The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audiobook): Review

ocean at the end of the laneI’m not a rabid Gaiman fan. I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read by him, and follow him on Twitter, but that’s it. When The Ocean at the End of the Lane turned up in the library, I thought sure, why not? And I feel about it almost the way I did about his other books. They were entertaining books with just the right amount of weirdness.

In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the narrator returns to his childhood home, but finds himself drawn to his old neighbours’ house. Memories come flooding back to him. The women who lived there were special. They could hear things others could not, they knew of things no one else did. When he was a kid, the Opal Miner, a man renting a room in his parents’ house, committed suicide setting off a strange chain of events. Something started trying to give people money, but in dangerous ways. Lettie Hempstock, the neighbour girl, took the narrator on a journey to a magical place to set things right, but something went wrong and put his life in danger.

Neil Gaiman likes to put fictional children in peril, which I’m not a fan of. I was really uncomfortable with some of the things that happen to the boy in this story. I suppose The Ocean at the End of the Lane is like the fairy tales of old where awful things happen to kids. Still. The Hempstocks are very old, even the girl is old. They are as old as the world if not older and they deal with entities just as old. They’re actually blasé about it. The boy, however, is just a human boy and these things are scary and can hurt him.

Fairy tales were originally not for children and, although this is about a boyhood experience, The Ocean at the End of the Lane isn’t either. Suicide, sex, adultery, abuse, psychological terror are adult topics. The boy sees all these things through the veil of childhood and he doesn’t always understand them. He does understand the facts about the Hempstocks as a child would though. He isn’t confused about what they are; he doesn’t find it unbelievable. Of course, they are ancient people with magic powers! Why not? He doesn’t need to know more than what they tell him. An adult wouldn’t understand.

I would describe The Ocean at the End of the Lane as a darker Coraline. Maybe it was too dark for me. I enjoyed the storytelling. It’s an imaginative tale. I didn’t enjoy the darker elements of it though. For me it didn’t have the right balance.

I’m kind of mixed on this one. I honestly had no idea what I was going to write about it until I sat down and started typing. It was that kind of story for me!

About the Audio: Neil Gaiman narrates the book himself. He has a wonderful voice. So British! I enjoyed that about listening to the audio. It a fairly short book, so it didn’t take me long to finish it.

Blizzarding Bloggiesta: Update (Sunday)


It’s a nasty day here. The wind is howling as we’re experiencing a “winter hurricane,” which gave us snow and rain yesterday, and crazy winds today. The weather gives me a good excuse to stay in and work on my Bloggiesta list, as long as I have power. (Update: Today, Friday, it’s sunny and no wind! Plus, we didn’t lose power.)

My list includes a lot of the same old stuff I usually do.

  • Write 2 book reviews
  • Update my reviews page
  • Clean out my email
  • Backup my blog
  • Blog maintenance (fixing sidebars, etc)
  • Brainstorm some new ideas Edit: Working on it
  • Update my About Me page
  • Add reviews to other blogs (audio jukebox) Edit: turns out I had none.
  • Participate in one Twitter chat
  • Try to do a mini-challenge from each category

I’ve really just gotten a surge of blogger energy, so I’m hoping it will continue and I can keep Chrisbookarama going. I know it’s been a ghost town around here lately.

And just FYI, I wrote a review for Lady Into Fox on Project Gutenberg Project yesterday. I’d love some comments on it. Thanks!

I’ll be updating this page throughout the weekend. Hope you join us and have fun!

Mini-Challenge: Using Pic Monkey

Vacation Reading

Mini-Challenge: How to Tackle Google+

I’ve had a Google+ account for awhile, but haven’t done much to utilize it. Amanda provides a tutorial on how to use it. I joined 2 communities: Bloggiesta and Book Bloggers Do It Better. Check them out.

The only thing about Google+ that I don’t much care for is how it tries to have you link everything together or use your real name. I actually like privacy. Shocking! I like to keep my blogging life separate from my regular life, so I find I have to be extra careful with privacy settings and unchecking things that I don’t want checked. Just a warning to anyone else who feels this way.

You can find my Google+ profile here.

Mini-Challenge: Evernote

Tif created a mini-challenge for Evernote. I downloaded both the Evernote Touch app for Windows 8 and Evernote for Windows. I’m not sure which one I want to use yet, so I have both. I also downloaded the Web Clipper, and have the app on my iphone. They all synch up, so no matter what I use I’ll be able to access the information.

I created 3 new notebooks and added notes to each.

