Tag Archives: fantasy

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

“You don’t pass or fail at being a person, dear.”
– Mrs. Hempstock

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an unusual story told by an unnamed narrator about the childhood he has just remembered after sitting by the “ocean,” the lake in his old friend Lettie Hempstock’s yard.That’s really all I can say about the book without spoiling anything, so this will be a pretty short review for a pretty short book.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about this book. While I was reading, I didn’t want to stop. It was suspenseful, it was strange, and it was like I had been transported into Neil Gaiman’s little fantasy world. Sure, all of his books are unusual in a way, but this one was a little more so than the others I’ve read. And although I did really like it while I was reading, I’d become a little disappointed by the time it was over. Like I needed more, like it couldn’t be over so soon. Not as if it needs a sequel– I just feel he left too much unexplained and he should’ve  had an extra chapter or something. The ending was the only thing I really didn’t like about the book, but looking back on how odd the entire thing was, I’m surprised I even liked it at all.

And once again, like I’ve been ending a lot of my reviews lately, I hear about a possible film adaption produced by Tom Hanks. I don’t know if I can picture the book actually becoming a movie, but I’m excited nonetheless.

To conclude this review, I’d like to ask your opinion of whether I should post a review of the movie adaption of Catching Fire, which I recently went to see. Hopefully this will work out, since this is the first time I’ve ever linked a poll into a post. Vote on it below, and I’ll see you next time!

-J

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The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

“Hope springs forever.”
-Albus Dumbledore

The Tales of Beedle the Bard is a set of five magical fairy tales from the Harry Potter universe. Any of you Harry Potter fans out there should know that this book was mentioned in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows numerous times, specifically due to the story “The Tale of Three Brothers.” Yes, that story is included, along with four other magic-laced stories which were occasionally mentioned in the Harry Potter series.

Although I’d usually review each story separately, with them being so short, I’m going to just do them all at once. The Tales of Beedle the Bard starts off with “The Wizard and the Hopping Pot,” an odd story about generosity. Among the four not previously mentioned in entirety, my favorite (and, according to the notes by Dumbledore, the most popular) was “The Fountain of Fair Fortune,” a seemingly sad yet beautiful story about three depressed witches who search for the cure to their troubles along with a Muggle knight. The darkest of the five tales, “The Warlock’s Hairy Heart,” is violent and lacks a happy ending, but still teaches a great lesson. “Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump” is the last of the new stories featured in the book, which tells of a man who tricks the king into thinking he can be taught magic. And, finally, “The Tale of Three Brothers” is the infamous tale featured in the final book of the Harry Potter series about three brothers’ encounter with Death. It is the story that sparked the theory of the Deathly Hallows: the Elder Wand, the Resurrection Stone, and the Cloak of Invisibility.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was only about a hundred pages, which made it easy for me to sit down and read it all in one sitting. But, being a huge Potterhead, I may have only liked the book for its connection with the entire franchise. So, make of that what you will, but in my opinion, J.K. Rowling couldn’t have done a better job giving us insight into the childhood of magical families and giving us more information on the famous book that helped Harry Potter learn about his ancestry.

Before I go, I’d like to give a big happy Thanksgiving to everyone, just in case I don’t get to write to you all again before Thursday. And go crazy, any of you Black Friday shoppers! 🙂

-J

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The Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush, Crescendo, Silence, Finale)

“Any happiness, no matter how brief, seemed better than the long, simmering torture of waking up day after day, knowing I could never have him.”
-Nora

Romance was not part of Nora Grey’s plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment. But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

I’m a little lazy today, so that summary is directly from Goodreads.com. Considering the cover art of the series pictured above, I don’t think it’s a spoiler to tell you that Patch is a fallen angel. I mean, it’s almost screaming it at you. So, not only are there fallen angels in this fantasy world, there are also fallen angel-human hybrids called Nephilim, and that’s where it gets tricky. Basically, fallen angels can possess the body of a Nephil during the Jewish month of Cheshvan (which I’ve tried to look up and figure out exactly when it is, but so far, I’ve got nothing) if they swear fealty to the fallen angel. This will, in turn, make them immortal, like the fallen angel who possesses them. Fallen angels and Nephilim generally despise each other, not only due to the possession, but the fact that fallen angels created Nephilim.

