Category: Book Reviews

Book Review: Glinda of Oz

p_glinda_of_ozxTitle: Glinda of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 14 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1920
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 279
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: Glinda of Oz

Synopsis: Peace, prosperity, and happiness are the rule in the marvelous Land of Oz, but in a faraway corner of this magical domain dwell two tribes–the Flatheads and the Skeezers–who have declared war on each other. Determined to keep her subjects from fighting, the Ruler of Oz, Princess Ozma, along with her dearest friend, Princess Dorothy Gale (formerly of Kansas), embarks on a quest to restore peace.

When the Supreme Dictator of the Flatheads refuses to cooperate with Ozma, she and Dorothy seek out Queen Coo-ee-oh of the Skeezers, hoping she will be more reasonable. But the queen imprisons Ozma and Dorothy in her grand city and then traps them by submerging the whole city under water. Now it is up to Glinda the Good to save the day. She assembles all of Ozma’s counsellors–including such beloved Oz friends as the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, Patchwork Girl, Shaggy Man, Tik-Tok, and Wizard of Oz–and they set out to rescue their friends. Will the magic powers of Glinda and the Wizard combined be enough to free Ozma and Dorothy?

A rousing tale of suspense, magic, and adventure, Glinda of Oz is the fourteenth and final Oz book by L. Frank Baum. It’s a grand conclusion to his chronicles of America’s favorite fairyland. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: Well, as they say, everything comes to an end. Glinda of Oz is the fourteenth and final Oz book penned by L. Frank Baum, who passed away soon after the completion of this novel in 1919, and I found the reading of his last work an emotional experience. Emotional because I finally did what I set out to do twenty years ago, which is read all fourteen Oz books back to back, and emotional because these were the last words Baum ever put to paper. I haven’t loved, or even liked, some of these books, so I was wary of the last one being a disappointment; I knew, however, within the first few chapters that this was easily going to be one of the better Oz sequels.

One of the most heartbreaking elements about the book is the opening To Our Readers, which up until this book was always a fun little letter written by Baum about what inspired the newest installment of his series. In Glinda of Oz, it’s a downbeat, impersonal note from The Publishers essentially apologizing about the fact that Baum has passed away and is to write no more. The reading becomes more uplifting and engaging, however, once the words of Chapter One begin. Glinda of Oz is one of Baum’s most fast-paced and entertaining stories, one that gets almost every major character from the previous books his or her own storyline or memorable scene. Unlike some of the books that follow new or minor characters we don’t care about, Glinda of Oz follows Ozma and Dorothy on a perilous journey toward the outskirts of Oz, and Glinda, who gets the title this time out, plays a major part, too, and is never relegated to the sidelines.

As always, Baum’s descriptions are superb and delightful, especially in the way he describes the Flatheads, new villains introduced in this piece. I loved over fourteen books his imagination never ceased, and there is the feeling when the last page of this one is closed that he probably had another fifty Oz books in him, if he had lived forever. (Of course, many more Oz books were written after this. Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote 19 more, and others wrote an additional ten or more over the years. While I’m sure there is entertainment value to be found in these, my journey in the Oz series stops here.) While I couldn’t decipher anywhere in the text that Baum knew this was to be his last book, there is one scene in Chapter 14 called Ozma’s Counsellors that puts almost every character we’ve come to meet over fourteen books at a big roundtable, and it is in this chapter that Baum gives the characters their final bow. Everyone from the Tin Woodman, to the Patchwork Girl, to Tik-Tok, to Jack Pumpkinhead. It’s a beautiful chapter that gives the reader one last good-bye to these beloved characters. On the other hand, strangely enough, the book has kind of a non-ending, one that pays more attention to the restoration of the Flathead characters and that doesn’t give any proper closure to the series as a whole. Maybe he had no idea this was it. Either way, I enjoyed this book immensely, and I am sad my journey is over.

