Book reviews: Neil Gaiman

I have been reading quite a bit of Neil Gaiman’s works lately so I thought I’d do one post for several of the books.  In addition to the three books I’ve reviewed previously (Coraline, Neverwhere, and American Gods), I have read Anansi Boys, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Graveyard Book.  Anansi Boys is about siblings whose father was a spider god. Separated at birth, one of the boys takes after his father, both wielding powers and with a penchant for being a playboy.  The other is a typical person without any powers who has memories of being tricked and embarrassed by his father.  When the two siblings meet, there is rivalry between them, and there are outside forces that are out to harm them in order to get revenge for the things their father had done.  The book has similar themes to Gaiman’s other works – an average person thrown into extraordinary circumstances, forced to deal with supernatural forces and beings.  At the heart of this story is what true power is and knowing yourself enough to know that true power lies within.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is perhaps my favorite book of all the Gaiman books I have read (it’s a pretty close call between this one and American Gods).  This book has a dream like quality and, as a reader, it’s hard to know what is really happening.  The book drifts between the present and the past.  A man remembers his friendship with a household of supernatural beings and how the girl in the household disappeared after helping him.  He revisits the house and meets the mom and grandmother, both unchanged.  There is a little twist at the end of the book, but I don’t want to give anything away.  It is beautifully written.  If you are only going to read one Neil Gaiman book, I would recommend reading this one.

The Graveyard Book is about a baby whose family is murdered.  The baby accidentally crawled off just before the murders took place so he ends up being the only survivor.  He is adopted by a group of ghosts other supernatural beings at a graveyard.  He is granted limited powers while he is in the graveyard and grows up under the tutelage of a motley crew of ghosts, a witch, a vampire, and a werewolf.  It is a sweet book (despite the name) about acceptance and being different.  It reminds us that, no matter what we do in life, we will all end up dead so we should make the most of our lives.  It also questions what is good and what is bad, who is good, who is bad.

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Book review: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

This was such an odd, spooky book. I’m honestly not quite sure what to make of it, but I happen to like books that make me think a bit so this is a good thing.

I’n this book, a small town is held captive by a witch. This witch had been killed by the townspeople back in the 1700s or so and, due to the violent circumstances of her death, she came back to haunt the town. There were inexplicable suicides in the town and other odd occurrences related to the witch.

The witch has her mouth and eyes stitched closed to lessen her evil powers. However, certain things happen in the book that make you wonder if, despite all we know these days, the modern townspeople degenerated into some sort of medieval witch hunt society. The townspeople, in their desperate attempts to not be affected by the witch, take on extreme measures to keep the witch a secret, often becoming little better than the very thing they were trying to ward off.

Perhaps that is the true nature of the witch’s curse. They are trapped and driven to desperation by their fear.

I received an uncorrected digital galley excerpt of this book from NetGalley.

Book review: Five Days at Memorial. What would you do?

As the title “Five Days at Memorial” implies, this book is about spending 5 days at Memorial Hospital in Louisiana.  However, these 5 days are the 5 days in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina where the power is out, the streets are flooded, generators fail, looters are out and about in the city, resources are scarce, but there are still plenty of sick people needing care.

The beginning of the book starts off a bit sluggishly with a history of the hospital and how it came into being.  Stick with it because it picks up.  Perhaps the most interesting part of this book is the description of moral dilemmas that face caregivers.  How do you triage patients?  How do you determine who gets to be evacuated first, second, etc?  Should it be the ones who are well enough to move on their own?  Should it be the sickest ones because they are the most fragile?  What about those with DNRs?

The author does a great job of describing the circumstances under which caregivers had to make these decisions.  There was a lot of confusion amongst administration, which led to fewer patients being evacuated.    There was despair with both patients and caregivers wondering if they were ever going to be rescued.  There was worry about snipers outside the hospital, and the worry about looters coming into the hospital to steal the precious drug and food supplies.

The most frustrating part of this book (besides the confusion and miscommunications between administration and rescuers) is how people who were at Memorial brought their pets along to save their pets, but then they turned people away who came to the hospital for help.

As you are reading this book, try to put yourself in the position of these caregivers and ask yourself what you would do.  Would you do things differently?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.