Evernote notebooks

So far that’s all I’ve done.

As for what I already use, I like Pocket which I have connected to my Flipboard account on my ipod. Anytime I read an interesting story I’d like to use for blogging later I’d “Save to Pocket.” I used this a lot for bookish links. It’s a great tool. You can sign in on your PC too. There is a Chrome Extension that you can click when you find something interesting while surfing the web to save it to your account.I highly recommend it.

Mini-Challenge Net Galley

Lettie asked participants to go through their Net Galley approvals to improve their feedback rating. I took a look at mine and can’t do anything else with it. I have an 81% approval rating at this time.

Dysfunctional Threesome: Thoughts On Rebecca

I just finished rereading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and I have lots of thoughts so bear with me here. You should know there will be spoilers. So many spoilers. If you haven’t read Rebecca, then you need to fix that right now.

The Child Bride

Wow. Let’s just say Rebecca is a product of its time. Boy, is it ever. Especially in terms of womanhood and sexuality. Maxim, a middle aged man, wants a wife who is little more than a girl. He calls her “child” and all the creepiness that is related to that which I spoke of in this post. I won’t go over that again.

Rebecca was published in 1938, just before the start of World War II, yet the events that happen in the novel are years before this date. It seems clear that at this time women are supposed to be innocent flowers, especially new brides. Sexual knowledge was the worst of all, but in Rebecca it gets all rather Freudian. Take this passage…

“Listen, my sweet. When you were a little girl, were you ever forbidden to read certain books, and did your father put those books under lock and key?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, then a husband is not so very different from a father after all. There is a certain type of knowledge I prefer you not to have. It’s better kept under lock and key. So that’s that…”

A husband is not so very different from a father after all. Let that sink in. I beg to differ, Maxim, a husband is very different from a father. The protagonist is actually getting tired of being daddied by Maxim at this point and tells him to stop treating her like a child. He finds this amusing.


Nice going Maxim, you grossed out Prince.

Is Rebecca really that bad?

With this in mind, let’s talk about Rebecca. Rebecca isn’t the perfect wife that the protagonist imagines her being. It turns out that Maxim and Rebecca were an unsuitable couple. Maxim doesn’t get into the details, but I inferred that they were married because of family connections. It was not a love match, yet Maxim expected certain things from his bride; virginity is at the top of the list. Rebecca’s sin is that she enjoys sex. I’m going to guess that Maxim wasn’t setting the sheets on fire. Right from the beginning she tells him about her past escapades and her plan to keep on going the way she always had. She’ll be a perfect hostess but that’s it.

Maxim, unsurprisingly, is appalled. This is not the bride he was looking for. Rebecca makes all kinds of threats, but I have the feeling she was bluffing. It’s still a Man’s World. If he had the balls, he would have called her bluff. I don’t think she would have come out of an annulment or a divorce unscathed.

Throughout the novel, there are hints that Rebecca is ‘unwomanly.’ In many ways, Rebecca reflects the personality of her creator, who considered her writerly self male. She is tall and broad shouldered. She’s called mannish. She conducts her sexual life as a man in her social position would. She doesn’t have emotional attachments to her conquests. It’s only sex she wants. These things Maxim points out to the protagonist as being unnatural. Rebecca is an unnatural woman, and so she must die.

Something terrible happened in the cottage

When Maxim finally has enough of Rebecca’s shenanigans, he confronts her in her sex house, I mean, cottage. He brings a gun. Just to scare her, okay, just to scare her. Rebecca knows she has nothing to lose so she goads him into shooting her. Maxim sees this as Rebecca’s revenge. She made me do it, is basically what he says. I don’t buy it. First of all, he brought the gun and pulled the trigger. Own it, Maxim! As for Rebecca, I suspect she was scared of her cancer diagnosis and saw a way out. Maybe it was revenge (revenge for what??) or not.

Maxim puts his murdered wife in her boat and sinks it, only to have it found just after his second wedding. The first thing Mrs de Winter part deux thinks is not, “Holy shit, he shot his wife!” No, it’s “Maxim never loved Rebecca.” Zip-a-dee-do-da! How messed up is that? Everything is different now because Maxim never loved Rebecca. Shouldn’t she be a bit concerned that he murdered his wife in a fit of anger?


Oprah is not having it.

