Friday, July 12, 2013

Three Oceans and a Dud

It was another of those times that I read books that kind of intertwined, although they were nothing alike. I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

The Light Between Oceans is the story of a lighthouse keeper in Australia. He is assigned to the most solitary lighthouse in the country. It sits on its own island way off shore, between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. This book was beautiful in places, the keeper loved his wife and would do anything for her, including the unthinkable. As the story unfolds and grows more and more complicated, the moral waters become murky. This book, reading as a mother, is heart wrenching. It is definitely worth the read and is a story that sticks with you long after you've turned the last page.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is as magical as The Light Between Oceans was honest and unflinching. It is a kind of fantastical story, a modern fairy tale almost. Many of Gaiman's books feel like the characters could bump into each other on the street. It feels as if he's created a vast world that is populated by all of his books. I feel like if the main character from Ocean went to London, he would find himself in the middle of Neverwhere. In Ocean, a boy is thrust into the traumatic event of finding a dead body in the family car, but as a result he makes a friend. His friend has an ocean in her backyard, although the boy insists it's just a pond. There is a lot of pagan imagery here in this girl and her family, and things are disturbed that should have been left alone.

The man from the lighthouse has to live with his choices and what happened every day of his life. The boy from the lane is given a kind of fog, and only moments of clarity to remember what happened to him. The action of both books revolves around the choices these men make, although one was still a boy, and the fallout from their choices impact more than just their own lives.

I loved both of these books, and I think they are both ones that I would revisit and read again. The characters are so alive in both books. I think you could read The Light Between Oceans  more than once and feel differently each time about the choices the characters make. The Ocean at the End of the Lane I think you could read again and again and pick up more detail each time. Luckily it's a short book, so re-reading it would be quick or wouldn't take long even if savored.

I'm going to give The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman, 4 stars.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman gets 5 stars.

Now a short blurb about the aforementioned dud. I'll Be Damned by Casey Keen was a huge disappointment. It sounded as if it would be a lighthearted paranormal romance, but suffered from terrible pacing problems. Most of the first third of the book is the main character complaining about her sister and her sister's upcoming wedding and how hard she has to work at the coffee shop she owns. She is all over the place, contradicting herself at every turn. She yells at her sister for wanting to do exactly what all horror movies would say you should never do, then proceeds to do one of those very things herself later. She doesn't drink hard liquor because it makes her hungover, but almost all of the many drinks she has during the first half of the book are some kind of mixed drink concoction. The apparent male lead is just as annoying. He skulks around her coffee shop staring at her, but never speaking. When he does speak, I just wish he would stop, he becomes bossy, but not in a fun alpha male way (a la Katie MacAlister). The book is listed as #1 in a series, but I hope if Keen really wants to get a series off the ground that she will take another look at I'll Be Damned and rework the pacing. I was over halfway through when I finally threw in the towel on this book and so little plot had happened it was maddening. I understand it's world building, but there was nothing there to pull me in. Even the kidnapping had me not really caring.

It is rare for me not to finish a book that I begin, and even more rare for me to give a truly bad review, but I am giving I'll Be Damned by Casey Keen, 1 star.

If it were re-edited, I would be willing to give the book another try. The premise was interesting based on the blurb on Amazon, if the book was reworked a little to cut out some of the main character's whining and add some real plot movement in the first half, it would be a lot better.