I can’t say much more without destroying the plot of the entire series, but that’s the main premise. Also, fallen angels can’t physically feel, so there’s the whole forbidden love thing. You get the idea. So how about the actual review?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the series. I remember when I read Hush, Hush for the first time, I absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to get the sequel. About a year later, I re-read Hush, Hush and read Crescendo for the first time, and I remember loving it just as much. But recently, when I got Silence and Finale and read the entire series, my feelings about them had changed. Maybe I read them too many times, maybe I grew out of them, and maybe it’s the fact that I was reading multiple books in a row. Who knows? The thing is, I really didn’t like them very much, and I struggled to finish Silence because it was so boring for so long. And once I’d finally finished that one, I didn’t even want to read Finale. I was so sick of the entire series that I was ready to just give up, write a terrible review on half of the series to emphasize my hatred with the previous book, and be done with the whole ordeal. But, I didn’t. And in a way, I’m glad I didn’t, because Finale was definitely the best of all four novels and the only one I didn’t feel like I was wasting my time reading. The suspense leading up to the main plot point is great, the training is great, and the characters have visibly matured since the first installment.

I’d say overall, not bad. Some parts were cliché, yes, but others were great. Some well-liked characters I hated, but others I liked. The series was meh, excluding Finale.

Now, a little pathetic apology note: I actually finished the series yesterday, and I don’t really have an excuse for why I didn’t write the review then. However, between then and now I finished another book, which I’m currently multi-tasking on writing the review for and getting distracted on Tumblr. It’ll definitely be up before I go to bed, though, and it’s a good one.

Anyway, guys, thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon with another review!

-J

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The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

“People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer.”
-Silas

After his family was murdered when he was just a baby, Nobody “Bod” Owens grew up in a graveyard, parented by the ghosts of a married couple and guarded by a tall, dark, mysterious man named Silas who is neither living nor dead. The man who killed his family is still out there, waiting until the time is right to finish him off as well. And although the graveyard protects him, Bod wants to explore and meet others like him– which means exposing himself to his family’s killer.

The premise of this book is mysterious and strange, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s not your average fantasy story, of course; it’s bent on showing the “good side” of monsters and creatures we were all afraid of as children, while still being extremely dark.

I really liked the book while reading it, but I think the fan theory about Silas was what made me step up into loving the book. The theory that Silas is actually a vampire never occurred to me while I was reading, but after thinking about it, it made a lot of sense (actually, after thinking about it, I felt stupid for not getting it sooner– but apparently a lot of people were in my same situation) appreciate that Neil Gaiman didn’t stick to the vampire stereotypes that circle today. He was my favorite character in the book by far, and the realization that he was actually a vampire made me love him (and the book) even more.

Although I thought the book was absolutely great, I really disagree with one of the reviews featured in the version I read, which stated it was “a book for all ages.” The novel begins with a man murdering three people and attempting to murder a baby, and the entire plot circles around Bod not being allowed to leave the graveyard in case of being killed by the same man. There are creatures in the book called the Indigo Man and the Sleer, which I believe could definitely be nightmare-triggering to some children. And there’s a chapter where Bod is kidnapped by Ghouls and taken through what seemed to be a portal to the Ghoul world, which I definitely wouldn’t recommend any children to read. Yes, I do love how they portrayed werewolves and mummies and ghosts and vampires to be the good guys, but there are still bad guys in the book.

So, in general: Neil Gaiman is fantastic, The Graveyard Book is fantastic, Silas is fantastic, and I can’t wait to hear more. And, again, I’ve heard rumors of a movie going around. According to Wikipedia:

Irish Academy Award-winning filmmaker Neil Jordan signed on to write and direct a film adaptation, which as of January 2010 was in pre-production. In April 2012, however, rights to the adaptation were acquired by Walt Disney Pictures. Henry Selick, director of The Nightmare Before Christmas and the film adaptation of Gaiman’s novel Coraline has been chosen to direct The Graveyard Book. Like most of Selick’s other films, it is probable that the film will be stop-motion animated, although that decision has yet to be confirmed by Selick himself. However, in the wake of Disney choosing to cancel another Selick project, The Shadow King, Disney appears to be seeking another director, one possible candidate being Ron Howard.