Now that I’ve finished, I thought I would rank the Oz series, from worst to best. Here goes…

14. Rinkitink of Oz

13. The Scarecrow of Oz

12. Tik-Tok of Oz

11. The Road to Oz

10. The Patchwork Girl of Oz

9. The Magic of Oz

8. Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz

7. Glinda of Oz

6. The Marvelous Land of Oz

5. The Lost Princess of Oz

4. The Emerald City of Oz

3. The Tin Woodman of Oz

2. Ozma of Oz

1. The Wizard of Oz

If you love The Wizard of Oz and want to read more in the series, but don’t want to read every single installment, the sequels that get my highest recommendations are Ozma of Oz, Book 3; The Tin Woodman of Oz, Book 12; and The Emerald City of Oz, Book 6. These are the three that I loved. And what’s great about Baum’s series is that you don’t have to read the sequels in order to understand what’s going on. Dip into any story you want, and it can easily be read as a stand-alone. But if you want true enchantment, try one of those three titles. You won’t be disappointed!

Reading all of Baum’s Oz books these last fourteen months has been a wonderful journey, one that I’m very glad to have taken. As a writer myself, I learned from Baum how to write simple, imaginative descriptions for characters and how to keep readers turning the page. Mostly I learned how writing fantasy stories for children is absolutely a worthwhile venture to take on. There’s more to Oz than the 1939 movie, boy do I know that now, and I urge all of you to give one of these many joyous books a try. Long live Oz!


Grimes & Rowe Read a Book and Watch a Movie: How I Live Now Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way. (Via Amazon)

Brian: One of the main reasons this blog started was to read and review the Michael L. Printz books. It all started with Looking for Alaska in the spring of 2012, and Shaunta and I went on either separately or together to read Fat Kid Rules the World, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Monster, and Where Things Come Back. These books have provided some of the most enjoyment reading I’ve had in the last two years, and yet I realized that in the last few months I hadn’t picked up a Printz book in awhile. For our November book of the month, I chose Meg Rosoff’s How I Live Now, which not only won the award in 2004, but also inspired the new film, starring Saoirse Ronan, and directed by Kevin MacDonald. Ultimately it was a great choice, because Rosoff’s novel reminded me why I fell in love with this Printz project in the first place.

Shaunta: I really enjoyed How I Live Now. Rosoff did a fantastic job of developing a character, Daisy, by using her first world problems (her father sends her to the English country side so he can start a new family in peace, she deals with his new marriage by developing anorexia, etc.) and then showing how she changes as her circumstances become decidedly not first world as the story goes on. The relationship between Daisy and Edmond–15 and 14 year old first cousins who fall in love and experiment with sex–takes on an almost Lord of the Flies meets Blue Lagoon quality that’s enchanting at the same time that it’s slightly disturbing.

Brian: The book is a quick read. At 190 fast moving pages, it just zips along, and I was able to finish it in two sittings. Rosoff’s writing style is super easy to follow, with simple prose that give the reader clear insight into the unthinkable horrors she discovers along her journey. Dystopian young adult novels can sometimes feel forced and unrealistic, but the world in How I Live Now is utterly believable from the first page on. I loved all in the characters in the family Daisy goes to live with; they all have their different quirks and qualities but never feel like types. I loved that Rosoff is willing to take the reader to very dark places and not feel like she has to sugarcoat anything. How I Live Now is one of the best YA reads I’ve had all year, and I’m grateful I finally got around to reading it!

Shaunta: I’m glad I read it to. I loved it so much, that when I watched the movie based on the book I was a little disappointed. Edmond is described in the beginning as about half a mile shorter than Daisy and slightly younger than her. He’s skinny and introverted and never described as a typical romantic hero. The actor who played him in the movie on the other hand is tall and muscular and gorgeous. The reason for it was obvious when an actor playing Isaac, who is Edmond’s twin in the book and plays 14 in the movie–meets Daisy at the airport. Ronan is too old to put her in a romantic relationship with an actual 14-year-old. Other parts of the movie were spot on. Daisy’s anorexia was transformed into what looked like OCD–and it worked. Piper was the little sweetheart that she was in the book. The third brother was transformed into a neighbor kid who could have just not been there at all in the beginning, and then was combined with another character in the middle. Most movies based on books fall a little short of the magic of the book–so I can’t fault this one for doing the same thing. It was good. Worth seeing, but don’t skip the book.

