The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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I intentionally avoided all excerpts and descriptions in preparation for Gaiman’s newest novel for adults. I didn’t want to know what it was about or what people thought of it or anything.

So I was surprised when it was not so much American Gods size as Coraline size. But looking back on it now (even though I was quite disappointed then) it is more of a Coraline story than an American Gods story.

This was such a bizarre novel that it’s hard to review. Like any fairytale (and it was marketed as a fairytale) every reader is going to take away different things. Memories, hard history, a child’s misunderstanding of adult life, The Ocean at the End of the Lane encompasses all of these things and more.

I must be in a cynical mood because I took a very cynical reading of it. Without revealing too much of the plot…I got the feeling the fairtyale aspects were a sort of coping mechanism for a turbulent home. The actions of the father, the repeated absence of the mother, a sudden evil stepmother like figure that appears just after the appearance of a fairy god mother (or three). And then the ending, the recess back into forgetfulness, made me think that perhaps our narrator had told himself thousands of stories like this to make his childhood easier to deal with, or to make the child responsible for his adult failures. But every story ends the same, and not quite right, so he starts again at the beginning.

The narrator never even tells us his name.

The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

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When I picked up this book all I knew is that the land where the war was being fought was called Nebrask and that Sanderson was the man chosen to finish the Wheel of Time series.

I haven’t gotten to the books Sanderson contributed to but I was expecting the same high-fantasy world that Robert Jordan was known for. Frankly, I was more than surprised at how much I enjoyed this book…considering I only really picked it up for the Nebraska reference.

The Rithmatist is a steampunk meets geometry meets a classic Red Herring story that is unlike anything I’ve read before. Our protagonist, Joel, has always wanted to be a Rithmatist–A member of the elite group of students who have the power to fight with chalk (it’s way cooler than anything I can describe and it is super hard to describe anyway.) We learn that Joel missed his chance to be chosen to be a Rithmatist even though he displays an uncanny understanding for the methods. Which immediately made me go, well, great. So he’s going to get to try again and find out he was meant for this (Here lies surprise number one).

I don’t want to give away the ending because the mystery is so masterfully done. We’re thrown so many curveballs and I will admit I was guilty of immediately saying, “It’s that guy!” And I was wrong. Super wrong. And the reveal of the villain has you saying, “Ahh, yes. I see what you did there.” Fantastically written and researched (in a sci-fi kind of way) this novel guaranteed that I’ll be checking out more of Sanderson’s work.

Us Huskers have to stick together, after all.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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Oh. Man. This book was awesome.

And not the kind of book you should start at, say, 11 o’clock at night. Because you will be up until 4 to finish it, trust me.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children caught my eye due to the creepy cover and I’m glad I grabbed it because this series is going to get popular.

The prologue was my favorite part of the novel. We’re introduced to the narrator, Jacob, and his Grandpa Portman. Grandpa Portman has all sorts of stories for young Jacob: about being brave and monster fighting but Jacob’s favorite thing are the photographs of Grandpa Portman’s old friends.

The prologue is so haunting because we’re caught in a weird limbo where we’re unsure if the monsters are monsters or monsters. (Hint: it’s both)

I didn’t realize when I’d started the novel that all the pictures used are real. They’re vintage photographs owned by private collectors. This adds a whole dimension to the novel that is, in a word, unsettling.

The novel is perfectly paced with amazing attention to detail, the characters are intriguing and unique and the blend of history and science fiction was superb.