’t even promise I’ll get to this soon.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’ve been having to make a lot of calls in my care lately or have been with someone else so I’ve slowed this down a bit. I hope to pick it up again soon.
Things are going more quickly with The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. The plot is moving very quickly and I’m really enjoying it.
I started a new eBook, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. I’m really excited about this one because it’s been #1 on my TBR for about a year now. I tried starting it once  a while back and never made it past page five. I’m beyond that already now. This should be a fun ride.
I’ve got a new book club selection as well.  The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff. Not too far into it yet and I’m excited that it will help me fulfill the 1800s for my When Are You Reading? Challenge. I need to focus on this one more.

OceanRecently finished: I absolutely flew through Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. I haven’t read a memoir in a while and it was really refreshing. Knox’s story is fascinating, even if what I read was biased and has been called into question. I hope to review it soon.
I also finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. This was a great little story. It was a bit more fantastical than I was anticipating, but I still enjoyed it a lot.

I wrote one review this week, Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Take a look and let me know what you thought of these books.

WidowReading Next: My work book club selected our next book and it will be A Widow for One Year by John Irving. I’m stupidly excited for this selection because it’s off of my TBR and Irving is my favorite writer of all time. I can’t get my hands on it soon enough!


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 13-May-2015

13 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


KnoxCurrently reading:  I was able to read just a little bit of La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Right now, it’s looking like I’ll have time for it more this summer but not much before then. Stay tuned.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. It’s good and I like it, but I’m not going to be moving very quickly through it.
I’m enjoying The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. I’ve gotten to the part that’s more of a story line and less of a generic flashback/back story. I like this a lot more.
I’m really enjoying my eBook, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. It feels good to be reading a memoir again and this one is really riveting.
My newest book club selection is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. It’s a nice short one I hope I can knock out in one week!

InnerRecently finished: I flew through my latest book club selection, The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. I enjoyed the fast-paced thriller even though it’s not normally my genre. I did find it a bit far-fetched, which is normally my complaint. Review coming soon.

I wore a review for The White Tiger that posted Monday. I’d been talking about this book for a long time and a lot of you asked about it so click over there to see my thoughts.

BohemiansReading Next: Next Monday I’ll get a copy of The Bohemians by Ben Tarnoff. It’s our bi-annual non-fiction which I tend to either love or hate. We’ll see.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday, 6-May-2015

6 May

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at Should be Reading and revived here on Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

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The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


KingfisherCurrently reading:  No movement with La Sombra del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I’m hoping to get back to it really soon, though. I’ve sped through a few books so have some time to read this between book club selections.
Still going with A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. I’m liking it so far. I hope the story lines start to cross more because they seem a bit disjointed.
I’m enjoying The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine. It’s pretty great and I’m sad that it’s only 8 hours.
I began a new book club selection, The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer. The author is going to be in town soon to speak so there will be a few more posts on this book and this author. Stay tuned!
I just grabbed a new eBook, Waiting to be Heard: A Memoir by Amanda Knox. I haven’t read a memoir in a while and the Amanda Knox story sounds like a really good one!

White TigerRecently finished: I finished The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I didn’t expect to like it too much, but I did enjoy it. My book club discussion will hopefully be tomorrow and I’ll get to see what the other ladies though.
I also finished Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins which was my ebook for the past few months. It was very different from what I normally read and I liked the story but wasn’t a fan of the characters. I’m looking forward to writing a review on it and sorting out my feelings on it.

OceanReading Next: Nothing immediate, especially because I hope to work on ‘Sombra.’ In a few weeks, I’ll be getting a copy of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman for book club. I’m excited to read my first solo Gaiman work. The only other one of his I’ve read was Good Omens, co-written with Terry Pratchett.


Leave a comment with your link and a comment (if you’re so inclined). Take a look at the other participant links in the comments and look at what others are reading.

Have any opinions on these choices?

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on GoodreadsFacebookTwitterPinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Friday Book Memes, 27-March-2015

27 Mar

Welcome to the busiest week of my life edition of Book Blogger Hop, Book Beginnings and The Friday 56 hosted by Coffee Addicted WriterRose City Reader and Freda on Freda’s Voice. It’s likely that I’m on a plane as you read this. Head on over there and check out the other participating blogs.

Book Blogger Hop

This is my first Book Blogger Hop and I plan to make this a recurring thing (as long as I like the questions!). This week’s question is,

Which books have you read in the past month that still have you thinking back to the storyline and the characters?

Looking up what books I read this past month I had the rude realization I’ve only read two. Yikes! I guess that means I’m going with The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan. This book tells the story of the woman who worked to enrich uranium for the Manhattan Project. What I’m still thinking about is what I would do if I were in the shoes of the characters in this book. They didn’t know that what they were working on would be the most deadly weapon of the age and kill innocent civilian Japanese. The question became, do the ends justify the means? If it ends the war and saves American soldiers, is it worth the casualties? This is sticking with me because I just saw American Sniper as well and I have the same question about that story as well.


 

My book turn-over is pathetic right now so I’ve yet again returned to my bookshelf to pick up a title to share. In memory of Terry Pratchett and his passing recently, I decided to pick up Good Omens which Pratchett co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

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Book Beginnings is all about that very important opening sentence (or two) that us writers are always worrying about!

It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet. But clouds massing east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.

I had to post a few sentences for this one. The first two sentences are pretty much a ‘writing no-no’ because describing the weather is very high up on the list of ‘ways not to start your novel.’ But the direction that Gaiman and Pratchett go with it is awesome. You realize very quickly that we’re talking about the beginning of time when God created the world. Bravo Gaiman and Pratchett.


 

Friday 56

The way this meme works is pretty simple. If you want to join in, head over to Freda’s blog and add your link.

Rules:
*Grab a book, any book (I grab the one I’m currently reading)
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader
*Find any sentence, (or few, just don’t spoil it) that grab you.
*Post it.

Page 56 brings us a conversation between and angel and a demon. Their drunken conversation goes like this:

“Heaven has no taste.”
“Now–”
“And not one single sushi restaurant.”
A look of pain crossed the angel’s suddenly very serious face.

I remember this book being funny and enjoyable, but you can’t take it too seriously. It’s a comedy about the apocalypse, after all. If you like a comedy of the type this conversation shows, this is a solid read. A good laugh between more serious dramas.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!