The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman | Book Review

ocean

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman follows an unnamed narrator as he recalls strange/terrifying events from his childhood involving a young girl named Lettie Hempstock and her family.

Gaiman’s book is definitely different. It’s one of those books where things just kind of happen. The fantastical elements all come with little explanation. However, the book hints at some lore behind what’s going on (but there’s never really any detailed explanation, everything is vague. It is a short book after all).

I don’t think this is a problem for the novel since it ends up working. The story is still very captivating with all its strangeness. I thought the dynamic between the narrator and Lettie was very well done.

There’s a villain named Ursula Monkton that has some prominence in the story but she isn’t the only obstacle the narrator face. I thought she had the potential to be a great villain but the book doesn’t really do much with her by the end. So, that’s a slight flaw but I will say other elements make up for it. I thought the imagery was good, for example.

I can’t say this book is for everyone. Like I said, things just kind of happen. There’s many references to other worlds, creatures, etc. but nothing that goes into detail. I found that a bit frustrating but I think the book was meant to have a fairy tale type feel.

Even though I thought Gaiman’s book was a nice little read…it still feels like there’s something missing by the end. Almost like it doesn’t reach its full potential. That’s why I can’t see myself putting it on a favorite list or anything. Still, it’s a nice read. 3.5/5

 

 

Advertisements

Panic by Lauren Oliver | Book Review

0panic

So, the most recent book I’ve read is Panic by Lauren Oliver. Oliver is one of my favorite authors and hasn’t disappointed me yet (except for, maybe, the third Delirium book.) Here I’ll breakdown what works in the book and what doesn’t.  (slightly spoiler-ish)

Idea/Creativity: When I first read the synopsis for this book I wasn’t so impressed – it sounded like it would be another Hunger Games rip off. Luckily, it turned out not to be. Panic is about girl in a crummy town that gets in on a local tradition among high schoolers. That tradition is a game called Panic which basically involves doing a series of dangerous stunts. The prize is a large sum of money. The main character, Heather, plays the game as her personal life is in turmoil. There’s also romantic tension between her and her friend Bishop along the way. A selected group of judges oversee the competition and their identities are kept fiercely secret.  This is the jist of the novel.

The idea isn’t bad. It may not be a Hunger Games rip-off but it’s not particularly original.  If I had to rate on creativity alone I can’t say I would rate all that highly. However, this doesn’t mean the book is bad – plenty of unoriginal books are still fun to read. I feel that the author does well with the premise although the basic idea feels like it’s been done before.

Story Flow: This is a pretty fast read. Much of the story revolves around the game, of course. But the characters still have a lot of personal conflict the story focuses (However, the threat of the game and when the next event will be always looms over their head) on. So I would say there’s never really a dull moment in the story since there’s always something significant going on. It also constantly switches between characters Dodge and Heather’s point of view and this helps the story move fast.

Characters: The main characters are Heather and Dodge, whose POVs the book is told from (mainly third-person limited). Dodge has revenge on his mind since his sister was paralyzed in the game during the final challenge. Heather wants to escape the town of Carp and give a better life to her sister, Lily. Both of them are good main characters. They’re flawed with good intentions, and I thought they would have made a better relationship dynamic than Heather and Bishop did.

The other important characters are Natalie and Bishop, Heather’s two best friends. Out of the main cast, Natalie is the worst. She was extremely annoying. Heather deserved a better best friend and Dodge deserved a better love interest. As for Bishop, he’s not as bad but he is boring. The relationship between him and Heather fell completely flat, in my opinion.

Main characters aside, the side characters are one of the biggest flaws of the book. There’s supposed to be other people in the game but we learn almost nothing about them – they’re essentially like nameless entities. There’s a character named Ray (that Dodge has bone to pick with) who lasts to the very end but we never get to know much about him – he’s completely one-dimensional like all the others outside of the main ones. Even Dodge and Heather’s sisters lack any true depth.

There is a kind woman named Anne who befriends Heather but she didn’t have much development either. Her main characteristic is that she has a farm. And there’s a couple tigers on that farm.

Setting: The story takes place in a town called Carp. It’s a boring, soul crushing place. In fact, one of the claims in the book is that Panic got started because the teens simply had nothing to do. There’s also a lot going behind closed doors with drugs and such (as seen through Heather’s home life). I thought the setting was well done. It really captured the dread that crappy small towns can carry.

