Monday, December 9, 2013

Mini-Reviews: The Ocean at the End of the Lane & World After


Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Author: Neil Gaiman

Read By: Neil Gaiman 

Rating: 4 Stars

It's a little embarrassing to admit that I've prolonged listening to this short story as much as I could, only because I didn't want to leave behind Gaiman's voice. (I promise you, that sounds a lot creepier than it actually is!) Needless to say, the audiobook of this novel is mesmerizing. Gaiman doesn't just read this story in his astonishingly lovely accent, he narrates it, infusing life into the words he has written. It makes for an extremely atmospheric listen and has ruined me for all print Gaiman books, which poses an issue as I'll likely have to wait years to get my hands on another Gaiman audiobook if the waiting list at my library is any indication.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane neatly crosses over the line from childhood to adulthood, exposing the flaws we grow up to notice in our parents, the adult figures around us, and the general ambiguity of morals. It is haunting, digging into the corners of your mind with the nostalgia it evokes; shocking, much like that first gasp of air after your head has been underwater too long; silent, stewing in your thoughts, growing into a novel of much larger magnitude than its size deceives it to be.

Gaiman's latest forced me to think, making me connect pieces from childhood to adulthood, and I feel enriched having read it. It's a quiet story with quiet characters who lead quiet lives. It isn't pretentious, it isn't bursting in your face (or ears, in my case) with revelations and, chances are, its open epilogue will leave you with more questions than answers. If you're anything like me, though, that's more than just a little okay.

Title: World After (Penryn and the End of Days, #2) 

Author: Susan Ee

Rating: 4 Stars

The long-awaited sequel to Ee's stunning debut, Angelfall, pales in comparison to its predecessor, proving to be a let-down after the excruciating wait for its release. Yet, when analyzed alone, World After is an entertaining, thoughtful, and unpredictable installment. In many ways, Angelfall is the story readers wanted: angel apocalypse, an unlikely alliance forged between enemies, and plenty of witty banter topped off with a kick-ass heroine, brooding hero, and scenes of resistance that keep the spirit of humanity alive. What's not to love? World After, on the other hand, is the story that readers need: the wake-up call into the brutality of survival, the flaws exposed in beloved characters, the struggle to persevere - alone - in a world that is, literally, changing. Although I won't be re-reading Ee's latest as much as I've re-read her debut, there is no denying that this is a powerful, vital, and necessary installment to the story arc of this five-part series. Susan Ee, once again, I applaud you.

World After struggles in its beginning, pulling readers into the world Penryn must now face, alone and saddled with her crazy mother and monster sister. It is a bleak place, one which seeks to destroy what it doesn't understand, namely, Paige. After being experimented upon by angels, Paige is no longer completely human. When she escapes the resistance camp where Penryn and her mother are lodged, the frantic search to re-unite their family begins once again. Where Ee excels as a writer is in the complexity of emotions that Penryn feels towards her family. Out of the three of them, she alone is in full control of both her sanity and humanity, which makes her connection to them burdensome. And yet, nothing is that simple. Penryn yearns for the security of a mother's embrace, the companionship of a sister, and the emotional safety that only a family can provide. Just because her definition of family is an unconventional one by no means disregards its value in her life.

Ee expertly weaves these complicated emotions into a heart-pounded storyline, filled both with action and desire. World After not only gives us a glimpse into these unusual family dynamics - filled both with love and bitterness - it also presents us with the much-needed world-building to propel this series forward. As an added bonus, we are given brief shots into Raffe's past - intriguing, to say the least - which only heighten his role in the series. While much of this novel centers around Penryn, a decent portion is dedicated to her reunion with Raffe and the events that follow. World After lacks the continued development we may crave from this couple, leaving us with a few dangling lines but mostly keeping this pair's interactions at the same level as they were in the previous novel. Needless to say, I am keeping my fingers crossed for an enormous amount of growth on this front in the sequel. At the end of the day, however, World After delivered with a heroine who is capable, strong, and flawed, not quite the hero we may think her to be, and once again, this is Penryn's series. While the secondary characters are enriching, none of them overtake the plot, which proves for a refreshing read. I can only hope the rest of this series continues on the same growth curve - up, up, up.

