Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Life and Times of Michael K by J. M. Coetzee

This book is a testament to the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity. It tells the story of Michael K, who was born with a cleft palate and made a living as a gardener until civil war in South Africa makes life untenable for Michael and his mother Anna. Then he tries to take her to the farm she remembers from her childhood. Nothing comes easily for Michael, and he's continually faced with setbacks. But he perseveres despite it all. Winner of the 1983 Booker prize.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Coraline by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean

This book tells the story of Coraline, who trades her family for an empty mirror family, and then must decide how to get her real family back. It's a nice story of persistence and the substance of things, but I just didn't like it as well as The Graveyard Book. It's simple, and I appreciate how well it all works together, but it was just missing a certain spark for me.

Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively

In this book, Claudia, an old woman and the writer of a number of popular histories, sets out to write a history of the world, which quickly changes into the history of her world. As she peels the layers of her life back, Claudia gradually exposes her family relationships--which are all shaped by the hole left after the death of her lover during World War II in Egypt. Winner of the 1987 Booker Prize.

Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

This book was a vampire story with a difference: it does not center on a romantic relationship between a vampire and a human, but on a decidedly non-romantic partnership. If anything, the beautiful lady in this story is the riverboat they build together. I enjoyed the adventure, I enjoyed the friendship between Joshua York and Abner Marsh, and I loved the historical side of things (mostly set on steamboats plying the Mississippi river before the Civil War). Martin's writing feels fresh in the face of the way a lot of vampire stories go.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean

This book is a marvelous story about a young man coming of age. In addition to the bildungsroman at the heart of the story--which is quite well done--there are the brilliant surrounding settings. I really enjoyed the idea of Bod being raised in a graveyard and hearing the stories of all the residents of the graveyard. There was also a healthy dose of mythology and the otherworldly. It all came together for a really wonderful story.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This book's narrator, upon returning home for a family funeral, inexplicably finds himself drawn back to his old home--and even more so--to the farm down the lane from that home. When he arrives, he realizes that he has suppressed part of his childhood. As he starts to remember what happened at the ocean at the end of the lane, we're drawn into a world of mystery and myth--one where dark powers threaten perhaps all of human happiness. As always, Gaiman demonstrates his marvelous powers of storytelling and his strong grasp of what story means.

Stories: All-New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

This collection of stories covers a wide range of genres and a wide range of authors. Mostly the stories leaned toward the fantastic or toward horror. I mostly enjoyed this collection, but I don't know that any stuck out so much that I am going to track down more by that author specifically on that story's account. It's really an impressive collection of essays.