Book review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

As promised earlier, here is a review of an adult book called Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.  It’s a fantasy fiction book that has great characters and an engaging storyline.  I’m really enjoying Neil Gaiman.  He has such imaginative stories.  It’s not your typical magicians and dragons fantasy fiction book.

Similar to Coraline, this book involves the protagonist (Richard Mayhew) being transported to a parallel universe.  This universe is place that is described as being the “cracks” and “forgotten areas” from our world.  For example, the London fog/mist has mostly disappeared due to better laws about emissions, but in alternate world, they still get the occasional fog/mist.  Once transported to this world, people from London Above (real/normal world) don’t always see or recognize you.  I really liked how this was done in the book – it’s almost as if people are forgotten in London Above once they become a part of the parallel universe.

The characters are great.  Richard Mayhew is a very normal person, not very capable, but basically has a good heart and manages to get by.  There’s also a bodyguard called Hunter, a girl named Door (who can open doors), the Marquis of Carabas (the roguish, likable character), an angel, two pretty darn sadistic bad guys, and some mysterious dangerous beasts & other dangers that aren’t always named.

The book was well written and it was incredibly imaginative.

After reading the book, I found that it had been made into a television series (or maybe it was written for television first?).  I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of it.

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Book Review The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

I read The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and The Silkworm (same author) a few months ago, but haven’t had a chance to write the review until now.  In case you haven’t heard it yet, Robert Galbraith is actually a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling.  It was kept top secret, but one of the lawyers at the firm used by J. K. Rowling told his wife who then told a friend of hers and pretty soon it was leaked that J. K. Rowling was Robert Galbraith.  She has since publicly acknowledged this.  The book was already doing pretty well on its own, but once the real author got leaked, it skyrocketed on the ratings charts.

I was a little hesitant to read it because I really didn’t like The Casual Vacancy.  I needn’t have worried.  This mystery/detective novel was good.  I liked the characters (the main character is Cormoran Strike).  I liked that Cormoran wasn’t perfect – it took him time to realize things sometimes, like how his off again-on again relationship wasn’t good for him.  His flaws made him a more realistic and like-able character.  The characters in this book had different personalities – the good guys weren’t all super smart and perfect.  I especially liked his secretary, Robin, who plays a bigger role in The Silkworm.

The gist of the plot for The Cuckoo’s Calling is that a famous model appears to take a flying leap from her balcony.  Cormoran Strike is a private detective (nearly broke) who is hired by the model’s brother to investigate.  Everyone thinks that she committed suicide, including the police, but as Cormoran takes a closer look, he has some doubts.  He has to figure out whether there was any foul play and, if there was foul play, how it happened.

Even though The Silkworm is the second book in the series, it’s not necessary to read the first one first.  The benefit is that Robin is introduced in the first one so you have some background on her.  In The Silkworm, people are showing up murdered and the murders resemble the plot of an unpublished manuscript.  Cormoran has been hired by the author’s wife to find the author, who has gone missing.

The plots themselves were okay (I liked the plot of the first book better than the second book).  I enjoyed the characters in the book and their interactions more than the actual plot.  Actually, the ending of the second book was a let down – the actual storyline was okay up until the ending.  I would recommend these books to anyone who enjoys reading mysteries/detective stories.

Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman

I remember seeing the movie, Coraline, years ago and thinking it was an odd, creepy movie and probably not really a children’s movie.  I don’t know why it gave me the creeps exactly.  I’m not much of a horror movie fan nowadays, but I used to love horror movies and was pretty fearless.

I wanted to revisit the story to see if it was just as creepy and weird.  The book did not disappoint.  It starts out innocently enough – a girl who is bored with older neighbors who are odd but harmless enough.  Then you get whiffs of the weirdness about to come – the tea leaves warning of danger, the mice warning her not to go through the door.

Spoiler alert – don’t read this next part if you don’t want to know about what happens in the story.  Coraline, of course, goes through the door (the door between her house and the empty house next door – her mom told her that there is a brick wall there so there is nothing to explore) because who is going to believe a old guy who talks to mice and passes on messages for mice?  She finds a sort of alternate universe where everything looks just as it does in her own house, but the people have buttons instead of eyes.  She calls the people the “other” people so her mom is her “other mom.”  Coraline gets creeped out by this other world and runs back to her own home.  Unfortunately, her parents disappeared and she has worked out that the other mom somehow kidnapped her parents so she has to go back to the other world.  The other mom takes the key to the door between the two worlds from Coraline.  The only other creature who seems to be able to freely travel between the two worlds is a black cat who can talk in the other world.  The cat is haughty but ends up being Coraline’s friend.  Later, the other mom locks Coraline up for being disobedient.

