The Ocean At The End Of The Lane By Neil Gaiman | Book Review

the ocean at the end of the lane

GENRE: FANTASY/THRILLER
PAGE COUNT: 237 PAGES

“I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”

Maurice Sendak

Book Synopsis

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.

The epigraph sets the stage for this novel perfectly and readies you for the magical thrills you will encounter in the next pages.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane is an easy book to love. You will be hooked from the first page into this strange yet familiar memory the anonymous protagonist finds himself thrown into. A memory he had forgotten about entirely. Filled with magic, wonder, the supernatural and fear.

“Adults follow paths. Children explore. Adults are content to walk the same way, hundreds of times, or thousands; perhaps it never occurs to adults to step off the paths, to creep beneath rhododendrons, to find the spaces between fences. I was a child, which meant that I knew a dozen different ways of getting out of our property and into the lane, ways that would not involve walking down our drive.”

The prose in the book leads to many points like this, which allow the reader to draw comparisons to their own childhood. Moments lost in time much like the moments in this novel. This quote really embodies and alludes to the exploratory nature of a child’s mind and allows the reader to feel their own nostalgia. I was often traveling into my childhood adventures while reading this book.

“She was also an adult, and when adults fight children, adults always win.”

The main character is one who enjoys the company of books. Which is one of the reasons I believe, he so willingly goes along with the adventures of Lettie who at first is a virtual stranger. The experiences must seem like the tales in his books. Another factor I related to in this story as I read from very early on in my childhood, often daydreaming about the adventures in my novels.

“Nothing’s ever the same,” she said. “Be it a second later or a hundred years. It’s always churning and roiling. And people change as much as oceans.”

Personally, I’m a sucker for oceans as symbolism and I really felt that Lettie’s ‘Ocean’ was a metaphor for knowledge. The ocean may literally be knowledge as there is a supernatural element to this book. As with all books, I’m sure each reader has their own ideas and interpretations concerning what the Ocean is and what it represents.

Once you’ve been around for a bit, you get to know stuff.”

I kicked a stone. “By ‘a bit’ do you mean ‘a really long time’?”

She nodded.

“How old are you, really?” I asked.

“Eleven.”

I thought for a bit. Then I asked, “How long have you been eleven for?”

She smiled at me.”

Lettie is a brilliant character, she has earned her place in my top characters list undoubtedly. The eleven-year-old girl with a wisdom and depth beyond her years and our main characters first real friend. Her character is as much a mystery to us as it is to the narrator and one that I wish had her own novel. She is surely a metaphor for the world being infinitely magical and beyond our understanding. Neil captures this so beautifully and clearly in Lettie’s character.

“That’s the trouble with living things. Don’t last very long. Kittens one day, old cats the next. And then just memories. And the memories fade and blend and smudge together.”

Lettie Hempstock’s family are equally as intriguing, they seem to give the impression they know all there is in the world and also kick some serious ass. I would like to adopt both of them, please. I believe the fact that Old Mrs. Hempstock appears to guide the characters when they are lost might be Neil’s cheeky way of saying we should not underestimate the knowledge of our elders.

“I could have ruled worlds, but I followed you, and I waited, and I had patience. I knew that sooner or later the bounds would loosen, that I would walk the true Earth, beneath the Sun of Heaven.”

When the villain has epic speeches like this, you know they are a worthy one. Like everything else in The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, I adored our antagonist. One who still manages to elicit pity from the reader. I cannot say much without spoiling the plot, but rest assured. Much like the all of this novel she is perfect.

I am now listening to the Audiobook of this novel to hear its perfect prose spoken by Neil himself. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. If you are on the fence about it allow me to push you over into reading it… Now

RATING:

★★★★★

This Book is Full Of Spiders By David Wong | Book Review

this book is full of spiders

Genre: Thriller
Page Count: 404 Pages

“We’re totally on the same page here, lets burn this shit down”

David Wong

Let me start by saying David Wong has the power of making a book simultaneously both terrifying and pee your pants hilarious. I didn’t know it was possible, but he accomplishes it with This Book is Full Of Spiders. As someone that never ‘laughs out loud’ while reading I give it the biggest stamp of approval. It is truly unlike any other book in its genre.

This Book is Full Of Spiders is what would happen if you and your mate were suddenly given the responsibility of saving the world, after a you’ve just woken up hung over and you have no clue what you are actually saving it from.