And how easy it is for Maxim to get away with murder. As the facts start lining up, Colonel Julyan figures it out. He’s not a stupid man. He doesn’t exactly help Maxim get away with it but he doesn’t look into it too hard either. Why? First, Maxim is the gentry, a Big Man in these here parts, there is a certain amount of classism involved here. Second, Rebecca was sleeping around. Bitch deserved it, obviously.


Maxim will not get away with murder completely. Rebecca had her admirers who are loyal to her memory. As “bad” as she was, she was loved. Favell and Mrs Danvers. One or both of them act on her behalf and destroy the thing he loves most, Manderley. In life, Rebecca made Manderley the showplace that it was and she destroyed it from beyond the grave.

Now he and the second Mrs de Winter wander around Europe. There is a particular passage on the last page that I find interesting. Mrs de W dreams.

I got up and went to the looking glass. A face stared back at me that was not my own. It was very pale, very lovely, framed in a cloud of dark hair. The eyes narrowed and smiled. The lips parted. The face in the glass stared back at me and laughed.

Why does she dream that she is Rebecca? Is it because she now has the power now? The power over Maxim. She knows his secret. Is his constant anxiety related to knowing that his second wife could at any moment give him up to the police? She has a different kind of knowledge than Rebecca had, but it’s still a dangerous knowledge.

On rereading

In the past, I related to and felt sorry for the second Mrs de Winter. Now that I’m older, I can see Rebecca’s side a little better. She was a woman born in the wrong time. She a much more complex and complicated character than I ever considered before. She isn’t just a specter meant to make the protagonist miserable, especially since most of that misery was self-inflicted. One of the most interesting things about Rebecca is that the reader only sees her through others’ eyes, and in the case of the protagonist through imagination. We never see Rebecca herself. What would we think of her if the story was told from her side?

Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Free Books Need You

Check this out! First of all, look at that graphic. It’s a knight stabbing a dragon! That could be you! Project Gutenberg Project (the blog) needs more reviewers. Here’s what Tasha has to say.
Do you enjoy reading classics and finding forgotten classics? Do you want to share your latest bookish discoveries with other readers?
If you answered yes to these questions, we'd love to have you contribute to The Project Gutenberg Project!

How to apply
Send me (Tasha) an email at kitty fischer [at] gmail [dot] com with the following information:
  • Introduce yourself
  • Tell me about your blog/s (if you have one)
  • What's the first book/short story/poem you'd like to write about for PGP? Keep in mind we do allow cross-postings.

Applications will be open between March 21st and April 1st, 2014. Apply today, we'd love to have you!
This reminds me that I should review something for that blog again. I am such a bad blogger lately.

I finished two books this week. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (audio). So yay! I’ll be writing something about them this week.

Some new books moved in with me this week.


Who Do You Think You Are? by Alice Munro and Where Angels Fear to Tread by EM Forster were thrift store finds. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley and This House Is Haunted by John Boyne I ordered online. Can’t wait to read them.

Happy St Patrick's Day from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

st patricks day
No idea what is happening here.
Happy St Patrick's Day! I wanted to share an Irish short story with you. There are so many Irish writers. After looking through a list of Irish short story writers, I settled on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. I really liked Carmilla when I read it and the Irish do like their creepy stories, so here you go.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu was born in Dublin in 1814. He studied law at Trinity College, but never practiced. Instead, he began writing for Dublin University Magazine and went on to own several newspapers. Most of his stories are in the horror genre. The Familiar is one of five short stories (including Carmilla) in the collection In a Glass Darkly (1872), which you can download from Project Gutenberg.

In The Familiar, a Dublin sea captain decides to marry, which for some reason triggers a terrifying series of events. At first the man is haunted by the sound of footsteps chasing him, followed by threatening letters. Next, he is confronted by a 'little man' in the street, who he recognizes as someone he did do wrong to years ago.

His friends think he's crazy, although many are witness to the little man. They think this small person is just some nutjob with a grudge. The bride-to-be's father thinks this is all an elaborate case of cold feet. Despite reassurances, the captain believes that this is a visitor from beyond and that he's a goner.

At the end of the story, the reader is left to decide if the supernatural was to blame for the events or if the captain's subconscious really didn't want him to get married. One of the quirks of Sheridan Le Fanu's work is how he doesn't always offer explanations for all the things that occur. If the little man is who the captain believes he is, why is he so much smaller now? And what's the deal with the owl?

The Familiar is a story of vengeance. The captain has secrets and, sorry, but he had it coming. It's also a story of what happens to non-believers. The captain scoffed at his ladyfriend's beliefs and, coincidentally, that very same night his terror begins. The skeptic always gets killed first in scary movies. If someone tells you aliens or Sharknados are coming, you better get on that bandwagon, son.

