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

I really enjoyed this book. As I hadn’t read any of Gaiman’s other books (a shame that I intend to rectify), I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into. Once I realized that the story wasn’t some kind of dream, but a re-telling of the past that the narrator is telling us, I knew that I was in for a treat.

The attention to detail here is wonderful. Names, we are told, have power; therefore the main character never tells us his name. There are the usual characters, after all a boy usually does have a mother, father and in this case, a sister.  However we are also treated to the crone, mother and maiden.  This is a sort of fairy tale regarding things that go bump in the night; grown-ups’ inability to see evil when it’s staring them in the face; and the power of children to prevail.

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As I don’t want to give anything away, just read the book. It will give you plenty to think about, and isn’t that the idea of reading anyway?

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce – Book Review

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce – Book Review

 

It’s not often that a book makes me unexpectedly burst into tears when I begin reading the first sentences of the last chapter. That is what this book did. It was unexpected since I didn’t see it coming – a true twist; and a sad one as well. It must be said that this book is a companion book to Joyce’s previous one called The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry which tells us of the long walk Harold Fry takes to see Queenie Hennessy after she writes him a letter. This book is the letter that Queenie writes for Harold Fry to read when he finally arrives at the Hospice. You don’t have to read book about Harold Fry, however it would help you to understand the premise better if you did.

 

I loved this book. It was hard to read, since Queenie is dying, and this is not a “nice” subject; however, I found her “letter” (the substance of the novel) to be entertaining and interesting. She had led a “little” life, never doing anything of much merit, however, everyone has a story, this is hers, and I loved it. Queenie’s story kept my mind occupied with thinking about her when I wasn’t reading the book. The way that Queenie simply loved with no expectations was in itself, the very essence of love. I found myself turning her story over and over in my mind, looking at it from different facets of light. It occupied me and I imagine it will continue to do so.

 

I highly recommend this book. If you’ve ever wondered what true love is, read this book and pay attention – especially to Queenie’s words near the end.

Gray Mountain by John Grisham – Book Review

I need to start out by saying that I love John Grisham. He writes so well, and he has the ability to simply knock every book out of the ballpark; okay, enough gushing. In this book his main character is a woman named Samantha Kofer, a lawyer who has lost her job due to the 2008 bank meltdown. She’s a hard-headed New Yorker, who decides almost against her will to work for a non-profit law firm in Appalachia. Here she is introduced to the impact of strip mining, coal and the life of everyday Americans who are living below the poverty line.

 

This is the story of Kofer’s awakening to what life is really all about for the majority of Americans. After all, she grew up extremely privileged in D.C., the daughter of a very famous (also infamous) trial lawyer; and her mother is a federal lawyer with a guaranteed job who refuses to understand the impact of the economic realities faced by the majority of Americans. Her life so far has been going according to plan, but now she’s faced with the unwelcome realization that life has been changed, possibly forever, by the actions of the bankers.

This book is a primer on the power of the rich, the realities of what coal mining does to the people who live in the region, and how the system is rigged in favor of the wealthy against the lives of the poor. It’s an eye-opener, that is told as a story that makes you care for the characters; and root for the underdog. I learned much more about the impact of strip mining, but not in a “preachy” manner. Grisham never turns this book into a lecture; he presents the facts as an integral part of the story and lets the characters speak for themselves. I highly recommend this book. Read it and think about our relationship to the earth and each other.

If you are interested in learning more about the impacts of coal and strip mining, I wrote a post about it on my other blog, transforminglifenow.  You can read the post here: https://transforminglifenow.wordpress.com/2015/04/10/lets-think-about-it-strip-mining-coal-and-you/

Plague Land by S.D. Sykes – Book Review

This is a fantastic book. It takes place during medieval times in the aftermath of one wave of the Black Plague. The main character is Oswald de Lacy, the leftover son, one who was never intended to inherit; in fact he was sent to the monastery at the age of seven, so he has no qualifications and no knowledge of overseeing the family manor and accompanying lands. However, during the latest out-break of the black plague his older brothers have died, and the family fortunes have landed in his lap.

Oswald is singularly unable to rule either his lands or his people and he knows it. He is a young seventeen year old who has never learned to stand up for himself, let alone his “people”. He has inherited all kinds of problems, the aftermath of the plague being the worst one. This is a time when the village needs a strong leader to follow, and Oswald has no idea of how to lead.  Society has begun to unravel due to the number of people who have died from the plague.  There is disarray, and Oswald has no idea of what to do.

I’m not going to tell you the story, since I really hope that you read this book for yourself. It is both a coming of age book and a thriller. There are murders, threats and more than one plot twist. In fact I never saw a few of the twists coming, which in my mind makes for an extraordinary book. I really liked the relationships between the remaining living members of Oswald’s family; and I would love to read the next chapter in Oswald’s story. So here’s hoping that Sykes continues the story of this immensely interesting family in another book.