Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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A man returns to his hometown of Sussex, England for a funeral. On impulse he walks down the road to an old farm where 40 years earlier something extraordinary happened to him, darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. With the help of Lettie Hempstock (and her mother and Grandmother), the darkness is battled and the strangest, most terrifying time of his life is over.

I finished this book a week or so ago but I wasn’t sure what I would write for a review. See the book is fantastic, Neil Gaiman at his magical realism best, but how could I review it properly? This book is dreamlike in its writing. All the characters are otherworldly and yet feel familiar. The narrator, the boy is childlike in a believable way. He is only seven after all. Bookish and different from his sister, he feels alone and separate from his family. HE feels unconnected from his life in a way, at least until he meets Lettie Hempstock and her family.

They meet in a strange way, the suicide of a renter that had stolen his dads car, and the story only gets stranger from then on. Lettie and her family are down-home and simple and yet ethereal in that particular Gaiman way. They are nice and welcoming and protect the boy from harm many times throughout the book.

I find it hard to put into words how this book made me feel at the end. It was scary and funny, but with a melancholy air to it. I loved it thoroughly.

The Odyssey by Homer

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I first read this book back in middle school and have loved it ever since.

The story (in case you don’t know), follows Odysseus fresh from the Trojan War as he tries to get home to his lovely wife and son, Penelope and Telemachus. Adventure ensues.

I personally like that the Odyssey is about cunning not necessarily strength. Odysseus relies much more on mind than muscle, a tendency that his many adventures showcase. he uses his brains to get out of the sticky situations he finds himself in and doesn’t always go to the “easy” route of just stabbing everything with his sword.

Plus it has some of the best writing ever, in my opinion of course, such as this quote when Odysseus and Penelope are re-united:

“Now from his breast into the eyes the ache
of longing mounted, and he wept at last,
his dear wife, clear and faithful, in his arms,
longed for as the sunwarmed earth is longed for by a swimmer
spent in rough water where his ship went down
under Poseidon’s blows, gale winds and tons of sea.
Few men can keep alive through a big serf
to crawl, clotted with brine, on kindly beaches
in joy, in joy, knowing the abyss behind:
and so she too rejoiced, her gaze upon her husband,
her white arms round him pressed as though forever.” 

I love this book, and I think that everyone should read it at least once.

Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town by Cory Doctorow

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This is the strangest book. It tells the story of Alan (among other “A” names) whose parents are a mountain and a washing machine respectively, and whose brothers are an island, and psychic, and a zombie respectively. It tells of his life trying to fit in, and also something about a mission to give free wireless to all the people of the Market, oh and his brothers are disappearing, and he also has troubles with his neighbors…..and he wants to write a story. Oh, also, his girlfriend remains normal by having her wings amputated every few months by an abusive neighbor.There is many other smaller plot points and it can get confusing.

The two plots, the brother problems and the connectivity plot, are interwoven together. They merge somewhat, but not always successfully. I haven’t red very much from Cory Doctorow but my interest was first peaked by this book. It is all so strange and interesting that I couldn’t stop reading it, if only to see how it all ended up. I really liked it, although I will say that the connectivity issue can get pretty preachy at times but not enough to really bother me or take away from my enjoyment of the story. Another disappointing story thread is the one with his brothers. It sets up a mystery that it resolves in about two sentences at the very end of the book. It’s never really explained why it was all so important, and it just gets brushed away like it was nothing.

So in conclusion, this book is super confusing at times with story threads that go nowhere and resolve in seconds…and I really enjoyed myself while reading it. I would recommend this to anyone who wants something different and unique.

Agents of Light and Darkness by Simon R. Greene

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A quest for the Unholy Grail-the goblet from which Judas drank at the Last Supper-takes private eye John Taylor deep into the secret, magical heart of London…called the Nightside.

As mentioned in the blurb there at the start this is a quest for the Holy Grail. So, once again John Taylor has to use his own particular gifts to hunt the object down. Of course as with all things Nightside, it isn’t so cut and dry. The Holy Grail isn’t some peaceful relic, it is in fact very, very dangerous. Way too dangerous for anyone in the night side to possess.

When the Vatican *and* the Authorities of the Nightside ask John to help find the Grail he basically laughs in their faces. Things quickly escalate and then no one at all is laughing.

Throughout the book John once again pulls in a couple of friends, and sometime enemies, to help: Shotgun Susie, sometime friend and enemy is a bounty hunter whose best friends are her weapons. Also, Razor Eddie the “Punk God of the Straight Razor”, who is a friend and working off some bad karma of his own.

This book also goes into The Authorities a bit more although they really are just a mysterious group behind the scenes at this point. We also spend some time with The Collector. He is a greedy, self-serving, jerk of a character who is not very sympathetic in this story. He, as can be guessed by his name, wanders throughout the world (and time) to collect interesting or important items. Not to show them off, but rather to hoard in his home base.

