The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Genre: Magical Realism
Publisher: William Morrow Books
Publishing date: 18th of June 2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
Purchase Link:

Synopsis: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

My Review:

The Ocean at the End of the Lane has been advertised as Neil Gaiman’s first book for adults since Anansi Boys. Reviewing a Gaiman book is always hard, because of the nature of his stories and how they might be intended for adults or children but their themes are so universal that they cannot be locked into either.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was written for adults, but because we see the whole story though the retrospective eyes of a 7-year-old boy much of it reads like a children book. The story touches on human mortality and centralises the innocence of childhood where everything is magical and new. The story starts off slow, but the Gaiman stated that it starts off slow to deter young readers before things get to the grotesque parts.

The story sucked me in from page one, the nostalgic overtone of the story kept me interested and kept me reading. Following the story and feeling with the horror of childhood fears. As all Gaiman’s books “the Ocean at the End of the Lane” is instantly quotable, where Gaiman picks at the truth and reality of the human condition and mortality.

“I’m going to tell you something important. Grown-ups don’t look like grown-ups on the inside either. Outside, they’re big and thoughtless and they always know what they’re doing. Inside, they look just like they always have. Like they did when they were your age. The truth is, there aren’t any grown-ups. Not one, in the whole wide world.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this story for beginning to end, even though it was a very short story. The characters felt real and I was sympathetic to the main character, and the ending came together in a beautiful bittersweet knot.

“And did I pass?”
The face of the old woman on my right was unreadable in the gathering dusk. On my left the younger woman said, “You don’t pass or fail at a being a person, dear.”

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The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

Title:The Travelling Cat Chronicles
Author: Hiro Arikawa
Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction
Publisher:Random House UK; Transworld Publishers; Doubleday
Publishing date: 2nd of November 2017
ISBN: 9780857524195

Synopsis:It’s not the journey that counts, but who’s at your side.
Nana is on a road trip, but he is not sure where he is going. All that matters is that he can sit beside his beloved owner Satoru in the front seat of his silver van. Satoru is keen to visit three old friends from his youth, though Nana doesn’t know why and Satoru won’t say.
Set against the backdrop of Japan’s changing seasons and narrated with a rare gentleness and striking humour, Nana’s story explores the wonder and thrill of life’s unexpected detours. It is about the value of friendship and solitude, and knowing when to give and when to take. TRAVELLING CAT has already demonstrated its power to move thousands of readers with a message of kindness and truth. It slows, above all, how acts of love, both great and small, can transform our lives.

This is a very delayed review, because it took me longer to finish this book than I anticipated.

My Review:

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a charming and heartbreaking story about a cat and his owner traveling across Japan trying to find a new home for the cat. The story starts out, innocently, with the tomcat’s point of view, from before he knew his future owner Satoru, before the cat’s got a name.
Being a catlover this book sucked me right in from the very start. Nana (the cat) portrays a good picture of a cat, he is very much like the sarcastic and sassy way most cats will be described by their owners. And the voice of a feline is very much alive and personified in Nana.
As the story goes on Nana warms up and we learn more about Satoru and his past. The bond between Satoru and Nana grows with each chapter. While reading I did not want this book to end, I did not want to get to the final chapter and I had to take breaks from reading (Hence why this review is over a week later than I planned).
The end is inevitable, unless I quit reading the book, and it is heartbreaking. In order to avoid spoilers I will not discuss the ending of this book. However, I will warmly recommend this book to any catlover and anyone who enjoys Japanese literature, because this book hits home in both departments. From the first page, like with Murakami, you know you are reading a book translated from Japanese: it is just how the story is narrated, the way everything is described and the attention to vivid details that pops out at you. And going with a sarcastic, sassy and a little stoic cat, you can never go wrong.

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World by Debbie Tung

cover120802-mediumTitle: Quiet Girl in a Noisy World
Author: Debbie Tung
Genre: Graphic Novels
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publishing date: 7th of November 2017
ISBN: 9781449486068
Purchase Link: amazon.co.uk

Synopsis: This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert.