“You haven’t really experienced the full range of human emotion until you’ve cried your eyes out while hanging on for dear life on the back of a dirt bike bouncing across a cornfield in the freezing cold”

The characters are eccentric, flawed, and entirely easy to fall in love with. We follow these unlikely heroes as they attempt to prevent a parasitic spider infection spreading beyond their quirky little town. David, John and Amy are relatable in that they are so human and deal with the storm they are thrust into the way I image most of people would if it happened to us, with bitting sarcasm and a plethora of swear words.

“DID SOMEBODY ORDER SOME FUCKING PRISON BREAK WITH A SIDE OF SHOTGUN?”

John was my favourite character (though Molly the dog is almost tied in this spot), most of my laughter occurred after one of John’s epic one liners. While a bit of an antihero technically, he easily slots into hero status by the end of the novel. 

“I assume your plan didn’t progress beyond this exact moment.”

The writer tells the story in a nonlinear fashion, which really helped add tension and built up the plot to have an explosive end. I frequently found myself exclaiming ‘omg’ as the pieces came together. This narrative technique really made the book stand out for me and is one of the reasons it’s a new favourite for me!

TBIFOS is the second in a trilogy however you don’t have to read them in order, personally I haven’t yet read the first book and I wasn’t lost or confused. Considering how much I enjoyed the book, I will definitely be reading the others in the series!

“Damn it! I knew she was a monster! John! Amy! Listen! Guard your buttholes.”

RATING:

★★★★★

Annihilation By Jeff Vandermeer | Book Review

Genre: Fantasy/ Thriller
Pages: 195 Pages

“Where lies the strangling fruit that came from the hand of the sinner I shall bring forth the seeds of the dead”

Book Synopsis

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the world for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilisation. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; the second expedition ended in mass suicide, the third in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another. The members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within weeks, all had died of cancer. In the first volume of the Southern Reach trilogy, we join the twelfth expedition. The group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader, and our narrator, the biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain, record all observations of their surroundings and of one another, and, above all, avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

Not in a long time have I felt so utterly consumed by a book. A fact that is especially impressive when you consider it’s relatively short 195 pages. The atmosphere Vandermeer creates draws you in immediately, the world of Area X turns the reader into a moth pulled swiftly into its flame. I read it while on holiday and as soon as I finished was running around the caravan park commanding people to read it and understand its brilliance.

“I felt as If I could do anything as long as I did not mind being watched”

The Biologist introduces us to a mysterious land, untouched by civilisation for decades, and devoid of any humanoid lifeforms; but is that the truth? We follow our narrator as she discovers that the information she’s been given my not be accurate, and wonders just what this place is that she’s been sent to.

Our narrator is flawed. As all the best characters are, and her introverted and highly observational nature makes her the perfect person to tell the happenings and discoveries of the Twelfth expedition. The book is written in a jornal format, which works brilliantly to build tension as you are reading. Throughout the book you have major ‘dont-go-around-that-corner’ feels. 

If the book was in another volunteers perspective who’s career wasn’t looking beyond things people normally see, I’m sure there wouldn’t be nearly as much exquisite detail. Though, considering how fascinating the book is, I would happily have read the book from each characters perspective.

“Can you really imagine what it was like in those first moments, peering down into that dark space and seeing that? Perhaps you can. Perhaps you’re staring at it right now.

The prose throughout the book is perfectly descriptive and filled with the kind of Stephen King esque bone chilling quotes that you keep with you for a while. The memory of the book itself weighs like a heavy breath on my chest, one that I still feel when I glance at it on the shelf.

I read Annihilation in one sitting, completely unable and unwilling to put it down. I can’t accurately express just how much I felt effected by this book other than to say you are surely missing out should you decide not to read it! The urge to discover the mystery will ensure you race through the book and the spine tingling chill you receive from the events that occur will leave you making sure you door is locked at night! Seriously, read it. Read it now. 

“There shall be in the planting in the shadows a grace and a mercy that shall bloom dark flowers, and their teeth shall devour and sustain and herald the passage of an age”

RATING:

★★★★★

Girl In Snow | Review

girl in snow

Genre: Crime/Mystery/Thriller
Page Count: 353  pages

“He wondered how a love like that drowned. Or worse, how it died.”

 Danya Kukafka

Last night I had the pleasure of sitting down and finishing this book. Girl in Snow is Danya Kukafka’s debut novel, though reading it you would hardly guess. The elegant prose falls from the book, igniting an intrigue that has you entranced from the first page.

