Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author:  Neil Gaiman
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Narrator:  Neil Gaiman

Goodreads Summary:
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 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.

More than once, I've stated that Neil Gaiman is a master storyteller. In my opinion, he's one of the top storytellers of our time (and maybe the best).  The Ocean at the End of the Lane continues that tradition of slightly off-kilter stories where magical, unexplainable things happen to ordinary people. When Gaiman tells the story, I don't doubt anything for a single second. It all seems totally believable - especially when I'm listening to the audiobook and it's coming from his quiet, English accented voice. The Ocean at the End of the Lane has some disquieting parts in them and it's those things that make the story believable. Yes, go buy the book. But I highly recommend the audiobook because when you listen to Gaiman tell a story, magic happens.

On the same note, my friends and I went to see Neil Gaiman in Decatur. We spent hours sitting outside in a blazing hot parking lot waiting but every minute was worth it. His talk was hilarious. I laughed so hard I cried. Plus, I got a snazzy autograph.  Here's a couple of pictures:

Yes, that's a bra being signed in the second picture. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Shadow and Bone

Author:  Leigh Bardugo
Series:  The Grisha, Book 1
Publisher:  Henry Holt & Company
Year:  2012
Pages:  356

Goodreads Description:

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

What can I say? This book is impossible to put down. It was just really beautiful fantasy. Shadow and Bone has a great heroine, nice world building, terrific use of magic and fast paced action. What more can you ask of a fantasy? Oh, yeah, pronounceable names (although that does seem to be the trademark of good fantasy). I can't believe I left this book sitting on my TBR pile for so long. What's worse is I don't have the second book in my possession!

Oh well, I guess that'll be something to look forward to. In the meantime, I suggest you pick this book up and give it a try.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

Author:  Michael Pollan
Year: 2009
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 140

Goodreads Synopsis:
Eating doesn't have to be so complicated. In this age of ever-more elaborate diets and conflicting health advice, Food Rules brings a welcome simplicity to our daily decisions about food. Written with the clarity, concision and wit that has become bestselling author Michael Pollan's trademark, this indispensable handbook lays out a set of straightforward, memorable rules for eating wisely, one per page, accompanied by a concise explanation. It's an easy-to-use guide that draws from a variety of traditions, suggesting how different cultures through the ages have arrived at the same enduring wisdom about food. Whether at the supermarket or an all-you-can-eat buffet, this is the perfect guide for anyone who ever wondered, "What should I eat?"

I found this to be an incredibly simple guidebook as to what to eat. I think the only thing keeping me back from being able to follow these rules is my own memory failure. Truthfully, though, Pollan breaks things down so simply and makes it all so common sense that I feel like I should be able to follow these rules just by thinking when I shop.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Smoke & Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions

Author:  Neil Gaiman
Year:  2013
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Narrator:  Neil Gaiman

Goodreads Summary:

In the deft hands of Neil Gaiman, magic is no mere illusion... and anything is possible. In this, Gaiman's first book of short stories, his imagination and supreme artistry transform a mundane world into a place of terrible wonders -- a place where an old woman can purchase the Holy Grail at a thrift store, where assassins advertise their services in the Yellow Pages under "Pest Control," and where a frightened young boy must barter for his life with a mean-spirited troll living beneath a bridge by the railroad tracks. Explore a new reality -- obscured by smoke and darkness, yet brilliantly tangible -- in this extraordinary collection of short works by a master prestidigitator. It will dazzle your senses, touch your heart, and haunt your dreams.

It's no secret I'm a Neil Gaiman fan. Love the man. And his audiobooks are always fantastic and Smoke and Mirrors is no exception. Gaiman's narration is spot on. As always when I listen to him tell a story, it feels like he's letting me in on a secret. You know, telling me a special tale that not many people know. I'd heard many of the stories in this collection in other places; but lots were brand new to  me. They also opened up some new insights into Neil Gaiman that I hadn't seen before. This collection highlights Gaiman's unique talent and masterful ability to tell a story.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Of Poseidon

Author:  Anna Banks
Series:  Of Poseidon, Book 1
Year: 2012
Publisher:  AudioGO
Narrator: Rebecca Gibel

Goodreads Summary:

Galen is the prince of the Syrena, sent to land to find a girl he's heard can communicate with fish. Emma is on vacation at the beach. When she runs into Galen—literally, ouch!—both teens sense a connection. But it will take several encounters, including a deadly one with a shark, for Galen to be convinced of Emma's gifts. Now, if he can only convince Emma that she holds the key to his kingdom...
Told from both Emma and Galen's points of view, here is a fish-out-of-water story that sparkles with intrigue, humor, and waves of romance.