A possible stop-motion film adaption in the future would be brilliant, in my opinion, as I loved Coraline and I could definitely see another of Neil Gaiman’s novels shining in stop-motion, especially certain characters.

Okay, well, I think that’s mostly it. Sorry about the delayed review once again– I was so caught up in the Doctor Who marathon and 50th anniversary episode that I didn’t even remember I’d finished this book. (By the way, Doctor Who— wow. I know I shouldn’t be discussing it here, and no spoilers for any fellow Whovians out there, but seriously… wowI’m absolutely thrilled.) I should have the review of the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick up either tomorrow or Monday, so I’ll see you soon!

-J

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Tempest by Julie Cross

Tempest

“Forget everything you think you know about time travel.”
-Jackson

Nineteen-year-old Jackson has a secret: he can time travel, but the things he can change in the past don’t affect the future. He hasn’t told anyone but his genius friend Adam, who is trying to help him understand the limits of his ability. But one day, two men appear and shoot Jackson’s girlfriend, Holly. He ends up jumping to a different time in surprise, and finds himself stuck in 2007– two years ago, before he had even met Holly. He spends his time getting to know Holly all over again, and in doing so finds out nearly everything he knew in his old life was a lie. Now Jackson is left wondering who to trust, and he must choose before time runs out and the so-called Enemies of Time come back for him…

You probably don’t know this considering the books I’ve been reviewing, but I’m really into things that mess with your head. Some film examples that immediately come to mind are The Butterfly Effect, The Prestige, Inception, and Frailty. I’m just going to assume that you’ve seen or heard of at least one of these incredible movies. Now, imagine one of those types of movies, but in book form. That’s kind of what Tempest was like: you think you know something, but then you get further in and realize you don’t know anything. And it just gets worse (and by worse, I mean better), because Tempest is a planned trilogy, with an added prequel.

So, I should probably say something about the book itself. In short, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Characters: awesome. Other than the obvious antagonists, I don’t think there was anyone I really disliked, and this doesn’t happen often.
  • Pace: perfect. At no point did I feel the story was moving too fast or slow, which made me not want to stop reading.
  • Twists/major revelations: awesome. Just awesome.
  • Action/suspense: yes.
  • Definitely not as confusing as I probably made it out to be.
  • Also, I commend this book for being one of the few with a female love interest who doesn’t totally suck. (*Cough, cough,* Martyn Pig; Jerk, California; and Twisted. Grrr.)

Well, there you have it. Short and sweet and straight to the point. If I had to grade this book, I’d say A-. (We can’t all be perfect.)

By next week I’ll most likely have up the series review for the Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick, which is a paranormal romance sort of thing. I haven’t reviewed many books of this genre, so it should be interesting. Hope to see you then!

-J

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The Immortals Series by Alyson Noel (Evermore, Blue Moon, Shadowland, Dark Flame, Night Star, Everlasting)

The Immortals Series

“Today’s worries are yesterday’s fears and tomorrow’s stories.” 

I’m not sure how many of you guys read my little note on my 100 Book Challenge page, but in case you didn’t and don’t feel like going back, I’ll just give you a quick explanation. I was planning on rereading Heaven Is for Real, that short and sweet book that’s been crazy popular for a while now, and reviewing it for you guys in a whiny but professional manner– as I usually do when I dislike a book, even a little bit. However, constant family issues and other personal problems posed a threat. I was a complete mess for a while and didn’t once think about my blogs. So one day, while I was a little cooled off, I decided to cancel the 100 Book Challenge and take a break from blogging for a while. And during my break, I finally finished Heaven Is for Real (it took me nine days total because of everything that was going on– which is sort of embarrassing considering that book is tiny) and reread the Hunger Games series and Immortals series. (No reviews for the Hunger Games series, though, just because I don’t know what I would say other than how much I love the books and how much I’m in love with the character of Finnick.)

But what I really came here to say is: Break’s over, guys. J’s back. And now, it’s back to the most popular time on this blog: reviewing time.

The Immortals series is an action-packed fantasy told from the point of view of Ever Bloom, a sixteen-year-old who recently lost her family to a devastating car crash. Ever wades through her new life in California, hiding beneath loud music and hoods to block out the constant noise that comes with the psychic powers she gained after the near-death experience. That is, until she meets Damen, who seems to be the one person that she can’t read– the one person who silences everything around her– the one person she can’t help but feel attracted to. But Damen is hiding a secret himself, and when it is revealed, it will change both of their lives forever.

