The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Books, Favourites, Pink in Ink

Neil Gaiman

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.          Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.          A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly’s wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark.

This book is so amazing. This edition is one of the most stunning on my shelves and sits pride-of-place with many of my other favourites!

Neil Gaiman is, for many, the king of paranormal, fantasy fiction. And, being the winner of the GoodReads Choice Awards in 2013, it’s become a timeless piece.

We follow the nameless boy through his early years of living with his single father. And when he brings home a lodger and asks the nameless boy to move into his older sisters room, everything changes.

On one of his wanderings around his hometown, he meets Lettie Hempstock, a girl who claims to have seen the moon being made and adamant that the pond on her estate is an ocean.

I was absolutely gripped from the start by this book. This was so lyrical and had some very thought provoking messages of life, death, friendship and memories. The overall message, to me, is a different take of reincarnation. That we simply let the earth and water heal our hurt bodies and gives it back when the time is right, that no one truly dies.

The illustrations by Elise Hurst are absolutely beautiful and really adds to the story, making the suspenseful, darker and more gothic. I adored that the illustration was done using simple line-shading and negative space, leaving you to imagine how the characters look.

All in all, I absolutely loved this tale and its messages. I would have to put this as a firm-favourite of mine and this edition is an absolute treasure.


Hardcover Illustrated Edition

336 pages

Published – 12 November 2019

Publishing Company – Headline

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The Devil and the Dark Water

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Stuart Turton

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported to Amsterdam to be executed for a crime he may, or may not, have committed. Travelling with him is his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes, who is determined to prove his friend innocent.          But no sooner are they out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. A twice-dead leper stalks the decks. Strange symbols appear on the sails. Livestock is slaughtered.          And then three passengers are marked for death, including Samuel.          Could a demon be responsible for their misfortunes?          With Pipps imprisoned, only Arent can solve a mystery that connects every passenger onboard. A mystery that stretches back into their past and now threatens to sink the ship, killing everybody on board.

In typical fashion for Stuart Turton, we’re met with an eclectic mix of genre’s; historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, crime/thriller, mystery and a dash of horror. In all honesty, there should be an entirely new genre for this book because I can put this in so many but they just don’t do it justice!”

The Devil and the Dark Water is Turton’s second novel, and after the roaring success that The 7 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle gave, there was a fair amount of expectation, anticipation and trepidation.

Set in the 1634, Turton showed he did a lot of research into his set but wasn’t afraid to take creative liberty, which is something many authors are tentative to do, putting their minds in a tunnel for historical accuracy. Turtons description of the ship, the Saardam, setting sail from the Dutch island Batavia to Amsterdam, was good. I had no issue imagining such a monstrous beauty of a ship with the stark contrasts between the noble’s cabins, the other passengers’ quarters, and the ships crews.

During the novel we meet quite a mixed bag of characters, our main focus’ are Arent Hayes, a soldier with a mysterious past and his long-time friend, Samual Pipps, the famous detective (thank’s to the reports published by Arent) and Sara Wessel, a woman of high status, married to an abusive husband, knowledge in healing and mother to her highly intelligent daughter, Lia.                  As Turton has previously done, each character, big or small, was so well fleshed-out and had their own backstory, giving you the feeling that you knew them all.

The main plot was yet another example of Turton’s incredible writing by giving you the answers to what the novel is leading to but misdirecting the readers attention to follow a different trail-of-thought. You feel like you’re following the characters as they are trying to make sense of the happenings until you both finally put it all together.

I felt like the conclusion wasn’t as original or shocking as his previous novel (7-deaths) but was just as mysterious and mind-boggling in its craftmanship. At the book’s conclusion, we’re left to sit and wonder what happened after.

As Stuart Turton explained in his note at the end of the book, each reader reads a story differently. If you have, or are thinking of picking this book up, you’ll be surprised at different elements than I was. I don’t feel like this book had any particular audience in mind, allowing for a vast readership, which it definitely achieved.

Have you read this title? What were your thoughts and do you agree with the genre’s I mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!

"Courage isn't an absence of fear. It's the light we find when fear is all there is."