Brian: It was a treat upon finishing the book that I was able to check out the brand spanking new movie, still in theaters but available on demand. When I found out it was directed by Kevin MacDonald, I got really excited. I got to watch an early screening of his brilliant docudrama Touching the Void back in 2004, and I have followed his career closely ever since. I knew he would bring a sharp eye to this material, and he’s brilliant here both in capturing believable performances from all his young actors and showing restraint when other directors could have thrown too much visually at the viewer. Ronan is always good (the 2011 drama Hanna is a must-watch!), and here she gives one of her best performances as someone we don’t immediately connect with at first, but who develops and transforms over the course of the narrative. A few of the scenes took my breath away in their intensity—the reveal of a character in a body bag is too sad for words—while the end of the movie is perfectly calculated in both its utter despair and promise of hope. I was very impressed by the book and the movie How I Live Now, and hope that you all give them a shot!

Shaunta: I actually did connect with Ronan as Daisy right from the start. She played a pissed off, privileged teenager pretty spectacularly.  The transformation from a girl filled with first world anxieties, to a girl actually living through and surviving war-torn, third-world realities, was the best part of the movie for me. Some of my favorite parts of the book–like Piper and her dog winning over the soldiers when she and Daisy are taken away from the family farm–are missing from the movie. Again–the movie was good, but the book was great. Don’t miss it!

Book Review: The Magic of Oz

11081386_1_lTitle: The Magic of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 13 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1919
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 266
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Magic of Oz

Synopsis: There’s trouble once again in the land of Oz!

The mischievous boy Kiki Aru has discovered a magical word–Pyrzqxgl–can transform him and anyone else into whatever Kiki demands. Worse yet, Kiki has been recruited by the villainous Nome King in his latest attempt to get revenge on Princess Ozma and all her friends.

While Ozma’s court plans a spectacular celebration for her birthday, Dorothy and the Wizard set out with the Cowardly Lion and the Hungry Tiger to find a gift for their beloved princess. But in the Forest of Gugu they become entangled in the wicked plans and magical transformations of Kiki and the Nome King.

Can Dorothy and the Wizard stop the evil-doers before they conquer Oz? Or will Kiki’s incredible powers finally give the Nome King the revenge he has craved for so long? (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: A year ago this week I started reading, for the first time since childhood, L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, a gorgeous annotated edition that had nearly 100 pages of biography on Baum and all sorts of neat trivia about the book. At the time I was working on my newest revision of my young adult novel Over the Rainbow, a subversive modern day update of The Wizard of Oz, and I thought it would be fun to embark on a fourteen-month project and finally read all of Baum’s Oz books, not just the first one or two. When I was a kid my mom bought me the first 10, so I’ve had most of the books on my bookshelf for about twenty years. The farthest I ever got back in the third grade was Ozma of Oz, and I thought it was time to finally explore what else Baum’s world had to offer.

A lot has happened in the last year—I finally finished and self-published Over the Rainbow, started graduate school and teaching, and completed two additional novels—but in the midst of all of life’s craziness, it’s been so much fun for me to curl up in bed for a few hours each month and check out Baum’s latest offering. It’s kind of amazing to think I only have one left to read—Glinda of Oz—before this sometimes frustrating but mostly enjoyable journey comes to a close. I haven’t liked all of the books, with some so far removed from the core set characters we love and adore that at times they don’t even feel like Oz books. Unfortunately, The Magic of Oz is one of the lesser entries in the series.