Girl In Snow follows the aftermath of the death of a beloved high school girl named Lucinda Hayes. The small suburb hasn’t been shocked by a crime of this nature in a long time and as is the case when tragedy strikes, the dark secrets that lie under the surface of the sleepy suburb are unwound in this tale.

I have mentioned before that my love of a book is highly reliant on the characters themselves and this book is an excellent example of truly endearing characters. The story is told from the perspectives of our three main characters, Cameron, Jade, and Russ, who together are a collection of misfit characters perfectly woven together by Kukafka.

Cameron

“He’d like to imagine he was one of Michelangelo’s figures, frozen on paper, etched in one position for all eternity”

Cameron was definitely the character I found most endearing and really looked forward to reading about his outlook on the world around him and the people within that world. A classic wallflower, Cameron has been labeled a freak most of his life and as is the case with many teenagers, he struggles not to believe it. The character certainly has a few interesting hobbies (“The game of statue nights” being one) that have you questioning what kind of person he really is, and whether the reader should be sympathetic towards him.

I think many people can empathise with his thought that “He found people fascinating when they thought no one was watching”, however, in his case the question becomes is how much can you innocently watch someone before it becomes something more sinister.

Jade

“Faking shock is easier than faking sadness”

Another character that’s very easy to like is Jade. Exceedingly observant,  Jade and Cameron share the familiar trait of people thinking they veer off the scope of normal and because of this there is a clear kinship between the characters.  Jade is both incredibly witty and intelligent, piecing together links between characters that often left me chanting ‘omg omg’ in my head as the connections unraveled. Her wit also allows for lovely breaks in the prose in which she tells the reader all the things she wishes she could say “What you want to say but can’t without being a dick – A screenplay by Jade Dixon-Burns”.

Russ

“It was paralyzing and perfect, crippling in its singularity. Here is what I have been alive for all this time, Russ thought. This touch”

Personally, I found Russ the hardest to empathise with throughout the book, though this is likely Kukafka’s intent, A cop not quite sure of his place in the world from his marriage to his job. He is seemly lost in the grand scheme of things. About halfway through the book when Russ delved more into his friendship with Lee was where I saw more life in the character and grew more interested in his telling of the story.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I think anyone would with its intricate twists and wholely endearing characters. The stand out being Danya’s delicate and detailed prose. I truly hope this debut novel is followed by another as I would love to read more by this brilliant author.

I recommend it for any fans of Crime, mystery or thriller novels, and for people that want a book they cant put down!

“Cameron wanted to tell Mr. O about loss – the hissing sound it made, like air drained from a tire, how that sound could continue forever if you let it – but maybe Mr. O already knew.”

RATING:

★★★★

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon | Review

the girl who loved tom gordon the girl who loved tom gordon

Genre: Horror/Thriller
Page Count: 264  pages

“The skin of the world is woven of stingers”

Stephen King

Hello Readers!

I hope everyone is having a great weekend, today I will be reviewing the fantastic Stephen King novel I picked up while travelling in Japan. I hadn’t heard of this King before and was drawn in by the synopsis immediately.

When Trisha McFarland’s divorced mom takes her and her brother on a hike up the Appalachian Trail, the nine year old ducks off the path to pee and gets lost. Alone in the forest and scared of the dark, Trisha winds up stumbling aimlessly through the woods for nine days, wandering farther and farther from civilisation as she attempts to make her way back home, disappearing deep into mysterious darkness of the wilderness. The real question is, is she alone out there?

This book was especially and terrifyingly relevant considering all of the current investigations into people, especially young children, getting lost and sometimes not found, off into the wilds of North America.

“The world had teeth and it could bite you with them anytime it wanted.”

Stephen King

This quote really defines how you feel following Trisha’s journey into the forest and her questioning what’s out there in the dark waiting for her, watching her in the woods.

The whole book there is this spooky look over your shoulder feeling that never goes away, which adds to the build up of the book. Trisha’s character is so strong and endearing and I really loved her thought process throughout the book. I’m really hoping she appears again in another King novel because she was truly magnificent! She is one of Kings best written young characters and I doubt anyone will have trouble getting hooked on this page turner purely because of her.

After finishing this book I certainly have no desire to go on a hike through the forest for at least a few months, I’ll stay far away from the God of the Lost!

RATING:

★★★★

I believe this novel is really under rated and I hope you pick up a copy after reading this because it’s absolutely worth your time!