Considering the name of the series, I highly doubt what I’m about to mention would be considered a spoiler. But, if you’re still determined not to learn a single thing that could be “spoiler-ish”, you may want to stop reading now.

In the first book, Evermore, we get a background on Ever’s life and how she adjusts to her new school and powers. She uses loud music to block out the endless stream of thoughts coming from everyone around her, avoids touching people at all costs for risk of seeing their entire life story, and learns to deal with seeing everyone’s aura and talking to the ghost of her little sister, Riley (who, eventually, got her own series, which I haven’t read yet but would really like to). Then we meet Damen, who arouses Ever’s suspicions when she can’t read his mind, can’t see his aura, and gets nothing with a touch. He seems to read her mind at times, taking her suspicions even further until he reveals his secret: Damen is immortal, and had made Ever immortal after the crash that claimed her family.

There’s never a dull moment in this six-part series, which constantly reveals new secrets, problems, and enemies. It’s exciting, it’s romantic, it’s philosophical– it’s everything you could ask for in a fantasy series. And just when you think you know everything, a new problem appears.

Just like with most series I read, the final book, Everlasting, was my favorite. After everything that had happened in the previous novels, I constantly wondered what Alyson Noel could do for a big finale without turning one of my favorite characters against them (as she had previously done, but I won’t get into that). The series definitely went out with a bang, though, and I loved every minute of it.

Although, numerous Goodreads users disagree entirely. I’d say it’s about a fourth of the readers out there that hate this series with a passion. I can tell they’re frustrated because Ever always seems to make terrible decisions under pressure– but Alyson Noel has her admit to it being her weak point, and besides, without terrible decisions, how could there be a plot in the first place? So yes, Immortals series-haters, I do understand where you’re coming from, because Ever’s decisions have frustrated me beyond belief as well. But everyone makes bad decisions at some point in their lives, and Alyson Noel is just acting upon this common weakness.

And before I wrap this review up and head off to bed, I want to take a minute to mention two things about Alyson Noel’s writing– one compliment, one constructive criticism. The compliment: I love how she uses unusual names for her characters. And although she does use them frequently in these books, she also uses them in other books– though I’ve yet to read all but one. A couple of my favorite names she has used are Echo, Ever, Haven, Evangeline, Misa, Rafe, Honor, Adelina, and Roman.

Now, some quick constructive criticism. Alyson Noel tends to recycle a lot of phrases when describing things, which tends to get somewhat annoying. While I’m writing this, two big examples are jumping out at me: the Shadowland and the Great Halls of Learning. The Shadowland first came into play in the eponymous third novel of the series, Shadowland, and was described as “The Shadowland. The home for lost souls.” And in every book since then, that’s exactly how she describes it. Along with the Great Halls of Learning, which, during their first appearance in Blue Moon, the second installment of the series, were described using the same monuments and repetition of the word “facade”. And guess how she describes it in every other book it appears in?

Anyway, I think that’s enough for tonight. I hope you enjoyed my review, hope it was worth it after all of the time I’ve been off. And, although I just came back, I’m going on vacation soon, which basically means I won’t have time or a way to review. I’m using this time to reread the Harry Potter series, if I can, which I was planning to do soon anyway but would cause me to disappear for a while again. But since I recently got four new books, and have at least three that I’ve read but haven’t reviewed yet, I promise I’ll return with more reviews as soon as possible. Until then, keep enjoying the summer! 🙂

-J

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Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Coraline

““I don’t want whatever I want. Nobody does. Not really. What kind of fun would it be if I just got everything I ever wanted just like that, and it didn’t mean anything? What then?”
-Coraline Jones

After moving into a new home, Coraline discovers a door that leads to nothing but a brick wall. But later, when she returns to the door, she finds that it leads to something completely different: an entirely new world where the people have buttons for eyes and no one mispronounces her name. In this world, where animals can talk and her parents always have time for her, everything seems much better than reality. But everything is not what it seems…

You’re probably more familiar with the claymation movie based off of this book than the book itself. There are a number of differences between the two, although both are great. Neil Gaiman is an extremely talented and imaginative author, and I really enjoy reading his works.

