Mini-reviews: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman; Light by Michael Grant; and Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

oceanattheendofthelaneTitle: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins Audio
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Neil Gaiman
Audiobook length: 5 hours and 48 minutes
First line: I wore a black suit and a white shirt, a black tie and black shoes, all polished and shiny: clothes that normally would make me feel uncomfortable, as if I were in a stolen uniform, or pretending to be an adult.

Goodreads blurb: 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.

I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was when my library got The Ocean at the End of the Lane on audio. I love Gaiman’s work, and I love it even more when he reads it himself. The man did not disappoint. I don’t quite know how to characterize this book. The narrator through most of the book is a young boy, and yet he is dealing with very adult issues. This is a dark fantasy, but also one that deals with family dynamics, the difficulties of childhood, and self-sacrifice. I absolutely adored it.

mylatestgrievanceTitle: My Latest Grievance
Author: Elinor Lipman
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from the public library
Audiobook reader: Mia Barron
Audiobook length: 8 hours and 2 minutes
First line: I was raised in a brick dormitory at Dewing College, formerly Mary-Ruth Dewing Academy, a finishing school best known for turning out attractive secretaries who married up.

Goodreads blurb: My Latest Grievance stars the beguiling teenager Frederica Hatch, the “Eloise of Dewing College.” Born and raised in the dormitory of this small women’s college and chafing under the care of “the most annoyingly evenhanded parental team in the history of civilization,” Frederica is starting to feel that her life is stiflingly snug. That all changes with the arrival on campus of a new dorm mother, the glamorous Laura Lee French, the frenetic center of her own universe.

Frederica “Freddie” Hatch is a fantastic narrator, and I loved experiencing this book through her eyes. She has grown up on the campus of a women’s college, and times, they are a-changing. That change is embodied by Laura Lee, her father’s ex-wife, who comes to campus as a house mother and turns Freddie’s life – and the campus – upside down. I loved Freddie’s precociousness, her insight, and I was thoroughly engrossed in the story. Freddie’s parents and their parenting philosophy often had me shaking my head, and the humor had me listening with a smile on my face, and occasionally chuckling out loud.

Audio notes: Mia Barron was the perfect narrator to tell Freddie’s story.

lightTitle: Light
Author: Michael Grant
Genre: YA science fiction
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library.
First line: The little girl’s hair caught fire.

Goodreads blurb: It’s been over a year since all the adults disappeared. Gone.

In the time since every person over the age of fourteen disappeared from the town of Perdido Beach, California, countless battles have been fought: battles against hunger and lies and plague, and epic battles of good against evil. And now, the gaiaphage has been reborn as Diana’s malicious mutant daughter, Gaia. Gaia is endlessly hungry for destruction. She yearns to conquer her Nemesis, Little Pete, and then bend the entire world to her warped will. As long-standing enemies become allies, secrets are revealed and unexpected sacrifices are made. Will their attempts to save themselves and one another matter in the end, or will the kids of Perdido Beach perish in this final power struggle?

The boys and I have been reading this series together for the past four years, and we were thrilled to finally know how things turned out for Sam and Astrid, Lana, Edilio, Quinn, and all of our other favorite characters. This final book in the series was brutal. The characters have had to grow up during the course of the series, and I think the author figured the readers had, too, because the love scenes went a bit farther than any of the previous books in the series. I admit that I skipped a couple of paragraphs as I read aloud to my boys. But, other than the fact that not all of our beloved characters emerged unscathed, we still thought this book made a very good resolution to one of our favorite read-aloud series.

tumbleandfallTitle: Tumble & Fall
Author: Alexandra Coutts
Genre: YA science fiction
Publisher: AudioGO
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook download from the publisher for Audiobook Jukebox‘s reviewer program
Audiobook reader: Angela Brazil
Audiobook length: 10 hours and 23 minutes
First line: The day she gets out, it feels like the end.

Goodreads blurb: The world is living in the shadow of oncoming disaster. An asteroid is set to strike the earth in just one week’s time; catastrophe is unavoidable. The question isn’t how to save the world—the question is, what to do with the time that’s left? Against this stark backdrop, three island teens wrestle with intertwining stories of love, friendship and family—all with the ultimate stakes at hand.

What would you do if you knew it was possible that the whole world was going to be destroyed in a week? That is the question that Zan, Sierra, and Cayden are faced with. Three ordinary teenagers, who each are already dealing with some pretty adult struggles, even without the threat of a world-destroying asteroid. I appreciated that Coutts wrote about some very authentic issues that face teenagers today: depression, suicide, grief, alcoholism. I did wish for a little more detail in some of the relationships, and I was disappointed in the ending. But, I am the type of reader who likes resolution, while I know that a lot of you are okay with ambiguous endings.

Audio notes: Angela Brazil is a talented narrator, and gave voice to three very different teens.

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16 Responses to Mini-reviews: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman; My Latest Grievance by Elinor Lipman; Light by Michael Grant; and Tumble & Fall by Alexandra Coutts

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I really need to get my hands on the Gaiman book!

  2. annieb says:

    I really like your mini reviews. You do an excellent job.

  3. bermudaonion (Kathy)
    Twitter: bermudaonion
    says:

    Everyone is loving the new Gaiman. I don’t know if I should read it now or wait for the buzz to die down.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathy – it would have taken me a lot longer to find time for it if my library hadn’t gotten it on audio.

  4. I have a copy of the new Gaiman book and really should make time for it. It’s a print copy though, and right now I’m finding it easier to read on my Kindle. My poor print books are feeling neglected. :-(

    My Latest Grievance sounds wonderful. I’ll have to look for it on Audible.

    I am not sure Tumble & Fall would be something I’d enjoy reading. But, boy, do I like that cover!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – I really like that cover, too! I usually don’t like faces on my covers, but that one is done so well.

  5. Sounds like I need Neil’s audio.

  6. irene says:

    Well you certainly had a good selection here.

  7. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12
    says:

    I read and loved it, but I really need to listen to the audio as well!

  8. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    There are no words for how magical that Gaiman audiobook is. I’m not big into SciFi but I’m going to look into the Lipman book.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Candace – I wish he could write – and narrate – a new book every few months or so.