Like Scarecrow of Oz and Riki-Tink in Oz, the characters we’ve come to know and love act as side characters to the new Kiki Aru, who finds great use with his newfound magical power. Baum bounces around to a few stories throughout the novel, essentially making this his “Magnolia,” but unfortunately the storyline here is nowhere near as compelling as the twelfth book in the series, Tin Woodman of Oz, which kept me throughout engaged from beginning to end. I find the best books in series, like Ozma of Oz and The Emerald City of Oz, to have high stakes, with the lesser having little to no stakes, like The Magic of Oz, which has a storyline that depends on whether or not Dorothy and the Wizard can find Ozma a frickin’ birthday present (!). The best scenes of the book occur at the end, like when all of the characters sit around Ozma’s birthday table and make conversation, and the last chapter when the Nome King finally gets his comeuppance in the Emerald City. Overall, this was an OK read, not the worst of the series, but not one of the best, either. I have a fixation on the books revolving around the characters from the previous books that I’m interested in, and when Baum throws in a new character for half the book that doesn’t offer much interest or personality, I tune out a little.

I’m hoping Glinda of Oz ends the fourteen book series on a high note. Check back in December to see what I think of Baum’s last book, and my thoughts on the series as a whole!

Grimes & Rowe Read a Book and Watch a Movie: Carrie Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but she had a gift. Carrie could make things move by concentrating on them. A candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her power and her sin. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offered Carrie a chance to be normal and go to her senior prom. But another act–of ferocious cruelty–turned her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget. (Via Amazon)

Brian: My relationship with Carrie goes back a long time. I have no memory how I got a hold of it, but the first Stephen King book I ever read was Carrie, back when I was in the fifth grade. We had to read a book and give a book report to the class, and I reported on Carrie, much to the dismay of my teacher. I remember her pulling me aside and asking me if I could read more ‘appropriate’ books for the class. So what did I read next? Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. I fell in love with King’s work at an early age, and it’s been a life-long love affair. Just last night, I received his newest book, Doctor Sleep, as a birthday present. I’ve read almost all of his novels in the last eighteen years, but it all started with Carrie.

Shaunta: I fell in love with Stephen King early, too. I was a freshman in high school when I read Carrie. I identified with the misfit girl who felt powerless, so some how manifested her own terrible powers. The King book that had the biggest impact on me was The Stand, which I received as a 13th birthday gift from my dad and read cover-to-cover twice in a row–but Carrie has always held a special place in my heart. Maybe because I read it during a time when I felt the least understood, the least heard, and the most different from other girls my age.

Brian: I read the book again in high school, and of course adore the 70’s film starring Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie, and directed by Brian De Palma, but I haven’t thought about Carrie very much in the last decade or so. Therefore, it was a thrill this month to read the book again, and see the new remake which updates the story into a modern day setting. What I re-discovered about King’s novel is just how unusually he tells the story. While there are elements of a young adult novel in his debut, the story is not told in first-person from Carrie’s perspective. Only fifty to sixty percent of the book tells Carrie’s story at the time her tragic tale takes place; the other part of the book is told through newspaper clippings, magazine articles, letters, interviews, and more. There are scenes of testimony, where characters who witnessed the prom scene massacre get grilled on what they saw. There are detailed articles about the aftermath. There’s even an eerie letter that ends the novel that I had completely forgotten about. There’s a calmness and quiet intensity to the way King spins this tale that really resonates with the reader, and I think I love it more now than I did back when I was younger.

Shaunta: I love the 1970s Carrie film so much, that I went into this ‘reimagining’ with very low expectations. Chloe Grace Moretz is just too pretty to be Carrie. I didn’t think I’d be able to believe her as being totally disenfranchised. And I was right. I wasn’t. Moretz did a good job with parts of being Carrie. Her super-shyness was palpable. And I was drawn to the way she both despised and needed her mother. But overall–she didn’t work in the character for me. The one character who I thought did a great job was Gabriella Wilde as Sue Snell.  Sue was portrayed here as more sympathetic than she was in the original movie, and that worked for me. It highlighted the out-of-control aspect of the final scenes of the movie.