I've read very few mermaid books. In truth I shy away from them just a bit because of the "fish factor." I just have a hard time with slimy things. But I absolutely loved this book. I think Banks did an excellent job with the opposing viewpoints. It was funny but still heartbreaking at times.  There were also times when I wanted to strangle Galen. The narrator did a great job. Overall this was a terrific listen that made the hours at work fly by.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Author:  Susan Cain
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Crown
Pages:  333

Goodreads Summary:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking, reading to partying; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over brainstorming in teams. Although they are often labeled "quiet," it is to introverts that we owe many of the great contributions to society--from van Gogh’s sunflowers to the invention of the personal computer.

Passionately argued, impressively researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet shows how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so. Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. She talks to Asian-American students who feel alienated from the brash, backslapping atmosphere of American schools. She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked. And she draws on cutting-edge research in psychology and neuroscience to reveal the surprising differences between extroverts and introverts.
Perhaps most inspiring, she introduces us to successful introverts--from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Finally, she offers invaluable advice on everything from how to better negotiate differences in introvert-extrovert relationships to how to empower an introverted child to when it makes sense to be a "pretend extrovert."
This extraordinary book has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how introverts see themselves.

I have a confession to make. I'm an introvert. Most of the time I'm much happier staying at home and reading than going out - especially if that going out is in a group. What's that you say? You're not surprised? Yeah, neither are most of my friends. I'd heard a bit about this book from some podcasts and then heard an interview with the author and found her intriguing. So when I got the opportunity, I picked this book up and started to read it. I felt like Susan Cain could see inside my head, heart and soul. She recognized who I was and understood me. This book doesn't offer solutions to cure a person from being an introvert. Instead, it helps understand both introverts and extroverts and learning to recognize the strengths in being an introvert both at work and at home. If you or somebody you love is an introvert, I recommend reading this book.

Friday, June 14, 2013


Author:  Abbi Glines
Series:  Existence, Book 1
Year:  2011
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing
Pages:  161

Goodreads Synopsis: 
What happens when you're stalked by Death? You fall in love with him, of course.
Pagan Moore doesn't cheat Death, but instead, falls in love with him.
Seventeen year old Pagan Moore has seen souls her entire life. Once she realized the strangers she often saw walking through walls were not visible to anyone else, she started ignoring them. If she didn't let them know she could see them, then they left her alone. Until she stepped out of her car the first day of school and saw an incredibly sexy guy lounging on a picnic table, watching her with an amused smirk on his face. Problem is, she knows he's dead.
Not only does he not go away when she ignores him, but he does something none of the others have ever done. He speaks. Pagan is fascinated by the soul. What she doesn't realize is that her appointed time to die is drawing near and the wickedly beautiful soul she is falling in love with is not a soul at all.
He is Death and he's about to break all the rules.

I wasn't too sure about this book when I first started it. The story was kind of slow going and the dialogue seemed childish. But, once it got to going, I couldn't put it down. I really wanted to know more about Dank. I am totally curious about Lief and really felt for him. I want to know exactly what Pagan's story is and why she can see ghosts. Obviously, the author left some unanswered questions out there (especially the one that goes with the last sentence of the book!) but at least I know there's two  more books out there to give me answers. So, yeah, once I got warmed up to it, I really liked this book.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Author: Sophie Jordan
Series: Firelight, Book 3
Year:  2012
Publisher: HarperTEEN
Pages:  260

Goodreads Synopsis:
Jacinda was supposed to bond with Cassian, the "prince" of their pride. But she resisted long before she fell in love with Will—a human and, worse, a hunter. When she ran away with Will, it ended in disaster, with Cassian's sister, Miram, captured. Weighed down by guilt, Jacinda knows she must rescue her to set things right. Yet to do so she will have to venture deep into the heart of enemy territory.
The only way Jacinda can reach Miram is by posing as a prisoner herself, though once she assumes that disguise, things quickly spiral out of her control. As she learns more about her captors, she realizes that even if Will and Cassian can carry out their part of the plan, there's no guarantee they'll all make it out alive. But what Jacinda never could have foreseen is that escaping would be only the beginning....
Loyalties are tested and sacrifices made in the explosive conclusion to Sophie Jordan's Firelight trilogy.