Ending: Heather gets a pretty good ending but Dodge’s was a bit disappointing and there wasn’t much closure when it came to him. However, the narrative clearly favors Heather more so she’s the one that ended up finishing the final challenge. Which the story shows with some cool imagery involving a tiger. Even though Dodge deserved a better ending, I think the book had a decent end regardless.

Final Thoughts: Panic is a good book. It may not do anything new and has its flaws but it’s a good book. Following Heather and Dodge is fun and intense to read about. Some of the challenges are cool but I mostly like how the game is incorporated into the sadness of the main characters.

Due to how much I enjoyed the book overall, I will give it a solid 4.5/5.

Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp | Book Review

jane-emily

Jane-Emily is a short Young Adult horror/ghost novel about a little girl named Jane who goes to spend a summer at her grandmother’s house with her Aunt Louisa, whose also the narrator of the story. A girl named Emily who died at a young age previously lived in the house and unlike Jane she was a selfish, spoiled girl. Emily still lingers in the house and Jane can feel her, Emily also has some terrible plans for the girl.

This book was apparently out of print for awhile and now it’s back due to popular demand. Well I wasn’t alive when it was popular and I heard about it through recommendation. I thought the premise sounded cool and I love ghost stories when their done right. Was Jane-Emily done right? Kind of but overall I was a bit disappointed.

The build up was good, but the ending it built up to was disappointing. It ended way too quickly for me, I just didn’t feel satisfied. Still, it’s far from a terrible book I wasn’t bored while reading and there were some good scenes. The characters were decent even though I can’t say they were that memorable or anything. Emily was pretty interesting and the best times were learning more and more about her.

So in the end I wish it would of just wrapped things up better. 3/5

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams | Book Review

the-chosen-one

The Chosen One is a Young Adult book follows the story of a young girl named Kyra who lives in an isolated polygamist community. Unlike her family who follow all the rules of the community, she shows a bit of a rebellious streak by visiting and reading forbidden books from a mobile library and having secret meetings with a boy named Joshua. The women have no say in who they marry and to Kyra’s horror the prophet says that she must marry her sixty year old uncle who already has six other wives. As the story goes on it becomes more and more intense as Kyra faces punishment for her disobedience.

The book is a quick and easy read that most should find engaging. Everything’s pretty simplistic as in the book doesn’t really go deep into any of the concepts. The basic premise of how things work in the community is given but there’s not really much of in depth look into it. Prophet Childs and The God Squad are the bad guys of the story but not much is explained about them, we see them doing terrible things and for the most part that’s it. I would of like to have seen the psychology behind everything, if that makes sense. Especially Prophet Childs, being that he’s the evil prophet and all. The dreaded Uncle that Kyra has to marry in my opinion wasn’t looked into enough either.

Another issue is Joshua, he has next to no character development which caused me to care very little about him. It seems he just exists to give Kyra a big reason to rebel, but other than that he’s hardly a character at all, he’s just seemed like an afterthought. So basically, he was somewhat pointless and needed to be more fleshed out character.

With all that said, The Chosen One is overall a satisfying book. The writing’s also simple, I think most people should get through this in a day or two. The build of is great and the thrills keep on coming till the end. Kyra’s voice is pretty emotional and I never felt annoyed or frustrated with her. Although I sometimes forgot she was so young. The book’s pretty much pulls the reader in from start to finish so it’s definitely a good recommendation for someone who’s not sure they’ll like reading. 4/5

The Duff by Kody Keplinger | Book Review

duff0

The Duff is a Young Adult book about a girl named Bianca Piper who is best friends with two beautiful girls and is “plain” by comparison. She gets labeled a Duff (designated ugly fat friend) by a popular, attractive boy named Wesley who’s known in school for sleeping around. Bianca throws cherry coke when he he gives her the label and claims to be repulsed by him. But things aren’t so good at home and soon sex with Wesley becomes a distraction for her issues.

This book is definitely a page turner, Bianca’s drama really pulled me in. I think many teens could relate. Even though I’m an adult now a lot of things in the book reminded me of my own teen years. Bianca’s bad attitude annoyed me at times, I understand why she was this way but it was still a bit much at times. That doesn’t mean I didn’t like her, she’s definitely a decent character and someone I could see myself being friends with.