It is in this locked room that Coraline meets the shells of other children who have been caught by the other mom.  The children tell Coraline to run away but when they learn that she can’t until she finds her parents, they ask for her help in locating their souls so they can be free of the other mom.  Coraline makes a deal with the other mom – if she can find all 3 souls of the trapped children and her parents, the other mom has to let them all go.  If she can’t, she agrees to stay with the other mom and be obedient.  The other mom swears on her right hand that she will let Coraline and the others go.  With the help of a charm from one of the neighbors and the black cat, Coraline is able to find the 3 lost souls and figures out where her parents are hidden.  Unfortunately, the other mom has no intention of keeping her word to let them all go.  Coraline then has to trick the other mom into opening the door between the other world and her home.  She then throws the black cat at the other mom in order to makes it home with everyone safe and sound.

Or not.  Since the other mom swore on her right hand, the hand becomes unattached and travels to Coraline’s world to try to get the key.  Coraline throws both the key into a well and when the hand goes after it, she boards up the top of the well so that it can’t escape.

My version of the book had a Q&A session with the author.  In it, he says that there was a door like that in an old house that he lived in growing up.  He also spent quite a few rainy summer days reading the Narnia series (so there’s the whole door leading to a different world motif).

It was a short story (it’s supposed to be a children’s story) and an easy read.  I really liked this story – It wasn’t full of gory, bloody entrails or anything – it had the right amount of creep factor.  I think that many young children would get scared, but the ones who are 12+ would probably enjoy it … or adults.  It’s appropriate for Halloween .. and the movie was very well done so I would recommend that as well.

I’m going to try one of his adult books next.

Book Review: Rain

Rain is a book similar to Cod and Salt in that it takes one object and shows how, through a rippling effect, this object affects everything from our history to our societies to our economy.  This should be a new genre of nonfiction.  Rain (water) is one of the most essential things to our lives – it helps our crops grow, it provides us with drinking water, it provides animals with drinking water (which we then use to plow our fields or to eat), it’s the source of contention between different countries,   It was an interesting read.

In all honesty, in some places, the book dragged a bit because there was so much detail provided, but for the most part, the tangents were interesting.

I would recommend this book to anyone who liked Cod and Salt.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Affair by Lee Child

I watched the Jack Reacher movie that came out in – what was it 2014?  I thought it would be like the Bourne movies so I was excited to see it, but the Jack Reacher movie was so boring that I was fighting to stay awake.  Afterwards, I found out that it was based on the book series by Lee Child.  Unfortunately, because of my experience with the movie, I put it towards the bottom of my “to read” list.

A couple of days ago, I wanted to read something, but needed a break from the current book I was reading (Kingdom of the Wicked by Anthony Burgess) so I started reading The Affair by Lee Child.  I was pretty sure it wasn’t the first Jack Reacher book, but as it turned out, the order didn’t matter much (at least with this book).  There were some characters that Jack had known, probably from previous books, but not knowing who they were didn’t impact the story.

In this book, Jack is sent undercover to report on any unusual activities in a small town with a military base nearby.  A woman’s murder causes friction between the military base and the townspeople – the military, of course, want the murderer to be a civilian but the townspeople suspect that he murderer is someone from the base.  I found the characters in the book, as a whole, to not have much personality.  The characters who played the “good guys” seemed to have the same characteristics.  They didn’t stand out from one another.  I’m not even sure that I liked Jack the best of the characters, nor was he the most interesting.  There is a beautiful sheriff who Jack ends up sleeping with (everyone sees that coming from the first description of the sheriff).  Personally, I found her more interesting and smarter than Jack.

The most interesting parts in the book were the parts where Jack wasn’t sure which “side” to be on.  On one side, his superiors were keeping information from him and may be setting him up to take a fall.  On the other side, he is military personnel and is supposed to be following orders.  It was fun to see him choosing different options in tight situations in the book.

All in all, the book wasn’t bad and I would read other books by Lee Child, but this book definitely fits into the “book candy” category.