Tag Archive: Neil Gaiman

Oct 04

Book Review – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

WHAT’S PLAYING: Erykah Badu “Bag Lady”


This week’s book is The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

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.

This book came to me at an opportune time. I had just lost my mother and was suffering through yet another bout of pneumonia—the same disease that killed my mom. To tell you the truth, I was in a very bad place. Then one day, a package arrived in the mail. I opened it and found this:

A couple of years ago, I met Neil’s American editor, Jennifer Brehl, at a convention and developed a serious girl-crush on her. Lucky for me, she’s as kind as she is brilliant, and didn’t call security on me. Instead, we struck up a friendship over our shared love of books. When she heard about my troubles, she sent me the book pictured above, along with a copy of his Make Good Art speech. Both books now reside on a very special bookcase that no one but me is allowed to touch.

I am not kidding. Touch it, and I’ll beat you with a bag of oranges.

Gaiman is a master of creating worlds that are just a bit…off. I’ve read this deceptively short and simple book at least eight times, and it never fails to move me. It sinks its hooks into my soul and I’m left helpless, caught between wonder and terror.

And every time, I come away not quite sure where the mundane ends and the fantastic begins. 


Favorite Line/Image: “I saw the world I had walked since my birth, and I understood how fragile it was, that the reality I knew was a thin layer of icing on a great dark birthday cake writhing with grubs and nightmares and hunger.”


Bottom Line: Damn you, Neil Gaiman. You made me cry.


Coming up next: NOS4ATU by Joe Hill

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2013/10/book-review-the-ocean-at-the-end-of-the-lane-by-neil-gaiman/

Apr 23

Unleashing the Book Dragon

WHAT’S PLAYING: Prince “Guitar”

Last week, a couple of friends came over for dinner to celebrate the removal of my braces. Liquor was flowing freely and everyone seemed to be having a good time. That is, until I glanced across the room and saw one my friends reaching for my signed copy of American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Now, I’m not one for spontaneous action. In fact, I tend to overthink things. But one look at my friend’s greasy, pizza-sauce covered fingers reaching for one of my favorite possessions….

Well, to put it mildly, I went apeshit.



I don’t know what scared my friend more, the primal roar that emerged from my throat or the sight of me charging across the room with murder in my eyes. Either way, he backed away from the bookshelf with both hands in the air.

Unfortunately, I was moving too fast to stop.



In my defense, it was signed. By Neil frickin’ Gaiman. Later I found out that he was actually reaching for my signed copy of Snuff by Terry Pratchett.

I damn near threw him off the balcony.

I’ve always been something of a hoarder when it comes to books. I can’t help it. Being surrounded by books makes me feel calm and safe—which is odd since my house is a firetrap in the making. Good books, bad ones, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, all have places in my library.


Lately though, I’ve gone from simple hoarder to full on psycho book dragon. For every signed book I have, I have another unsigned “reading” copy. When my book collection outgrows my current living arrangements, I simply move to a bigger place. I keep my signed copies prominently displayed, and have been known to just sit there and stare at them with an intense pleasure that anyone but a true bibliophile would find a little creepy. And—as my unfortunate friend discovered—I will physically attack someone if I feel my books are being threatened.

The good news is that my friend forgave my little outburst and we can laugh about it now.


But the next time he decides to reach for one of my books, I won’t be so gentle.


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Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/04/unleashing-the-book-dragon/

Mar 18

Book a Week Challenge (Double Edition) – Book 10

WHAT’S PLAYING: The Artist Formerly Known as Prince “P Control”

The first book for this week is Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey.

Butcher Bird

Spyder Lee is a tattoo artist living the good life in San Francisco until one night a pissed-off demon tries to bite off his head, and he’s saved by a mysterious, blind swordswoman calling herself Shrike. The next day, Spyder discovers that he can see the world as it really is: full of angels, demons, monsters and monster-hunters; a world full of black magic and mysteries. He soon runs afoul of the Black Clerks—infinitely old and powerful beings tasked with keeping the worlds in balance—who seem to have their own agenda and plans for Spyder. Caught in the conflict between the Clerks and other forces he doesn’t fully understand, Spyder tags along with Shrike on a quest to find a magical book that he hopes will restore his ignorance. Their journey will take them from deserts to lush palaces, and even to the heart of Hell itself.

When I first picked up this book, I was struck by how similar it was to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere: a regular guy gets tangled up with a mysterious girl and winds up going on a quest to some far off land full of magic and wonder.

That’s where the similarities end. While Gaiman’s book had a gothic, almost dreamy feel, Butcher Bird is all in your face with sharp details and wicked imagery. It’s Neverwhere on crank, played out on the streets of San Francisco and the bowels of Hell. None of your polite English refinement here. This is bold, brash, and profane as hell.

With its high body count, pervasive profanity and…unorthodox religious views, this is not a book for those with fine sensibilities or weak stomachs.

Favorite Line/Image/Character: I never thought I’d say this, but Lucifer is awesome! Kadrey did an excellent job of portraying him as a flawed, but ultimately sympathetic character, which is no mean feat when it comes to the Prince of Darkness. Noble, wise, and loyal, he’s very different from the stories I learned in Bible study. Though the pride that ultimately resulted in his downfall is still there, front and center.

But, to quote another favorite character, Lulu: “Steve McQueen fucked Superman and they had a baby.”

That pretty much sums him up.

What I Learned: Make every story your own. As I said before, this isn’t the most original premise for a novel. In fact, it’s probably one of the oldest and most used concepts in the history of story telling. But somehow, Kadrey managed to take a tired, old idea and breathe exciting new life into it. I literally couldn’t put this book down until it was finished.

Bottom Line: Highly recommended. To quote William Gibson: “The man is mad, in every best way.”

Permanent link to this article: http://www.jacquitalbot.com/2012/03/book-a-week-challenge-double-edition-book-10/

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