22 comments:

  1. I'm a huge fan of Angelfall so it's a little bit disheartening to hear so many people saying that World After is beneath Angelfall. But since the ratings are almost always around 4, I still treat them a good sign. Very well written review, Keertana! I got my copy of this last week and I'm really excited (and nervous) to start it. Fingers crossed that I'll like this more! x

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  2. Oh, Keertana your review writing skills never cease to amaze me. Even your 'mini' reviews are eloquently written, hehe. ^^

    Anyway, I agree Penryn is such a wonderful and refreshing heroine. I know a lot of people were annoyed at the Raffe, but personally I didn't have an issue with it. I think it showed that Penryn is her own person and isn't defined by the love interest.

    I really hope the wait for the next book isn't too long!

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  3. I have to admit- I have yet to read a Neil Gaiman book! *hides face* But I really love that Nail Gaiman himself was the one to narrate his own book, as I can imagine a writer would know their words so much better than a random narrator off the story. The quiet revelations really appeal to me in this story, and I love how it tackles the one thing everyone is always talking about: growing up. This one is definitely going on my TBR list.

    I had to read your mini-review of World After peeking through my closed eyes, haha. I haven't read Angelfall yet (I know, I know!), and absolutely hate the tiniest of spoilers, but I'm glad to see that you overall enjoyed it. =) I'll have to try out this series soon, especially since my sister is such a fan (and also because we already have the books, haha).

    Lovely mini-reviews, Keertana! <3

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  4. I'm definitely disappointed that we don't get much progress from Raffe and Penryn as a couple, but I'm very excited that we get a look at bits of pieces from his past! YES! He's such a fascinating character, I definitely want to know more about him, and of course about Penryn and her very troubled family as well. I hope to get my hands on this one soon Keertana!

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  5. Your mini reviews are always stunning, Keertana - more stunning than my REGULAR reviews haha But seriously, I'm a bit sad to see that World After didn't live up to its predecessor, but I'm nevertheless really looking forward to it. I suppose there's always a lull in any series, right? Great review!

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  6. I skipped World After because I'm only partially thru the first book BUT I wanted to comment on the Gaiman - great review. I have never attempted to review any of his books although I did a write-up of The Graveyard Book a while back. He is, to me, one that I am too intimidated with to write about. I love his work too much to even attempt to try and write about it. I am also mesmerized by his voice and I ADORE hearing him read his own work. American Gods is among my favorite books of all times and I think this book is really great as well. I was fortunate enough to see him speak at BEA and he mentioned that he thought this book was better than American Gods - I'm not sure that I agree with that but it is EXTREMELY CLOSE. I have heard more than one male say that they have cried while reading it, so there is obviously a component of it that tugs at the male heart and I love that. I agree that it is a quiet book and yet I found that I was able to visualize it with such sense and imagery - the thunderstorm, for example, that I felt like I was there. Brilliant, I have to say. I read the book in print as I listened to him read - you know I have that quirk, and I think it made the experience more satisfying for me. Love that you loved it! I'll be reading it over and over and over! Wonderful review!

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  7. Ee probably just set the bar a bit too high with Angelfall. People were (and still are) so crazy about it and the expectations were sky high. It's almost impossible to live up to that.
    As for Gaiman, I think I'm the only person in the world who isn't too crazy about him. Perhaps I should seek therapy?

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  8. These both sound fab. I so want to get Gaiman's book on audio. Oh and I know several people who harbor crushes on him.

    I still need to read Ee's other book and this does sound entertaining. Hm... sorry it doesn't compare, but at least you still found it entertaining.

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  9. I agree that I preferred Angelfall to World After--I have to say that if the reunion between Raffe and Penryn had come sooner I probably would have rated the book higher. But I did love seeing how Penryn has matured since the first book, and I did love how she grew to be an even more kick butt heroine. Getting more insight into Paige and her mom was also a plus--and I was shocked that I ended up sympathizing with certain characters who I HATED in the first book. I'm really excited for the next book too--hoping for more Raffe/ Penryn time:) Great review, K!

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  10. I tried 3 Gaiman books and didn't love any of them. I don't really want any more disappointments, but I admit your brief review has made me curious about listening to an audiobook narrated from him. Ugh, not sure what to do!
    I'm glad you liked World After overall, even if you didn't find it quite as strong as Angelfall. I guess there's still quite a bit of room for Ee to grow as a writer and storyteller, as she still has 3 full installments left. I need to make some time so I can read this one myself!

