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Monday, March 31, 2014

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman~★★★★

Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "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 claim 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. 
A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark."  

Taryn's Review: This book was recommended to me, so I added it to my library order without much thought. I was unfamiliar with the author or his works, but for me that is part of the fun of recommendations!

I'm not one who normally selects books from the genre of science fiction/mythical/fantasy. The beginning of the book started off like any other, but quickly introduced the element of fantasy. After doing a little bit of research on the author after I finished the book, I understand that his other books also have a mythical aspect.

At first I was completely perplexed about what was happening, especially when the little boy finds a worm in his body, but I ran with it and I'm glad I did (even if it grossed me out somewhat). The perspective of seeing what has happened from the eyes of the boy versus his memory as an adult was such a great shift. There is no doubt in my mind that Gaiman is a very talented writer; I was engrossed by the story quite easily even though it was out of my comfort zone. The Hempsworth family was really interesting to read about and I think it would be awesome if Gaiman wrote a book on the Hempsworth family history.

After I finished the book, I wanted to know more about Neil Gaiman. He has a strong following and many of his fans wrote that this wasn't their favorite Neil Gaiman book, but still a good one. I'd definitely read another Gaiman work and have put his book American Gods on my to-be-read list. This is a really small book coming in at under 150 pages, so definitely check it out if you're interested.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Wolves of Andover by Kathleen Kent~★★★1/2

Author: Kathleen Kent
Title: The Wolves of Andover (later publishing retitled the book The Traitor's Wife)
Release Date: November 8, 2010
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books
Genre: Fiction

Book Jacket: "In the harsh wilderness of colonial Massachusetts, Martha Allen is forced to take work as a servant in her cousin's home. Unwed and, at nineteen, considered by most a spinster, Martha locks wills with everyone around her--including Thomas Carrier, the unusually tall and resolutely silent hired worker whose stubborn independence matches her own. 
There are whispers about Thomas's mysterious past and what role the taciturn 'giant' may have played in the English Civil War, which ended with the execution of King Charles I. As Martha comes to know him, she discovers a companion who respects her own outspoken nature and in whom she can confide the dark secrets of her youth. But in the rugged new world they inhabit, danger lurks both near and far. In London, King Charles II in conspiring with his lords to assemble a band of assassins to kill the man suspected of executing his father. Before long, they will arrive in New England to hunt down the man who cut off the head of a king. And at home, wolves--in many forms--are hungry for blood. As Thomas reveals to Martha his days as a soldier in England, she comes to see him as a kindred spirit, even as she realizes his secret will place her, and her loved ones, in danger. 
Both a love story and a story of courage and independence, The Wolves of Andover confirms Kathleen Kent's ability to craft powerful tales from the dramatic background of America's earliest days.

 Taryn's Review: I saw this book in a bookstore while shopping for a birthday gift. I adored Kathleen Kent's novel The Heretic's Daughter, so I immediately added the title to my reading list. I love that Kent's novels are steeped with American history and I appreciate the great lengths she goes to make them authentic. The amount of research to create such works is no doubt great.

Kent didn't disappoint in her masterful ability to take one back to seventeenth century America. The details that she provided throughout the book make it seem all the more real. What is interesting about this piece of fiction is that it is based on people who did exist; Kent reminded the readers in her Author's Note that the work is meant to be fiction, but I will say there is a thrill in knowing that the people did exist (it's the history lover in me!).

The storyline was not nearly as captivating as The Heretic's Daughter. This book was a struggle for me to read because I could not muster up interest in the topic. The beginning chapters were very slow reading for me, roughly up to page 80. It did hold my attention well until I was close to the end, when I felt myself wanting to skim the pages rather than read them.

The books was designed to be a companion book with The Heretic's Daughter, but it is still readable as a stand alone book. The two are linked with one major connection that was revealed to readers who had read The Heretic's Daughter, but that alone wasn't enough for me to rate the book higher. I think those who love historical fiction will enjoy this book and, while I did like the book, it was nowhere an enthralling as the The Heretic's Daughter.