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My Review:

As an introvert this book was very appealing to me. It was a bit grueling going through the first pages hoping the author and illustrator would perfectly capture the essence of introversion. Page after page she hit introversion on the spot and conveyed her autobiographical story in a way that made me both smile, laugh and cringe, because I could absolutely understand where she was coming from.
Even though some of the quick comics were a little exaggerated, I believe that Debbie Tung managed to show the life of an introvert and the challenges introversion pushes upon introverts.

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The illustrations are simplistic and grey scale which adds to a nostalgic feeling where we follow Debbie Tung from childhood to adulthood, from a miserable working to an artistic success.

The story she illustrates shows how society highly prefers extroverts over introverts, and how introverts need to early create survival mechanisms, because the introverted steel focus or researcher mastermind is not appreciated before we are far into adulthood.

The book visualizes the need both extroverts and introverts, and how these two conflicting personality types can work perfectly together by showing each other mutual respect and understanding.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book from finish to end.

How to Be Perfectly Unhappy by Matthew Inman

Title: How to Be Perfectly Unhappy
(Series: The Oatmeal)
Author: Matthew Inman
Genre: Gift Book, Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Publishing date: 31st of October 2017
ISBN: 9781449433536

Synopsis: In How To Be Perfectly Unhappy, Inman explores the surprising benefits of forgetting about “happiness,” and embracing instead the meaningful activities that keep us busy and interested and fascinated.

My Review:

How To Be Perfectly Unhappy is a tiny little gift book which gently suggests that we as a society need to redefine what being happy means. It’s central point being that Pluto was downgraded, because we initially did not have a very clear definition for what a “planet” is. As the definition become more clear, Pluto clearly did not conform to the necessary requirements.

This is a premise I buy into, as sociability is with more than even obsessed with perfection in our world of social media where anyone can spy and everyone. And when you start to look at happy and what happy means, you realize how brittle that definition is and it quickly falls apart.

How To Be Perfectly Unhappy makes you think. With it’s barely 48 pages it invited discussion about something where there is a mutual agreement that everyone should be happy and if you are not happy, then you are miserable.

The book makes several suggestions of what you can be instead of being happy, unhappy not being one of them.  With its quirky drawings and interesting rhetoric, the book is engaging from beginning to end and will be a great gift any miserable book lover you know.

Depression & Other Magic Tricks by Sabrina Benaim

Title: Depression & Other Magic Tricks
Author: Sabrina Benaim
Genre: Poetry, Health, Mind & Body
Publisher: Button Poetry
Publishing date: 22nd of August 2017
ISBN: 9781943735204

Synopsis: Depression & Other Magic Tricks is the debut book by Sabrina Benaim, one of the most-viewed performance poets of all time, whose poem “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” has become a cultural phenomenon with over 50 million views. Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. It is a documentation of struggle and triumph, a celebration of daily life and of living. Benaim’s wit, empathy, and gift for language produce a work of endless wonder.

My Review:

Depression & Other Magic Tricks explores themes of mental health, love, and family. Many of the poems you find in this book has previously been performed at button poetry, and now you can get your hand on them in the written form.

While reading this book, I found that reading each poem out loud gave a lot more of detail and I do not think any of the poems in this book ever were supposed to just sit on the page. These poems are supposed to be read out loud, they are supposed to be performed, it is the sound of each word and each pause that gives the poem their power.

There were many good poems in this collection, some poems I came to adore, and there were some poems I did not care for. If this collection lived up to the hype “Explaining My Depression to My Mother” created, I am not sure, but the poem was in this collection too. After reading the whole collection I do not think that each and every one of the poem lived up to “Explaining My Depression to My Mother”, but I found quite a few favorite poems.

My short list of favorite poems from this collection: “unrequited in nine acts” (below), “On getting over you for real” “on releasing light”

On overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading this poetry collection, with it highs and lows, its battles and triumphs. The topics were easy to relate to and the issue of mental illness was overlying through the whole collection.

Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball by Laura Ellen Anderson

Title: Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball
Author: Laura Ellen Anderson
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Egmont UK
Publishing date: 5th of October 2017
ISBN:9781405286725

Synopsis:Welcome to the world of Nocturnia, where darkness reigns supreme, glitter is terrifying, and unicorns are the stuff of nightmares! Amelia Fang would much rather hang out with her pet pumpkin Squashy and her friends Florence the yeti and Grimaldi the reaper than dance at her parents’ annual Barbaric Ball.
When the King’s spoiled son Tangine captures Squashy, Amelia and her friends must escape the party to plan a daring rescue. In their race against time, they being to realize things in Nocturnia may not be quite what they seem… Join Amelia on her very first adventure. She won’t bite!

My Review:

In Nocturnia  everything sparkly, fluffy and cute is considered terrifying, which is a great premise for a comical book about nocturnal creatures. This premise intrigued me to pick up this book for my autumn reading roll. This book was fun and easy to read, but on certain topics it did disappoint.

One of the disappointing part of this book was the absentee parenting trope which tends to be a viral infection in literature for children. I understand the need for absentee parents, and it can be done well, like in Coraline by Neil Gaiman. In Amelia Fang and the Barbaric Ball the absentee parenting troupe was borderline neglect, the mother is insanely self-absorbed caring more for her looks and her social status before her daughter. At one point the mother gives away her favorite chair and Amelia’s pet pumping away to the kings spoiled-rotten son. when Amelia refuses she is told not to cause a scene and sent to her room. The father seems to be more concerned about his crossword puzzles than his family and is a stereotypical never-in-the-kitchen male. This is empathized by Amelia’s bafflement over the first time her father put a teacup in the sink on his own. In our day and time where social norms and gender-roles are being challenged, reverting back to stereotypes in children’s fictions will not help us grow a new generation with good and open values.
The bottom line regarding this issue is that I think this story had a lot of unexplored potential.

That aside I found the illustrations in this book nothing short of amazing. They are simple and very cute, and they do their job well of complimenting the story and it’s themes.
Another good point about this book is the humor, which is at some points a little over the top hilarious with words like “darklings” and “diephone” and so on and so forth. In the beginning I found the puns a little annoying, but as I read on I go used to them. I can imagine that the humor will be just the perfect cup of tea for it’s intended audience (which is middle grade), but as an adult reader it took me a while to get used to them.
This book can easily be compared to the Hotel Transylvania movies with it’s vitty language and puns, and I think they are reaching for the same type of audience. And I only wish that Amelia’s parents would have taken a tiny straw out of daddy Count Dracula’s overprotective parenting book.

Book Review: The Thunderbolt Pony

Title: The Thunderbolt Pony
Author: Stacy Gregg
Genre: Children’s Fiction , Middle Grade
Publisher: HarperCollins UK, Children’s
Publishing date: 5th of October 2017
ISBN: 9780008257026

Synopsis: A dramatic and emotional story about one girl’s determination to stand by her beloved animals – and her refusal to give up, even in the face of impossible odds.

My Review:

The Thunderbolt Pony is a good story for any animal lover. It is a cute little story about Evie’s journey across the earthquake torn South Island of New Zealand, accompanies by her three animal friends. Her pony Gus, her dog Jock and her cat Moxy
I did enjoy to read the story through the girls eyes, and her troubles and challenges seemed real. However I found the beginning of the story a bit hard to get in to, as I found it a bit implausible that a 12-year-old girl could pin point the exact moment she developed her OCD. Don’t get me wrong, the story was very touching and seemed logical of how her father’s declining health to cancer cased her to develop OCD, but I found that part implausible.
That did not stop me from continuing reading the story, and I did enjoy that the author spent a lot of time showing how an illness like OCD can affect people, even in crisis and I think we need more books that empathize this.
In the end it was a very moving story and I enjoyed to spend time with Evie, Moxy, Gus and Jock, and it emphasized the fact of not leaving anyone behind and that pets are part of your responsibility even when a disaster hit.

