The quote on the cover of this book, from Tom Robbins, reads "Joey Goebel is a born writer, one of those fated orginals...", which should have been enThe quote on the cover of this book, from Tom Robbins, reads "Joey Goebel is a born writer, one of those fated orginals...", which should have been enough for me to stay clear. As it turns out, it was a fitting quote from a fitting author, since my dislike for the writing was on par with my dislike for Tom Robbins' writing. This book believes it's being incredibly quirky, subtly subversive, and profoundly honest, when really it fails in all of those endeavours.
The story follows the events of a privileged family over the course of a summer that will change all of their lives. Set in the nonspecific middle American town of Bashford, this is supposed to be representative of some mythical Main Street America that doesn't exist anywhere but in the past and political speeches. In fact, this entire novel revolves around a simplistic interpretation of Bush era political rhetoric. While I'm sure it thinks it's being clever, the story reveals only surface level observations through its dull, one dimensional characters who behave in extremely predefined ways.
This is one of those books that took me forever to read, mostly because I felt as though it just kept getting worse and worse and I never felt like reading it. But I have a thing about not giving up on books and suffered through all 500 pages, of which maybe 40 were enjoyable, and those were spread few and far between. ...more
The title of this book alone was enough to have me believe it would be another interesting piece of imagination from the mind of Neil Gaiman. The titlThe title of this book alone was enough to have me believe it would be another interesting piece of imagination from the mind of Neil Gaiman. The title phrase alone, "Ocean at the End of the Lane", embodies the type of genius elements that I find in Gaiman's work, these sort of impossible things that exist unnoticed in the world. Coraline was like that, so was The Graveyard Book, and they both convinced me that the inclusion of these mysterious elements was well-suited for children's books, which have always been the realm of acceptable fantasy.
While The Ocean and the End of the Lane isn't a children's book, it does feature a child protagonist and exists within the world of childhood. When a man returns to his childhood home after the funeral of a parent, he visits the farm at the end of the lane where he grew up and then he begins to remember the remarkable tale which he'd inexplicably forgotten.
The story is filled with elements borrowed from fairy tales, myths, and the macabre, blended in an extraordinary way to reveal truths about the nature of the universe and the confusion that comes with being a child in a world that doesn't adhere to the sensible rules of a child's mind. After a man commits suicide on the lane, strange forces are awoken and the three Hempstock ladies, witch-like characters, are tasked with putting things right. The boy in the story inadvertently becomes involved in this drama, and gets caught in the middle of an ancient struggle between good vs. evil. The plot plays out in unexpected ways, capturing the dark spirit of horror and the noble expression of sacrifice.
This is one of those books that I wish would go on and on, but in a weird way, it's brevity proves to be its true genius. ...more
Dystopian fiction before it became a fad was usually more interested in survival than the current theme of love in the face of insurmountable odds. ThDystopian fiction before it became a fad was usually more interested in survival than the current theme of love in the face of insurmountable odds. The Postman is a story of surviving, not just the survival one individual, but the survival of a cultural spirit. Set in the state of Oregon, two decades after a Doomwar has torn apart the fabric of society and left its shreds to flap in the breeze, the novel plays out one of the fundamental conflicts of human civilization; primitivism vs. progressive.
The story begins with an attack. Gordon, an intelligent and resourceful survivor, is robbed of all the possessions that he needs to keep him alive as night begins to set in the mountains. Desperate, knowing that he won't survive the night, he pursues the band of robbers in the hopes of making a last ditch attempt to get his gear back and live another day. While trying to find their camp, he is led off track and ends up coming across something more valuable than he could possibly imagine. At first, the old U.S. Mail truck is simply a shelter, its bags of mail become blankets from the cold, and the dead skeleton's uniform is a mere substitute for the gear that was stolen.
Gordon only discovers the symbolic power of these items once he enters the next town on the other side of the mountains, a relatively stable and peaceful community that mistakes him for a postman from a nation they thought no longer existed. Despite Gordon's honesty about how he come in possession of the items, the people latch onto the ideal, even giving him letters to take to long lost family in towns to the West. As he travels from town to town, he quickly learns that his uniform, and the ever more elaborate myth he tells of The Resorted United States, are able to ease the hostilities of communities weary of strangers. Eventually he takes to setting up Post Offices in the places he passes through, appointing postmasters and inadvertently establishing a mail system between the communities.
The Post Office is a wonderful symbol for civilization. It represents the idea of free communication, and communication is the key to a greater purpose and the basis of forming larger communities. The myth quickly grows beyond Gordon's control and he suffers from guilt as he realizes he's giving people hope where perhaps none is warranted. This become painfully clear when the new larger community he's developed is faced with fighting off an invasion of the barbaric hoard known as Holnists, followers of a pre-war survivalist and his primitive teachings. Their epic battles take on the metaphor of good vs. evil in dramatic and powerful ways.