Brian: While I love Chloe Graze Moretz and Julianne Moore, I was definitely more excited to read the book again, than to see the new remake. Most of the horror remakes of the last decade have been poor at best, and offensively awful at worst. The remakes of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street were so terrible, for example, that I needed a drink afterward just to calm me down. The new Carrie remake is not one of the worst horror remakes of late, but it’s not particularly good, either. The 70’s original is so iconic that for this new one to work, director Kimberly Peirce needed to give the material a wholly new take. Surprisingly, she deviates from the original only rarely. There are scenes in this remake that are almost word for word of the dialogue of the original movie, which was not a good choice. Moretz is fine in the lead role, but she’s way too pretty to pull off this character. One of the biggest weaknesses of the movie, shockingly enough, is Moore, who tries her best to make Margaret White her own, but she’s not offered enough screen time to create anything that’s anything more than a carbon copy of Laurie’s brilliant take on the character. It’s not all a waste, though. The one sequence of the film that works well is the prom night massacre, which is more subtle and effective than the split-screen madness in DePalma’s original. I also liked some of the actors, particularly Ansel Elgort as Tommy Ross (yum!), and Gabriella Wilde, as Sue Snell. But overall, this is a major missed opportunity, especially for a director like Peirce who I thought would do better with this rich material.

Shaunta: I actually really liked Julianne Moore as Carrie’s crazy mother. She was scary and did a good job playing deranged. She didn’t disappear into the role for me–so it was kind of like Carrie White’s mother was a deranged Julianne Moore–but it still worked for me. There’s a scene where she’s giving Sue Snell’s mother Sue’s prom dress at the dry  cleaner shop where she works that was so intense for me.  She wasn’t Piper Laurie though, and maybe no one else will do in that role. I think this is a movie that was so good in the original that there is no chance for a redo to ever stand up to it. The 1970s version of Carrie is still relevant, still amazing–there’s just no need for it to be reimagined.

Brian: In the end, I’m thrilled to have read Carrie again. It’s one of my childhood favorites—sorry, Mrs. Frodahl—and it still holds up after all these years. As for the movie adaptations (I didn’t even go into the wretched 2002 TV remake), stick with DePalma’s original, which is still by and far the best. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Book Review: The Tin Woodman of Oz

the-tin-woodman-of-ozTitle: The Tin Woodman of Oz
Written by: L. Frank Baum
Series: Book 12 in the Oz series
Publisher: Reilly & Britton
Publish Date: 1918
Genre: Middle Grade Classic!
Pages: 288
Source: Borrowed from Library
Buy the Book: The Tin Woodman of Oz

Synopsis: The Tin Woodman sat on his glittering tin throne in the handsome tin hall of his splendid tin castle in the Winkie Country of the Land of Oz.

The Emperor of the Winkies and his old friend the Scarecrow of Oz welcome their inquisitive visitor: Woot, the Wanderer, from faraway Gillikin Country. Soon tales are being told, and memories are flowing . . .

And before they know it, with Woot and the lovely Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter, the Tin Woodman and Scarecrow undertake an astonishing quest, in search of the Tin Man’s lost love, Nimmee Amee — from the days before he was metal! (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: What’s that phrase? Patience is a virtue, right? After the disappointment of Scarecrow of Oz, a book that barely even has the Scarecrow in it, and the miserable bore that was Rinki-Tink of Oz, I was close to putting an end to my fourteen-month Oz project. I wasn’t having any fun, and such seemed to be the only real point in this project (aside from having written an Oz fable myself and wanting to learn more about the universe and characters). The Lost Princess of Oz, book 11 in Baum’s initial 14-book series, was a step in the right direction, with a return to a simple and engaging storyline, as well as the characters we know and love. And now, with just three novels to go, I’m so happy to report that Tin Woodman of Oz, book 12, is an absolute joy from beginning to end, and possibly the best of all the sequels.