If you remember the movie, the first thing that should come to mind is how scary it was. Even though I was eleven when I first watched it, I remember it as the most terrifying animation movie I had ever seen. Even my mother, who was probably thirty-five, was shocked at how disturbing it was. The book was significantly less scary, due to the lack of Other-Mother-turning-into-a-spider scenes. The illustrations in this book weren’t the most comforting, though.

-J

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Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Going Bovine

“The dark does not weep for itself because there is no light. Rather, it accepts that it is the dark.”
-Balder

After being diagnosed with mad cow disease with no hope for a cure, loser Cameron Smith becomes everyone’s hero overnight. While staying in the hospital, an angel named Dulcie visits him in the middle of the night and tells Cameron he has to search for the cure in order to find it. He takes with him a Spanish dwarf named Gonzo and they travel across the country, meeting all sorts of unusual people, villians, and Viking gods as they look for not only a cure for disease, but a cure for the end of the world.

This book poses the possibility of so many different things, such as “What would happen if there were nothing but happiness?” and “If you only had one wish to base your life on, what would it be?” It’s definitely the kind of book to make you think right up until the end.

I know you guys probably hate my nerdy comparisons, but I can’t resist this one. This is the only way I can think of to make you understand what reading this book is like. Going Bovine, to me, is a lot like the movie Total Recall (both the Arnold Schwarzenegger one and the Colin Farrell remake)– the best part about it is the fact that throughout the whole thing, you don’t know if most of it was real or not. I’ll provide you with some examples–without spoilers, of course:

In Total Recall, Douglas Quaid uses a sort of memory-implanting device called Rekall to see what his life would be like as a secret agent. Just as it’s about to take effect, the people who have set up the device for him learn that he’s not who he appears to be and try to kill him. The basic plot of the movie revolves around the whole idea of “Is this whole thing really happening, or is it just part of the Rekall?”

In Going Bovine, Cameron is diagnosed with mad cow disease and told the symptoms he will face, incluidng dementia and hallucinations. After a few nights in the hospital, he is visited by a punk-rock angel and told he needs to search for the cure if he wants to find it. Everything he encounters on his crazy adventure could very well be a hallucination from his disease, but who knows?

This book is pretty intense. You have to be open to all possibilities while reading it, or you probably won’t like it at all. I was really skeptical about reading this, but now it’s within my favorites of my new books (and yes, I do say that a lot, but I truly believe this one passes up almost all of the others). It’s definitely an adventure you won’t want to miss out on, and an adventure I’m glad I decided to take.

-J

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Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly

“Maybe we judge people too much by their looks because it’s easier than seeing what’s really important.”
-Kyle Kingsbury

(Sorry for the late review. I finished this book on February 3rd, but I’ve been sick all week and unable to get on my computer to post a review.)

Excuse me for being blunt, but I hated this book. I read it in two days because I knew that if I didn’t, I’d never finish it. And I really had to force myself to read it, just so that I could come on here and warn you guys.

Well, here we go.

Beastly tells the story of Kyle Kingsbury, a popular high school student who uses his looks to get anything he wants. He pities the unattractive and unpopular, treating them terribly because he knows he can get away with it. But after playing a mean joke on a witch, she turns him into a beast. Kyle is given two years to fall in love with a girl who loves him back, despite his ugliness, and who will kiss him to prove it.

This was pretty much a modern-day Beauty and the Beast, with a blind tutor and Mexican maid and without the talking dishes. Plus, every once in a while you’ll get an excerpt of Kyle’s chat room conversations with other “transformed people”, and each of them are fairy tale rip-offs. For example, there’s a mermaid who gives up her voice for legs, a prince who has been turned into a frog and needs a princess to kiss him to change back, and a bear who moves in with a girl named Snow White. Any of these sound familiar?

Not only that, but the dialogue and complete storyline were terrible. One specific conversation actually made me wonder if it could get any worse. And the attempt at humor throughout the book was just pathetic. I felt embarrassed to be reading it. Literally the only thing I enjoyed about this book was the reference to one of my favorite parts in The Princess Bride. That’s it.

I truly have no idea why anyone would make this horrible book into a movie, but it happened. All I know is that I surely won’t be watching it anytime soon.

-J

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