I felt this book was better than the last, everyone had clear goals and story lines here. Some of the characters you meet have good back stories and motivations that are expanded in this book as well as the rest in the series.

A quick entertaining read!

Exploring J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit by Corey Olsen

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I really, really liked this book. I have read The Hobbit many times since I first picked it up in the 6th grade and it is always a good time. I liked looking at it from a more in-depth and, maybe, scholarly perspective.

Corey Olsen takes an in-depth look at the themes and ideas that make up The Hobbit. As he goes through the book chapter by chapter, you (or at least I) forge a stronger connection to a story that seems quite simple on the surface. AT it’s heart “The Hobbit” is a simple tale of a simple Hobbit leaving his safe home in the Shire and finding out he is braver than he ever suspected.

I first read this story in the seventh grade, on recommendation of a librarian. I loved it from the first moment until the last. By reading it, I discovered in myself a love of adventure that has never waned I quickly received the Lord of the Rings books for Christmas and The Silmarillion not long after. My love of all things Tolkien continues to this day.

I’ve been a fan of Corey Olsen since I found his podcast series (the Tolkien Professor). HE is endlessly fascinating and I am always interested in his analysis. He has brought a whole level of new understanding of Tolkien to my life and I am forever grateful. He brings his brand of good humor and interesting, in-depth looks into the world of The Hobbit and doesn’t disappoint.

I think any fan of Tolkien, or Corey Olsen, should check out this book.

(Also, checkout his podcasts, they are really awesome!)

Something From the Nightside by Simon R. Greene

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John Taylor is not a private detective per se, but he has a knack for finding lost things. That’s why he’s been hired to descend into the Nightside, an otherworldly realm in the center of London where fantasy and reality share renting space and the sun never shines

I really love these books, however they are not for everyone. I initially got into then because I love the Dresden files books by Jim Butcher and a friend told me I might like these as well. They are in the same vein or genre i guess. They are both full of jokes and quips they can bust out at a moments notice, but John Taylor has an edge to him that Dresden doesn’t have.

It might have something to do with The Nightside. The hidden world in the heart of London where it is always nighttime. This book follows a pretty standard noir frame. Damsel in distress that wanders into the office begging the detective to help her. The problem is that this particular “detective” doesn’t want anything to do with this case, a case of a missing daughter. Why? well, she apparently ran off to The Nightside and John Taylor vowed to never return. Mostly because everyone wants to kill him.

That is the story in a nutshell. John Taylor is forced by his conscious and the promise of money to venture back into The Nightside in search of a missing teenager. The story is very easy to follow and I figured out some of the various plot twists in advance, but it never took away the enjoyment of reading the book. This might not be the case for everyone though.

One point in its favor is that it is a fairly short book. Actually all the books in the Nightside Series are quick reads. I finished this one in an afternoon of reading. They are easy to read and don’t overstay their welcome

Shadow Prey by John Sandford

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Uncompromising, violent, and determined. Sioux Indians Sam and Aaron Crow are planning a campaign across the US. They’ve set up their followers in cities across the country to bring a twisted form of justice to their people. When people start to get their throats cut Lucas Davenport is brought in the help out the investigation.

Lucas Davenport is dealing with some inner, more personal issues in this book and it is always a treat to see John Sandford weave these stories together. The result is a deepening of the character. In a lot of these cop thrillers the main character can be pretty 2 dimensional. They usually fall under general categories: Gruff and hard-edged, but with a gooey marshmallow center, close to retiring, or totally virtuous. Now obviously these are extreme stereotypes and not all main characters fall into them, but a great many do. That’s why I always appreciate these books. Lucas Davenport always seems like a real person throughout. He has good points (his extreme intellect) and bad (his womanizing, the first few books mostly). I am never bored while I’m with him reading about his story.

In this story Lily Rothenberg fills out his lady love slot, but it is a bit more complicated this time. For one Lucas has a baby now with his off/on girlfriend Jennifer, for another Lily is married. This story could have turned into a soap opera right here but thankfully it doesn’t. They deal with it like grown-ups (for the most part).

The crow’s and their vendetta is pretty memorable. I like that I can sort of see the point of why they want people to listen, even if they take extreme measures. Their plan is clever and has an end goal in mind. Yes this is a plot by two angry hotheaded people, but they are also methodical and plan things out. The only misstep is through their (reluctant) use of Shadow Love, a psycho who they think of like a son.

I liked this book quite a bit, but it’s not one of my favorites. I think this is the book I’ve read the least out of all of them. Although I sympathize with the Crow’s mission and fear Shadow Love and want to cheer on Lucas, it just find this book more boring than the rest. So, good book but not great.

I still would recommend this book as it has excellent character interactions throughout, and an interesting villain.