The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
“When they leave, they leave bemused, uncertain of why they came, of what they have seen, of whether they had a good time or not.”
The best way for me to describe Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane is in Gaiman’s own words. The quote is from a different book of his, American Gods, and he’s describing Rock City. I’ve been to Rock City, and the description fits, but it also fits my experience of The Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Our middle-aged protagonist has returned home for a funeral. We don’t know the man’s name, though there’s an outside possibility it’s George. We don’t know who died, though it almost has to be one of his parents. He gets sidetracked, driving down the lane where he once lived, and where his childhood friend Lettie Hempstock live... Read More
Kelly LasiterOn FanLit’s staff since July 2008
KELLY LASITER is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves, guarded by a ruthless hellhound. (All right, so her manners aren’t always mild and the hellhound is actually quite friendly, but the shelves do totter.)
Kelly came late to the fantasy genre, wandering into its enchanted lands nearly by accident in her early twenties, by way of Pamela Dean’s Tam Lin and the suggested reading list provided in the back by Terri Windling. She is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck.
Her pet peeves include atrocious grammar, protagonists that are either impossibly perfect or insufferably nasty, being beaten over the head with a moral, and books in which female characters are absent or cardboard. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Neverwas by Kelly Moore, Tucker & Larkin Reed
OK, first things first. What a beautiful cover!
The book graced by this lovely cover is Neverwas, the sequel to Amber House by mother-and-daughters team Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed. In the previous book, teenaged Sarah Parsons altered the past to save the lives of her younger brother and her aunt.
As Neverwas begins, it becomes clear that Sarah changed more than just that. The entire United States is different from the one we live in — in fact, there is no United States per se, but several loosely connected countries, and Amber House is situated in one where racial segregation still exists. Meanwhile, in Europe, Nazis reign. “WTF?” you might ask. What did Sarah do in the past that messed up the entire world this badly?
That’s the question Sarah ... Read More
Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour
For us readers of a certain age, “Tam Lin” and “college” in the same sentence are going to remind us of Pamela Dean’s quirky retelling. But other than profuse quoting of poetry, Dean’s Tam Lin and Katherine Harbour’s Thorn Jack are not much alike and don’t really invite comparisons. You might also think of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight a time or two, as a few of the story’s bones are similar, but I never once felt like I was reading a Twilight copy while reading Thorn Jack — which goes to show you tropes need not be poison if woven into a good tale. What Thorn Jack reminded me of, more than an... Read More
Beauty Awakened by Gena Showalter
I’d never read any of Gena Showalter’s books before trying Beauty Awakened, but I’d gotten the idea they were fun reads. Unfortunately, I did not have fun with Beauty Awakened — in fact, it made me angry — and I abandoned the book partway through.
The setup is that Koldo, a physically and emotionally scarred dark-angel type, and Nicola, a self-sacrificing young woman with a heart condition and a dying twin sister, meet and eventually fall in love. But Showalter made Koldo so insufferable that I couldn’t root for them as a couple. At one point, he performs a miraculous task and Nicola asks him what he is, to have this ability. He berates her for not doing research. The woman is working two jobs and her sister is in the hospital! She explains, but he keeps lecturing her about priorities and excuses. After a while, even the fact that I w... Read More
The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst
You never know what Sarah Beth Durst is going to do next. Fairy tales mixed with science? Vampires and unicorns? Gods taking over human bodies? Creepy carnivals? She’s done all of that and more, and with The Lost, Durst begins another story that, just like her previous novels, is completely different from what has gone before.
Lauren Chase took to the open road to get away, just for a little while, from the prospect of bad news about her mother’s health. Instead she found herself caught in a dust storm and then stuck in a town called Lost. People and things that are “lost” to the outside world find their way here, and no one can leave until the Missing Man allows them to go home. But something goes terribly wrong when the Missing Man meets Lauren, and now the townspeople of Lost are convinced Lauren has driven away their only hope. Now, with most of Lost’s population hostile toward h... Read More
Fates by Lanie Bross
Vampires are everywhere in teen fiction, but recently some authors have ventured outside fangland and explored a more diverse assortment of supernatural beings. And so we have Fates by Lanie Bross, a novel about, well, Fates. I was a little sad when I realized Bross’s Fates didn’t bear much resemblance to the Greek Fates, just because I’m a sucker for classical mythology, but nonetheless I was eager to see what Bross did with the concept. The gorgeous cover art didn’t hurt a bit either.
The two central characters are fine, in and of themselves. The heroine, Corinthe, was once a Fate and lived in the ethereal world of Pyralis, where she and her sister Fates were responsible for making sure people’s destines played out like they were supposed to. But Corinthe made a mistake, and for that was banished from Pyralis and is now living in Humana (Earth). She looks like a human teenager but still has a job... Read More
Mistress of the Wind by Michelle Diener
“East of the Sun, West of the Moon” is a Scandinavian fairy tale that’s a bit like “Beauty and the Beast,” and even more like “Cupid and Psyche.” It’s full of striking imagery but has always inspired a bit of ambivalence in me — I love that the girl goes on an epic journey to rescue the guy, but I’m always a smidgen irked that she wins him by doing laundry better than her rival! In recent years, a number of authors have turned their hands to retelling the story in novel form, expanding the plot and focusing on different aspects of the tale, with varying results.
Mistress of the Wind is a new retelling by Michelle Diener, who has written several historical novels before entering fairy-tale land. It’s billed as “New Adult,” that new fiction category that focuses on protagonists of roughly college age and is often steamier than traditional Young Adult fiction. In th... Read More
Daughters of the Nile by Stephanie Dray
Daughters of the Nile concludes Stephanie Dray’s trilogy about Selene, the daughter of Cleopatra, who survived the fall of her mother’s kingdom and went on to become a queen herself. I’ve never been quite sure how to categorize this series — is it fantasy? is it historical fiction with magic realism? — but I’ve certainly been enjoying it.