While the novel veers off course a little as it nears the end, getting bogged down in another sub-plot of the advantages and perils of technology, it manages to pull everything together nicely in the end. This is that rare kind of book that mixes action with profound intellectual ideas. A thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves you with much to think about. ...more
The concluding book in the Middle Grade science fiction fantasy trilogy that follows a young girl as she traverses a troubling new world in peril is aThe concluding book in the Middle Grade science fiction fantasy trilogy that follows a young girl as she traverses a troubling new world in peril is a fitting conclusion to the epic story. As with the first two offerings, this is a story of trusting those who are different than you and uniting under shared values and goals, despite clashes of tradition.
Picking up right where the last book left off, the opening chapter sets the tone for the entire story as Eva finds herself in imminent danger. There are very few moments of safety in the story as the war for control of Orbona rages between the humans and the new inhabitants, a war based on mistrust and misinformation. Eva has the unique position of being free of any ties binding her to one side or the other. Having recently "emerged" from her underground home, she has stepped into the middle of this conflict without feeling particularly attached to anyone but the few close friends she has made. She doesn't side with either the humans or the aliens, siding instead with the notion of peace and togetherness. Her detachment allows her to see things as they actually are, removed from the filters that too often blind the others. It's because of this that Eva is able to discover the truth that lies hidden under the surface and eventually expose the lies that have been guiding the events on her world.
Some point towards the end of the second book, it was clear that Eva would emerge as the hero who would save her home from repeating the horrible history that once devastated it in the past. This novel shows her stepping into that role, but not without making some mistakes, and not before much damage is done. Balancing a sense of reality with the fantasy is one thing the series has always done well, and nothing ever comes too easily for Eva. Her belief in herself and her love of family and friends allows her sense of right to triumph over wrong.
The third book in the wonderful Wildwood series is arguably the best of the three, which is saying a lot considering the first two were near flawless.The third book in the wonderful Wildwood series is arguably the best of the three, which is saying a lot considering the first two were near flawless. But in this concluding chapter of the story that began three years ago with the first novel, Colin Meloy truly hits his stride, cementing himself as one of the finest storytellers of his generation.
The story opens with the main characters scattered throughout the various locations in the city of Portland and sections Impassable Wilderness where they each had been left at the end of Under Wildwood. Several months have passed, and many changes have taken place within the province of South Wood following the revolution orchestrated by Prue and Curtis in the first novel. Though things seem to have returned to a sense of normality, disruptive forces are at work under the surface.
Several story lines are at work in this novel, from the battle in the Industrial Wastes and Prue's quest to find the other Maker in order to fulfill the Council Tree's prophecy, to Curtis's search for the Missing bandits and the return of the Dowager Governess trying to complete her dastardly plan from the first novel. Needless to say, there is a lot of story happening in these 580+ pages, and somehow all of them manage to be perfectly paced and woven together to deliver a unforgettable climax and remarkably executed conclusion to the entire saga.
These books are destined to become classics, read for generations.
Among fans of Lewis Carroll's work, there seems to be just as much fascination with the story of his life as there is with the fictional stories, specAmong fans of Lewis Carroll's work, there seems to be just as much fascination with the story of his life as there is with the fictional stories, specifically his relationship with Alice Pleasance Liddell, the little girl for whom he created his most famous work, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Though biographies of the author, of which I have read many, cover this aspect of his life in detail, there has been little attempt to examine the relationship from the point of view of the other person involved. There are very few biographies about the "real" Alice, and most don't delve too deeply into the circumstances surrounding her interaction with Charles Dodgeson (aka Lewis Carroll), which is probably what made Melanie Benjamin's novel Alice I Have Been an instant success when it came out.
Though I was excited upon its publication, I held off reading it until this month. When this novel came out, I had recently read Katie Rophie's Still She Haunts Me, a novel that also imagines the relationship between Alice and the author. I loved that novel, and wanted to wait for it to pass through my system before entering Benjamin's world. While they cover a lot of the same territory, the books are very different. The focus of this novel is the little girl and her thoughts and feelings, and properly leaves the intentions of others to her speculation, as any first person narrative should.
Beyond the appeal of telling a story that has long captured my curiosity, this is a remarkably poignant coming of age tale about a girl who doesn't really want to grow up, but who like all of us, must. It's a touching portrait of a child caught in situations that she cannot completely understand, and ultimately has to live with the consequences imposed by witnessing adults. In many ways, this imagining of Alice's life is similar to the themes in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland about the nonsensical rules of an adult world imposed on a child.
I really enjoyed that the book didn't end where most discussions of Alice end. It continued on, exploring her grown up life in depth, and the kind of burden that came with being "the real Alice". I also appreciated how it didn't attempt to settle the long standing debate on the nature of Lewis Carroll and his intentions when it came to his child friends. Through the entire novel, Alice remained the focus and how the ambiguous historical events may have been seen through a child's eyes, and later how they may have affected her. It was tragic at times, beautiful at others, and always engaging.
While many of the facts concerning the interactions between Alice and Lewis Carrol have been intentionally lost, either by the elimination of his dairy pages after his death or the destruction of the letters he wrote to a young Alice by her mother, Benjamin's portrayal feels very plausible. But the great thing about this book is that it doesn't really matter if they are factual or not. As a novel, the interpretations are carried through with incredible skill, creating a character as unforgettable as the real life inspiration. ...more