Tin Woodman of Oz is the book I hoped Scarecrow of Oz to be, a story that would give us backstory on one of the iconic characters from the first book. That book, however, felt like something entirely different, with the Scarecrow appearing in the last third seemingly like an afterthought. Tin Woodman of Oz, on the other hand, focuses entirely on our beloved Nick Chopper, who finally gets the chance to tell his heartbreaking story about the girl he loved but who the Wicked Witch of the East, whose Dorothy’s house later squashed, prevented him from being with. We discover how he used to be a man of flesh and then became all made of tin (in all its gruesome details!), and why obtaining a heart was so important to him in the first place. He ultimately sets out on a journey to find his love Nimmee Amee, with the help from two friends, the Scarecrow, and a new character named Woot. Does he find her and get back together? Will he find true joy again?

Tin Woodman of Oz isn’t a perfect novel by any means. It’s another adventure story, with Oz characters on foot bumping into wild and eccentric characters spurred from Baum’s imagination, but this one rings truer because we generally care about Nick Chopper and his pursuit to find his love. Imagine if J.K. Rowling had written a sequel where Albus Dumbledore set out on a journey to find his childhood love, and you get the idea (wow, what a book that would be!). One section in the middle of the book, where the trio transform into animals, drags a bit, and I also wish the Cowardly Lion could’ve been the third major character here, but the novel’s conclusion is genuinely surprising, in a good way, and the entertainment value in this one exceeds anything in the series since Ozma of Oz, the other great sequel Baum wrote. If you’re interested in reading later Oz books, I would many of the many titles, all so you can get to this one. Tin Woodman of Oz is great fun, and a treat for fans of The Wizard of Oz. I’m so happy I stuck with the series long enough to get to it!


Book Review: A Discovery of Witches

0143119680.02.LZZZZZZZTitle: A Discovery of Witches
Written by: Deborah Harkness
Series: Book 1 in the Al Souls Trilogy
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: February 8, 2011
Genre: Adult Paranormal
Pages: 594
Source: Received as a Christmas Present
Buy the Book: A Discovery of Witches

Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. (Via Amazon)

Brian’s Review: A Discovery of Witches is the kind of book that sweeps you away and keeps you under its spell for long hours at a time. I didn’t know what I was going to make of this book. At nearly 600 pages, it’s a whopper, and with there being a central romance between a witch and a vampire, I wasn’t sure what I would make of it. I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the Twilight books, but I love stories about witches. I received it as a Christmas present and I’ve been looking at it on my shelf for the last five months, intrigued to read a chapter or two and see if I like it.

A couple days before leaving for a family vacation in Maui, my brother’s fiancee asked if I had a copy of this book. I told her yes, and she asked if she could borrow it to read on the plane. I said she could, and as soon as I got home, I took the book off my shelf and set it on my nightstand, so I wouldn’t forget. Before I went to sleep that night I turned to the first page, just to see what all the fuss was about. Then I turned to page 2, then page 3. I read the first 50 pages that night, and read another 100 the following day. I was hooked. I didn’t want to give up my copy! So I did something I’ve never done before: give someone my own purchased copy of a book, then go to the library and borrow the same book, so that I can read it. Yes we both made A Discovery of Witches our vacation book, and we’re both happy we did.

What I loved most about A Discovery of Witches was the deft manner author Deborah Harkness draws you into the world. Some have said the book opens on a dull note, with so much fuss over a manuscript, but these early scenes fascinate with their magical tone and historical implications. The protagonist Diana Bishop is not a teen girl with nothing to do all day but pine over a boy at school—she is a supremely intelligent young woman who is trying to suppress her sordid history as a witch, and move on from the mysterious deaths of her parents by making a life for herself as an acclaimed Oxford scholar.

