Monthly Archives: November 2013

Novel Teas

Novel Teas

I recently acquired a box of Novel Teas from a friend as a thank you gift, and they seem too perfect for the endeavors of this blog. The tags on each bag have a literary quote on them! If you are a fan of English Breakfast tea and whimsy, you would enjoy this treat. Novel Teas (and a few others) can be purchased at http://bagladiestea.com/product-category/novel-tea/

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November 30, 2013 · 12:18 am

#24. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

ImageAfter finishing American Gods, I quickly dove into The Ocean at the End of the Lane, also by Neil Gaiman. It is a charming, much shorter read than American Gods, though the mystery seems less precise. Gods is a gut-punch, a brain-bend, while Ocean is a sweet glance at supernatural worlds and the nature of memory. It reminded me very much of The Gates, which I read at Halloween, although instead of particle physics we are dealing with elusive magic which opens portals.

Lettie Hempstock is a strange eleven-year-old (who has probably been 11 for a very long time) who lives at the end of the lane where our unnamed narrator grew up. They share an incredible experience together, fraught with otherworldly creatures and ancient enchantments, but he finds himself with much different memories shortly thereafter. He forgets about her entirely until he finds himself at the end of that lane forty years later, escaping from a stuffy funeral reception. He sits by the duck pond there, which Lettie always called her ocean, and his childhood memories, vivid and frightening, come flooding back.

The story ultimately left me craving more, for there are many details left unexamined, unexplained — but the more I think on it, the more appropriate the absence of total clarity seems. The narrator is remembering his world as a 7-year-old, and there are many wonders that small children innately believe, instinctively do not question. The mystery is less precise, perhaps decidedly so. It  is certainly a book that draws a thick line between childhood and adulthood, of the things we try to remember and the things we lose forever. This is a great, quick read for a nostalgic evening.

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#23. American Gods by Neil Gaiman

ImageAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman is many things. It is a road trip novel. It is a mystery, a thriller. It is in parts horrific, and in many ways beautiful. It is a story of modern mythology, set in a changing America still heavily populated by the gods of old worlds. And a few new gods as well.

We meet our protagonist Shadow in prison, shortly before he is released. He seems so simple on the outside, a strong man just doing his time and keeping his head down. Once he gets out and meets the mysterious man in a pale suit called Wednesday, his life will never be simple again.

I love the diverse mythologies woven into this universe. There are journal entries between chapters explaining the origins of various gods in America, gods who traveled from regal Egypt and icy Norway to rural towns in Illinois and Wisconsin, nestled deep in the hearts of those who believed in them. I especially liked the prominent placement of The House on the Rock, a crazy museum/huge diorama/creepshow that I visited myself when I was very young. And, like the gods in the book, I could certainly believe it is a bizarrely sacred place.

I fell in love with this book, with the mystery and mythology of it. Not just the mythology of those old worlds and beliefs, but of American mythology as well, of culture heroes and secret dreams and a land that is good for men but troubling for gods. I would highly recommend it, and am very grateful that it was recommended to me. (Thank you, Twitterverse!)

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Fall Favorites: #21. The Gates & #22. The Long Halloween

fall fave booksI took a break last week from American Gods to read some Halloween fare: The Gates By John Connolly and The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. The Gates is an entertaining story about a young boy named Samuel who stumbles upon a demonic plot to overthrow Earth while trick-or-treating three days before Halloween. (He feels his early attempts will be admired for his “initiative.”) A portal to the gates of Hell is opened when a “bit” out of the Large Hadron Collider flies off and winds up in the basement of bored suburbanites performing strange rituals, you know, just to liven things up a bit. Samuel spends the next three days trying to warn the town about the oncoming disaster and ultimately turns to his friends, his small dog, a misplaced minor demon named Nurd, and the CERN team in Switzerland to help vanquish his monstrous foes. This is is a fun, lighthearted, read that’s great for Halloween or any pleasant fall weekend.

The Long Halloween is a Batman graphic novel that takes place shortly after the events of Batman: Year One. A mysterious serial killer shows up on the scene who murders mob members and corrupt officials on major holidays, starting with Halloween night. The Holiday Killer eludes Gotham police, DA Harvey Dent, and Batman himself for nearly a year as they struggle through each calendar month, anticipating the next strike.

This novel explores Batman’s rogues gallery of madmen and supervillains as Gotham’s criminal element moves away from organized crime and more into the chaotic crime sprees of Joker, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and others more typically associated with Batman’s canon. Gordon remarks to Batman, as they walk through Arkham Asylum, “So many are here. Nearly double from when you first appeared. Not that there is a direct correlation, but…do you give it any thought?” To which Batman, guided so intensely by his desire to rid Gotham of the evil that runs through the city’s veins, simply answers, “No.” The idea that Batman has created his own most diabolical enemies is a long-running one, and such a dark implication in Batman’s pursuit of justice only deepens the complexity of his character. The illustrations are mind-bogglingly stylized, and I especially love the massive foliage design of Poison Ivy. Batman fans, either new to the world or dyed-in-the-wool, must read this story.

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