Ink in Water by Lacy J. Davis

Title: Ink in Water
Author: Lacy J. Davis & Jim Kettner
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs , Comics & Graphic Novels
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Publishing date: 1st of October 2017
ISBN: 9781626258310

Synopsis: At once punk rock and poignant, Ink in Water is the visceral and groundbreaking graphic memoir of a young woman’s devastating struggle with negative body image and eating disorders, and how she rose above her own destructive behaviors and feelings of inadequacy to live a life of strength and empowerment.

My Review:

As much as I wanted to enjoy this book and get carried a way with it, it took me a very long time to get into the story. The narrative is very straight forward with little distracting decor and it was supposed to be a touching story. Or, I thought it would be a touching story, instead it was a hard and gritty narrative of a very real battle with mental illness.

The rawness of the narrative and the very relateable additional issues that often tag along with mental illness made this book very hard for me to read. The story convey in a very real and hard way how mental illness can be there even if you are obviously unaware of it for a while.

IT shows how, even when you know you are sick, the biggest challenge of the battle is not the disease itself but recovery part. Mental health issues, like eating disorders, depression, OCD, they become a part of you and who you are. The disease become part of how you see yourself and you identity, and how are you supposed to recover from your identity?

Davis goes all the way out to show how real her struggle was and she is in not painting any rainbows or making any face-saving promises or painting rainbows. Yet her strong narrative still warrants hope and I would recommend the book for anyone who knows someone or themselves struggle with an eating disorder.

Kettner’s gritty artwork throughout the novel aids to the harsh narrative without sugar-coating anything. Nothing in a story like this needs sugar-coating, even if it makes the story harder to read, and both the author and the illustrator knows this.

Book Review: Kakieland Katastrophe – Hotel Transylvania

Title: Kakieland Katastroph
Series: Hotel Transylvania #1
Author: Stefan Petrucha
Genre: Graphic Novel, Children’s Fiction
Publisher: Papercutz
Publishing date: 12th of September 2017
ISBN: 9781629918082

Synopsis: The debut Hotel Transylvania graphic novel based on the movies! Horror author Stephen Cling visits Hotel Transylvania to try and prove monsters are still dangerous. Dracula, his daughter and her family, and the Drac pack are anything but! However, when a human child goes missing, it is up to Drac, Mavis, and the rest of the Hotel crew to locate the child before their monstrous reputation gets them chased out of town.

My Review:

Kakieland Katastroph is a rather short comic book with about 64 pages. the story contains the same quirky humor of the two very popular and successful movies. The art work, as expected, is a bit of a downgrade, but it is still neat and adds to the story.

In the story we meet the familiar characters from the movie as they are running a hotel in a monster-friendly (or not so monster friendly world). It takes place at some time after the second movie ended.

The story feels a bit rushed at times, which probably could have been avoided by adding a couple more pages, I would have liked the story to be longer. This is the first volume of a series and hopefully the story progression in the next chapter will be a bit more natural.
As a fan of both the movies I found this book very entertaining and I enjoyed reading  it, and I look forward to the next installment.

She went quietly

Last spring I finally turned in my BA dissertation in creative writing, a year too late, but at least it was turned in.

I have had the piece I wrote lying around for a long while, and it is a piece I am particularly proud of. The piece is not written for an audience, it is not written for a reader to enjoy. This is the first piece I have ever written that was purely for me, to help me through a very though period of my life. This of course makes it very fragile and I was very hesitant to turn it as my dissertation, but I had great support from my mentor at the time who helped me shape something that was more a therapy session between me and the computer into a structured story.

After having the piece lying around for a long while, having a few friends read it, I have decided to put it out here. After all it is supposed to be a blog about writing.

The piece is called “She went quietly,” as a kudos to the song of the same name, She went quietly by Charlie Winston, which helped inspire the shape of the story. The song helped me through writing block when the story and structure had to take residence over reality.

So I have attached the story in PDF below if you want to read it.

She went quietly