Of course the manuscript she peruses at the campus library turns out to be the Macguffin of the plot, when it’s discovered supernatural creatures all over the world have been looking far and wide for it for centuries. Yes, Diana meets, befriends, and ultimately falls in love with a vampire Matthew Clairmont, the central element of the story that isn’t exactly fresh material by any means, but it’s a relationship based more on the meeting of the minds, than pure animal lust or giddy passion. The small details slowly revealed about his centuries-long backstory offer tremendous pleasure, and when, in concern for her safety, he whisks her away to his family home, the novel really starts to get interesting.

I loved the tone and feel of this book, as much I enjoyed the story. This is one of those books you read when you can tell the author has done her homework. A professor of history, she fills the pages with historical details that enrich the central love story, and the impending doom of all the well-defined characters. Is it a perfect novel? It’s got some lulls in its 594 pages, especially, oddly enough, toward the end, when the tension should be ratcheting up, not dwindling. But overall I really enjoyed A Discovery of Witches and am glad I checked it out. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I finished it two weeks ago, and I look forward to reading the follow-up.

Grimes & Rowe Read a Book: Ocean at the End of the Lane Ocean at the End of the Lane
Written by: Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: June 18, 2013
Genre: Adult Literary
Pages: 181
Source: Bought on Amazon
Buy the Book: Ocean at the End of the Lane

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.

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 Laneis 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. (Via Goodreads)

Brian: Shaunta has been raving about Neil Gaiman since the day I met her, so it’s been a lot of fun this last year trying out this author’s work in all the different genres he writes in. I read Coraline, which I loved; read The Graveyard Book, which was a haunting tale; and now there’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, his first book for adults in eight years. I would still put Coraline as my favorite, but Ocean at the End of the Lane is a whole different kind of fantasy novel, one that has moments of both beauty and wretched horror. It’s very short for a novel, at not even 200 pages, and while I really wanted to read the whole thing in one sitting, I was only able to read a few pages a night these last couple weeks. It was fun, getting to enter Gaiman’s weird, imaginative head every night before going to bed.

Shaunta: I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane in two sittings. It’s got this hauntingly familiar, almost nostalgic tone to it that is so pleasing.  I remember when I was a kid my mom had these huge half-barrels in the backyard planted with these gorgeous geranium bushes. They were like geranium jungles, and i would build little fairy houses in them–truly believing that little creatures lived in them when I wasn’t looking. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is all about that way that little kids have of absolute faith and belief. The absolute fear the main character felt, the awe, the joy–it all came through so clear.

Brian: Gaiman has been an inspiration to me lately because he’s one of the few authors I know who writes in various genres, for various audiences, and he does all so well; best of all, his readers flock to whatever he does. And while he’s so beloved by so many people, I love that his writing is so simple and easy to read. Even if you read his books in one sitting or just take a few short sips every night, it’s easy to get lost in his world. Ocean at the End of the Lane was an interesting read because at times it felt like I was reading a novel geared toward children, or maybe teenagers, with the way it’s written, and the way some of the events play out, but then there are the macabre scenes sprinkled throughout that take your breath away. I enjoyed Ursula a lot, the strange being that comes into the narrator’s life as a worm through his foot (!). That’s what I love about Gaiman; he’s not afraid to throw in crazy plot developments that somehow, miraculously, works. I enjoyed the character of Lettie, as well as the creepy scene of the discovery of the car. And the whole idea of the ocean, as that pond, will stick with me for a long time. I still have yet to read American Gods, his behemoth of a novel I have on my shelf, but I hope to start it soon. There’s lots more Gaiman I need to be reading!

Shaunta: Despite having a male protagonist, this book was all about the ladies. Ursula, Lettie, her mother, her grandmother–it was their story, told through the eyes of a little boy.  It was fascinating to me that all of these incredible female characters went about their business, while the little boy forgot. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is just good storytelling. Neil Gaiman never fails on that front. It’s a small book–like a sip of something delicious–packed with an intense amount of story. the hardback might give you sticker shock, but look for it at your local library if you have to. You don’t want to miss this one.