Hardcover

576 pages

Published – 1st October 2020

Publishing Company – Raven Books

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Burn Our Bodies Down

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Rory Power

Rating: 3 out of 5.

From the author of the New York Times bestseller Wilder Girls comes a new twisty thriller about a girl whose past has always been a mystery—until she decides to return to her mother’s hometown . . . where history has a tendency to repeat itself.          Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.          But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.          Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?          The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape.

This is the first YA horror I’ve read. With more experience with horrors from Susan Hill and Laura Purcell, I kept my mind open to any and every possibility this would bring.

I’ve not read Rory Powers other popular title, Wilder Girls but is on that I hope to pick up soon.

A paranormal thriller with elements of crime-mystery, we find ourselves in the small town of Phalene after Margot finds her mother has been keeping secrets; of her extended family, how Margot came to be, her father and her mothers own past.

Margot, a seventeen-year-old desperate for her mum, Jo, to notice her, care for her… love her. And after a particularly difficult argument, she went to a pawn shop to buy Jo a gift in apology. When she finds a small bible with a white cover and beautiful gold page-edges, she peers behind the cover to find it was her mothers, gifted by Margot’s grandmother that she never knew existed. A small inscription and an old picture that confirms that it’s definitely her mothers. She decides she has to run away from home to try and find this long-lost grandmother and unearth the truths of why her mother was hiding her from their past. But all is not as it seems. When she finds where her grandmother, Vera, lives she sees her farm is on fire and a girl is trapped in the path of the blaze. She goes to save her, moving this girl from the fires path and, once they’re safe, she sees that they look exactly the same. Every detail of this mysterious girl is a mirror of her own. But she’s never heard of her before.

The underlying theme seems to be of mistakes, forgiveness and understanding. Does it mean forgiveness when you understand or can you still not forgive.

Powers writing style flows well through the novel really using the written-word to create a lyrical piece. But I found that some of the narration needed more use of punctuation to help convey the inner-turmoil and emotion Margot was feeling.

That said, I was left asking myself what I’d do in the same situations and how I would feel if I found my lineage hiding history from me.

I do think that, for a YA paranormal thriller that it gave enough suspense and shock without overselling the plot.

I had fun reading this. Though it wasn’t great, or a favourite, it is a sold three-star read. I flew through it with ease and am quite excited to pick up Wilder Girls. If you want a soft-horror that will leave you able to sleep at night and look at the cover without recoiling in terror (…*cough* Stew! *cough*) then this might be worth your time to take a look at.


Hardcover

352 pages

Published – 7th July 2020

Publishing Company – Delacorte Press

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Wanderers

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Chuck Wendig

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A decadent rock star. A deeply religious radio host. A disgraced scientist. And a teenage girl who may be the world’s last hope.          Shana wakes up one morning to discover her little sister in the grip of a strange malady. She appears to be sleepwalking. She cannot talk and cannot be woken up. And she is heading with inexorable determination to a destination that only she knows. But Shana and her sister are not alone. Soon they are joined by a flock of sleepwalkers from across America, on the same mysterious journey. And like Shana, there are other “shepherds” who follow the flock to protect their friends and family on the long dark road ahead.          For on their journey, they will discover an America convulsed with terror and violence, where this apocalyptic epidemic proves less dangerous than the fear of it. As the rest of society collapses all around them–and an ultraviolent militia threatens to exterminate them–the fate of the sleepwalkers depends on unravelling the mystery behind the epidemic. The terrifying secret will either tear the nation apart–or bring the survivors together to remake a shattered world.

This certainly doesn’t disappoint!

This wonderful mix of science fiction, contemporary, mystery and thriller is something that I’ve rarely come across.

I’ve never read anything by Chuck Wendig before this but I feel like I should definitely check out some more of his standalone novels. The cover of the book fits with the mystique that the book runs with.

Set in a small town in Pennsylvania we meet our first protagonist, Shana, when her younger sister Nessie suddenly begins to sleepwalk, but she can’t be awoken. Shana is the typical teen, desperate to spread her wings and do what she loves, but her father is absent, her mother is missing and her younger sister Nessi is constantly overshadowing her. Though her sister is a big part of Shana’s motivations, we begin to see cracks in the family.