I liked this book. I really did. I can't tell you anything in particular that I disliked about it; however, I felt a little bit let down at the end of the series. I don't know in particular what it was. I loved the characters. I was OK with how things ending even if it wasn't particularly what I wanted. I just felt like I wanted a little more from the series ender. I do recommend this series. I thought it was very creative and I loved the dragons. I've gotta find some more good dragon stories.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Oath Bound

Author:  Rachel Vincent
Series:  Unbound, Book 3
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Harlequin
Pages:  431

Goodreads Synopsis:
The Tower Syndicate will fall...

The secret daughter of the head of an infamous Skilled crime family, Sera Brandt has hidden her past, her potential and especially her powers. But when a tragedy strikes her other family, Sera needs justice. And the only way to get it is to reveal her heritage–including a rare Skill–and take the reins of the Tower Syndicate from her cunning and malicious aunt.

If he can figure out how...

Kristopher Daniels might have the answer. He's fought the syndicate to protect his sisters, but he'd never realized just how close to the new heir he needed to get....

And if they can survive

Neither is used to trusting. But there's something between them that can't be ignored. And so Sera is on the run with a man she can't figure out, a target on her back and the new knowledge of just how powerful she really is.

I have really enjoyed this series and Oath Bound was no exception. It was fun and fast paced. With each book, I thought that I liked the characters in the book I was reading better than the characters that came before; however, with this book, we get to see all of the previous characters and I realized that I loved them all! I want to see more of them. Rachel Vincent has such a wonderful way of making me love her characters and care about what happens to them. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blogs, and Some Other Things That Aren't As Scary, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn't Quite Finish So Maybe You Could Help Us Out

Editor:  Ted Thompson
Year:  2005
Publisher: McSweeney's Books
Pages: 202

Goodreads Summary:
Interspersed with charts, graphs, and various crossword puzzles, A Book of Noisy Outlaws, Evil Marauders, and Some Other Things . . . features some of today's best authors spinning new tales ranging from the spooky to the strange. George Saunders tells the story of a father who takes caution to dangerous extremes in "Lars Farf, Excessively Fearful Father and Husband." In "ACES by Phone," a small boy finds a cell phone that lets him listen in on the thoughts of dogs, and in "Small Country," Nick Hornby introduces a country too small for a postal system but, unfortunately for one bookish boy, just big enough for a football team. Each story features full-color illustrations by artists including Barry Blitt, Lane Smith, David Heatley, and Marcel Dzama.
The collection includes previously unpublished children's stories from Jonathan Safran Foer (Everything is Illuminated), Nick Hornby (High Fidelity), Neil Gaiman (Sandman), George Saunders (CivilWarLand in Bad Decline), Kelly Link (Stranger Than Fiction), and Jon Scieskza (Stinky Cheese Man). The dust jacket folds into a unique aerogram, which factors into a special contest involving a story written partly by Lemony Snicket, partly by thousands of children.

This is a fun little collection of stories. Some of them aren't that great but others are awesome. My favorites were the Neil Gaiman, George Saunders and the Jeanne DePrau story. I loved the creativity in the title and the dust jacket is awesome with it's half-finished story. Oh, and this book has a hilarious introduction by Lemony Snicket. I bought this book on impulse off eBay because it had a Neil Gaiman story and I'm glad I did. It was well worth what I paid for it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Walking Dead, Compendium One

Authors: Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, Cliff Rathburn
Series:  The Walking Dead
Year:  2009
Publisher:  Image Comics
Pages:  1088

Goodreads Summary:  
Introducing the first eight volumes of the fan-favorite, New York Times Best Seller series collected into one massive paperback collection.
In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living. With The Walking Dead #1-48, this compendium features more than one thousand pages chronicling the start of Robert Kirkman's Eisner Award-winning story of zombie horror, from Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, his band of survivors seeking refuge on an isolated farm and the controversial introduction of Woodbury despot, The Governor.

I had to pull off this series when I began having problems finding copies of the comics that I was up to from the library. I finally broke down and bought the Compendium One. This is a brick of a book! I got tennis elbow from holding it for so long. I totally loved this novel! The pictures are so well drawn and the story beautifully told. Although I did find myself having a hard time not comparing it to the TV show. And I missed Darryl Dixon. I guess I'm off to buy the second compendium now.  :)