Bianca’s friendship with Jessica and Casey (the pretty, popular girls) was something I really liked. I love seeing good female friendships in books and this book does a good job with that. They’re all supportive of each other and care about one another. Normally in books like this they’d make the pretty girls shallow and stupid but in here they actually have substance. Now as for Wesley, I liked him overall even though at times I wasn’t sure. I don’t usually like the whole falling in love with the jerk/man-whore thing but here it was somewhat tolerable.

Another great thing about this book is it’s stance against labels often given to women like “duff” and “whore” all meant to make women feel bad about themselves. It’s great to see a YA book without the slut shaming. The Duff has been on my “to read” list for a year now and I’m really glad I finally read it. 4/5. 

Top 5 Favorite Books of 2016

I read quite a few great books this year. I decided to make a list of five instead of ten this time but it was a challenge to narrow them down. These are the books I felt stood out to me the most. In no particular order!

Flora and Ulysses  by Kate DiCamillo
flora and ulyssess

This is what a great children’s book should be like. I can’t praise it enough. It has a fun and silly premise but still carries a great message. I wrote a full post awhile back.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
salems lot

I’ve read loads of King’s books but I didn’t read one of his most famous until 2016. Weird, I know. This is definitely one of his best. It moves at a slow pace but I was captured by the atmosphere of the book. This is one of the best vampire and horror novels out there.

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy
monstrumologist

It’s great to see such a creative and original book in the YA category. This novel is shockingly gory and is reminiscent of the old fashioned gothic horror novel. There’s pretty much nonstop suspense and horror I loved it. Unfortunately, I thought the second book in the series was “meh” and not as good so I’m a little wary about moving on to the next books in the series.

The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi
wondla0

“Wondla” is an amazing sci-fi adventure accompanied with some good illustrations, it’s surprising that this book isn’t more popular (I’ve never heard anyone talk about it!). I loved the main character and her robot mom along with the world in general. This is also one book that begs to be made into a movie. I hope to purchase and read the next books in the series soon.

The Child Thief by Brom
child-theif

 This is one of the best retellings I’ve ever read (maybe even the best) There’s so many layers and great characterization, another book that I think deserves more attention. I also did a full review.

So that’s my top 5, I hope everyone will read them and enjoy too 🙂 Up next will be a worst of 2016. 

Joyride by Jack Ketchum| Book Review

joyride

Spoiler-ish.

Joyride is about a woman named Carole and her lover Lee who end up murdering her abusive ex-husband as an act of desperation. A death-obsessed man named Wayne witnesses the act and hopes to commit more murders with them.

The two protagonists of the novel don’t have a really good plan when it comes to murdering Carole’s ex-husband. The whole set up seemed extremely sloppy. Basically the plan is: Bludgeon him to death with a bat on a hiking trail and make it look like a hiking accident. They do a very poor job. Especially since the ex-husband puts up a fight.

Both of them have a lot to lose, so I would have thought they would have come up with a more full-proof plan. Not to mention, Carole is friends with an officer that checks up on her every now and then (because of the past issues with her ex-husband). So, that is one of the glaring issues with the novel.

I also didn’t feel a lot of chemistry between the two leads. And if their willing to commit a murder together, I would think that they would have a more intense relationship. In fact, at times they hardly seem into each other. Maybe this was intentional but I still didn’t like it.

Then we have Wayne, the antagonist. He’s a man who feels intense excitement for the act of murder. He comes close to strangling his girlfriend but before that it seems he never built up the courage to go through with killing a person.

That is until he witnesses Carole and Lee. He’s impressed that they’re able to murder someone. He even covers up the body better for them. Eventually he finds the two of them and wants to go on a killing spree with them. Not surprisingly, they aren’t into it.

Next comes the series of murders. Wayne seems to want to abandon their normal lives in order to go on a road-trip style killing spree. However, he soon realizes that Carole and Lee do not want to be his friends and so he turns on them.

Wayne is the most interesting character in the book – from a psychological stand point. Especially when something very creepy about his mother is reviled. The sections of the book inside his head were the best. He incites a certain level of sympathy (but only a little), and I like when writers do that with the bad guy.

Joyride has a few flaws but it’s a good book. At times, I felt it didn’t go as far as it could have gone but it was a satisfying read in the end.

3.5/5