We also meet Benjie, our second antagonist who is an ex-CDC doctor working on understanding and treating “new” pathogens, bacteria and fungal diseases. But we find that his past is not all that clean, when he was fired from the CDC.

With a page count of almost 800 pages, I didn’t find myself bored or feeling like it was uninteresting. With the ever-present mystery of what is infecting the sleepwalkers and its where’s and why’s, and the individual character development. We meet a vast array of side characters and protagonists which, at times, got a little confusing but you aren’t left confused for long.

As we progress through the book we learn that everything is not as it seems and the plot twist leaves you feeling quite stunned but it’s not an entirely unbelievable twist. The descriptive writing is, though quite sparse, more than enough to really picture the surroundings.

The book opens discussions about many very important topics; climate change, racism, religious belief, and so many more. I feel like the author was using the real-world issues of our own mortality and the constant threat of an extinction-level-event. It gives the reader a place to reflect on global issues that we all face that can be changed.

This novel fit well in many different genres that I feel like it would be an interesting read for so many. The descriptions and the explanations into the science behind this enigmatic infection makes me feel that Chuck Wendig really took the time to research his plot.

I wasn’t entirely amazed by this novel and part of me wonders if its purely the size of the book. But in reflection, I don’t see how this could be shortened, which is a good argument for its cohesion and clarity. If you’re a fan of long, science fiction with a contemporary setting, you’ll devour this!


Hardcover

782 pages

Published – 2nd July 2019

Publishing Company – Del Rey Books

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The Corset

Books, Pink in Ink

Laura Purcell

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?          Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.          When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.          The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality and the power of redemption.          Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

I struggled a little with this.

I loved the writing style, of how it used the written language of the early 1900’s. We follow two main characters, Ruth, a young seamstress incarcerated for murder, and Dorothea, a woman fascinated with the idea that our brain determines our level of misdemeanour and potential for committing serious crimes. This solidified the era of which it is set by using what is (now) unusual and barbaric methods of research.

The Corset is written as multiple perspectives and timelines but in Ruth’s perspective, she is recollecting memory. During her recollections, we learn of how her past led her to her ultimate fate.

I was entirely captured by Ruth and her unravelling of the truth and how science and the paranormal are mixed together, leading to so many questions, even after the final page.

However, I found Dorothea to be quite unlikeable. I couldn’t get past her naivety and blindness to the horrors humankind can inflict. As the book progressed, she starts to see the world in a much more realistic state but still has a mind for the trivial. Eventually, I began to skip over her chapters which made it a far more enjoyable read.

The plot twist during the novel were well crafted and left me wanting to keep reading, to find out the truth… but the book ended on another plot twist and more questions! It is a sign of a good book if there are still questions to be answered, making you think about those questions long after the last page.


Hardcover

392 pages

Published – 20th September 2018

Publishing Company – Raven Books

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The Bone Houses

Audiobooks, Books, Pink in Ink

Emily Lloyd-Jones

Rating: 4 out of 5.

“Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead. The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good? Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves.”

This book delved into the topic of grief in a fantastical way. With a historical element to the story, it follows the journey of Ryn, weighed down with the grief of her missing, presumed dead, father and the passing of her mother while trying to keep her younger siblings safe from harm and destitution. We also come across our antagonist, Ellis, with no clear history other than he was found wandering the enchanted forest as a small boy.

This was a very immersive tale. It’s paved the way for open discussions of death and grief and its many forms. I struggled at times with the alternate perspectives because they were written in the third person, but it gave good insight into both Ellis and Ryn’s thoughts. The bone houses are the walking dead that only rise in the enchanted forest at nightfall but, as the book progresses, we learn that they are more than just bones. Leaving me with the dilemma of; if the enchantment was to be lifted, all the bone houses that were close with loved ones would be lost forever. But for them to stay would be unnatural. It left me contemplating what I would want if the enchanted forest was real.

The conclusion to this tale was a bitter-sweet one. It didn’t leave me wowed but was certainly enjoyable and an easy read. If you liked House of Salt and Sorrows, you’ll like this.


Hardcover

352 pages

Published – 24th September 2019

Publishing Company – Little Brown Books

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