In Lily of the Nile, we saw Selene as a young girl coming of age; in Song of the Nile we saw her dealing with the issues of young womanhood in addition to the precarious political situation in which she lived. In this third volume, we follow Selene as a mature married ruler with children. She and her husband, King Juba, have taken tentative steps toward making their marriage a true partnership as well as a political alliance, but the relationship has been poisoned with old hurts and mistrust for a long time, and eac... Read More
Sorrow’s Knot by Erin Bow
Sorrow’s Knot had some big footsteps in which to follow, since Erin Bow’s debut novel Plain Kate was pretty terrific. But I’m pleased to report that Sorrow’s Knot not only lived up to my expectations but exceeded them. This is a fantastic novel, and better than Plain Kate.
Sorrow’s Knot is set in a world that feels a lot like the Pacific Northwest, and draws from (without copying anyone or anything in particular) Native American cultures. The heroine, Otter, is growing up in a village that is almost exclusively made up of women. She is the daughter of Willow, the village’s Binder, whose task it is to bind the dead — both figuratively and literally — so that they cannot return in ghostly form to harm the living. But now Willow is going mad, and making cryptic statements about the... Read More
The Incrementalists by Steven Brust & Skyler White
The Incrementalists is collaboration between authors Steven Brust and Skyler White. I was more familiar with White going in, having enjoyed her trippy novels and Falling, Fly and In Dreams Begin. My experience with Brust’s vast catalogue was sadly limited to having read The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars many years ago while obsessively collecting the FAIRY TALE SERIES. In The Incrementalists, Brust and White team up to create a millennia-old secret society dedicated to making the world better... incrementally.
The novel follows two points of view: Phil, a longtime Incrementalist, and Renee (called Ren), whom Phil has selected as a new recruit. Ren accepts, for secret reasons of he... Read More
Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
I want to live in Sarah Beth Durst’s brain. Every time I turn around, she has a new book out, and it’s completely different from the last one. Her imagination is seemingly boundless. Another thing I appreciate about her books is that they stand alone. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good series as much as the next girl, but there’s also something to be said for a self-contained novel.
Laini Taylor, author of Daughter of Smoke and Bone, provided the front cover blurb for Conjured, and I can’t think of anyone more fitting. I’d call Conjured “the Sarah Beth Durst book for Laini Taylor fans.” In a few of its broad lines (girl in our world who is threatened by secrets from a parallel, dreamlike world), it’s similar to Daughter of Smoke and Bone and will probably appeal to a lo... Read More
We've got Sarah Beth Durst with us today, author of several books we love. I'm currently enjoying her new book, Conjured, which will be released next week. Sarah's got a fundamentally important question for you. One commenter will win a copy of Conjured. Thanks for visiting, Sarah!
So here's something I've been thinking about a lot lately... Why do people read?
I have my big-picture generic answer, of course: we read because we need stories as desperately as we need air, food, and water. Stories are how we process, cope with, and/or escape from the world. Whether they're told by friends, inside books, on TV, or whatever, they're how we connect with other people, understand our past, and prepare for the future.
Plus, they're awesome.
But on an individual level... Why do people read?
Infinity by Rachel Ward
Infinity, by Rachel Ward, concludes the series that began with Numbers and peaked in The Chaos. It’s a few years after the apocalypse that devastated England in that second book. Adam and Sarah are living a nomadic lifestyle with Sarah’s two younger brothers and her daughter Mia. Adam isn’t comfortable around people because of his special ability and easily recognizable face, but Sarah is pregnant again and would really like to settle down.
As this conflict arises between the two, an external threat appears. Infinity takes a dystopian tone; men from the government want to use Adam’s power for the rebuilding effort, and they are not inclined to take no for an answer.
Infinity is a slim novel with only one major conflict, and feels kind of like a “bonus novella” rather than a full installment in the series, but it does give satisfactory cl... Read More
The Goddess Inheritance by Aimée Carter
Aimée Carter’s GODDESS TEST series has always been a bumpy ride for me, with its sometimes baffling take on Greek mythology and its focus on petty bickering even in the face of potential worldwide catastrophe. Yet I always felt there was enough of a seed of a good story here that I wanted to see how Carter would finish it out, so I decided to read the final book, The Goddess Inheritance. I’ve now gotten a little over halfway through the book and am giving up. I’ve decided I simply don’t care anymore.
We pick up as Kate is on the verge of giving birth in captivity — having been kidnapped by Calliope and Cronus at the end of the last book — and the other gods having just realized she’s actually missing. Then she does give birth, in the most Mary Sue manner one can imagine, i.e. with none of the commonplace annoyances that come with childbirth. Labor only lasts a few mi... Read More
Grail of the Summer Stars by Freda Warrington
Grail of the Summer Stars is the third in Freda Warrington’s AETHERIAL TALES series, following Elfland and Midsummer Night. Each novel can stand alone, though they have some overlapping plotlines and characters, such that each novel will be more meaningful and resonant if you’ve read the others. Grail of the Summer Stars has more overlapping elements than either of the two previous books and is connected more strongly to each of them than they are to each other.
Warrington introduces us to Stevie Silverwood, a metalworking artist and museum curator who has always been a little odd, seeing things no one else could see — and whose past before age 15 is a mystery even to herself. Her quiet life is disrupted when her old college sweetheart, Daniel, sends her a triptych of fantastic paintings along with a cryptic note, and goes missin... Read More