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    1. Amanda, definitely make time for Ee's books - they're fantastic and I know you'll really love them. Regarding Gaiman, it's interesting to me that you're not a fan. What books of his have you read? I definitely think his audiobooks come highly recommended and this particular novel is good if you enjoy the type of story that banks upon nostalgia to pull out its emotional draw. It's mostly been a hit with readers, so I'll be curious to see what you think for sure. I hope you finally find a Gaiman novel that works for you!

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  11. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is on my reading list ever since I read Gaiman's The Graveyard Book and loved it. Somehow, I think that audio books are just not for me. I don't think I can ever peacefully sit and listen to someone read a book. However, the way you describe Gaiman's voice has made me want to hear it.

    *10 minutes later*

    So, I went over and saw some youtube videos. OMG. You are right. His voice is amazing. Now, I want more. Haha.

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    1. xD I don't want to say I told you so, but...I did! ;) Isn't his voice just lovely? I can't recommend the audio versions of his books enough - definitely give them a try!(:

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  12. Man, Neil Gaiman's audiobooks are just the absolute best, aren't they? His reading of Neverwhere is one of my favorites of all time. I was soooo bummed when I saw that American Gods, taking place in America, was narrated by someone else.

    I've listened to Ocean at the End of the Lane twice now, and it's strangely comforting--like being read a bedtime story by my dad.

    I still haven't read World After! I loved the first one so, so much, so I've been dreading the sequel, which could only be a let-down. Your review and what Wendy's told me about it make me feel a little bit better, though.

    Kate @ The Midnight Garden

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  13. I'm gonna get myself that audiobook. It doesn't matter that I never listen to this but Neil's voice is something that's worth trying (I sound even creepier than you). I'm so glad you enjoyed it. Also I'm happy that you enjoyed World After. It was a bit weaker than Angelfall but still an amazing read. Great reviews, Keertana :)

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  14. Neil Gaiman DOES have an amazing voice--I've seen clips of him reading, and I wonder if I should try one of his audiobooks as my first Gaiman. (I know, I know, I still haven't started anything of his yet, although I have a few of his books!)

    I'm not reading your World After review just yet, but I'm glad to see the 4 stars. :)

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  15. I'm so tempted to read Ocean at the End of the Lane, but Neil Gaiman has become a hit or miss author for me. I adored The Graveyard Book and ended up being so disappointed in both Stardust and Neverwhere. Although this new book from him sounds so good and the cover is just stunning. I think I'm going to wait a bit. Your review is beautiful Keertana! The only time I've heard Gaiman speak was when he did a Convocation Speech which was great :). I'm glad to know that his audiobook voice is wonderful.

    I've been hearing a lot about Angelfall and World After a lot. I've never read books that are Angel-Centric when I think about it, but the covers for these books are so gorgeous. It this series like the Daughter of Smoke & Bone?

    Wonderful Reviews as always Keertana!

    Cheers,
    Savindi

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    1. Savindi, the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy is more romance and war focused and is very firmly fantasy. With Angelfall, it's more of a dystopian/apocalyptic type of novel where the angels take over the world. Both are very different and have their merits, though I think you'd enjoy this series a lot more. I'll definitely be interested to see what you think of it should you read it. :)

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  16. I love so much that Gaiman narrates his own stories! Your hesitation to start this one makes perfect sense to me.

    I agree that after the long wait for World After, there was a bit of a let down. If this series is to be 5 -6 books, I hope they come out at least yearly or I think interest will wane! I love what you said about one being what people WANT and this being what people NEED. I agree that this book gives us world building and answers - with more questions of course. I did love the further glimpses at Raffe and really like that we were able to see tension and a growth of trust and emotional connection between them even without kissing. But I hope there's some of that to come! Glad you enjoyed this overall though. Wonderful succinct review!

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  17. Sounds like I need to get the audio of the Neil Gaiman book. I didn't realize he narrated, but that sounds like a win to me!

    I have heard amazing things about Angelfall but I'm not always an angel fan, so I've been on the fence. Sounds like I need to just read it already!

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  18. I definitely need to listen to Gaiman narrate then! You make him sound like the narrator of every bookish girls dreams! I think writers narrator their story better than any body else because it's their story.
    I still haven't read Angelfall. *ducks and hides* I know. I just haven't come across it in stores and I would prefer a paperback of it to an e-book. I'll probably end up downloading the e-book though.

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  19. Ocean at the End of the Lane captures the sense of wonder and terror of childhood when magic is real and champions look like 11 year old girls. I particularly enjoy the author's restraint in explaining exactly what everything is so that there is some mystery left behind the wonders. Short but sweet.
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