Happy St Patrick's Day! Goodnight, don't let the leprechauns bite! 

I Have Nothing Good to Say About Maxim de Winter

maximMaxim de Winter, what is your deal? So, you just got yourself a new wife. How’s that going? Is she fitting in? Do you think she’s having a hard time at Manderley? Why ever would that be? Maybe it’s because she’s a poor girl who doesn’t have any experience running any household let alone an estate like Manderley. Have you thought about helping her out some? No, of course not, you’re too busy trying to hide your secrets. You’re not very good at that either. Your new wife may be the least interesting woman in the world, but she’s not completely stupid. She’s going to figure things out eventually.

Why did you marry her anyway? Is it because she is the total opposite of your last wife? It’s not because of her sparkling personality, obviously. When she does show any signs of life, you shut that right down, don’t ya? “I wish I was a woman of about thirty-six dressed in black satin with a string of pearls,” she says and you say, “You would not be in this car with me if you were.” I know, mature women, gross right? You’re forty-two so thirty-six is way too old for you. Stick with the ‘woman’ you refer to as ‘my dear child.” That’s not pervy at all.

She’s seems unhappy, doesn’t she? Perhaps it’s because she has no idea what she’s doing, no idea how to please you. She’s admits that’s she’s afraid of the servants, and you just laugh at her. That’s helpful. Why is Mrs Danvers still there? Wasn’t she your first wife’s maid? Keeping her around seems like a bad idea considering what I know about you. You know…your secret? You need to fire that bitch. Just a suggestion. Maybe that will work out fine for you. I’m sure it will. No worries.

You know what will make your new wife feel better? Your brooding and pouting and picking fights. I know I love a man who acts like an eight year old. Keep that up. She won’t get sick of that. When she gets upset and begs you to ‘forgive’ her (for what, I don’t know), you pat her on the head like a dog. Why didn’t you just get another dog? There a lots of homeless dogs available.

Why did you marry her, really? Was it because you were lonely? I can’t see it being love. How can you love this person you knew a week? I don’t think it was because you felt sorry for her. If you did feel sorry for her, you wouldn’t have married her. Yes, her job was awful, but isn’t everyone’s first job? Maybe once she matured, she’d make a life for herself. Or you could have gotten her a better job, or paid for an education. But no, you drag her to the country with your loneliness and your secrets. You’re a selfish man, Maxim de Winter.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


Lazy Sunday Thoughts: Spring Forward

Hello, kitty! Have you read about the new embeddable Getty Images? Getty realized that people were going to use their images with or without permission. For all the blog posts about not using copyrighted photos, people still do it. Getty decided that to beat them, they had to join them. Many of the images in the Getty catalogue are now embeddable, like most of the videos on YouTube. 

I'm not sure what other bloggers think, but so far I like the idea. I've wasted so much time looking for the source of a photo I want to use, only to come up with nothing. Usually I give up and find a photo of my own, a somewhat related free stock photo, or something from Flickr Commons. It's not like I'm rolling in dollar bills from blogging, so paying a stock photo company for images is not practical for me. This seems like an everybody wins solution. We shall see. The only issue I have is that you cannot change the size of the image and some of them are BIG. 

Maybe you read about the Anne Rice/Amazon petition? She's always had a bee in her bonnet over negative reviews. Perhaps she shouldn't read them? Anyway Michele at Reader's Respite has an interesting post about it.

I'm back to reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I'm getting a lot out of it. I love how she leaves these little clues about the characters and how they see each other. It is brilliant.

Bloggeista is coming! March 27-30. Seems like a ways off but it will be here before you know it. I have a bunch of stuff I need to do, so I better Bloggeista this time around.

March Bloggeista

And just for fun, what Ladyblog are you? A quiz from Persephone Magazine. I got The Toast, which pleased me because I love The Toast. 

Happy International Women's Day!

Go out there and kick some ass today.

Lazy Sunday Thoughts Are Back With Abandon

Hellllllllooooo! I'm back, baby! My vacation was great. I'm so tan and relaxed. Winter did not go away here though and I can see that my tan will fade pretty fast. I had so many bookish plans that did not come to fruition. I tried to read but it was so much more fun to nap. I did a lot of napping.

I abandoned two books, actually. Maybe it's because I'm for-taaaay now and don't have the patience but I just can't give anymore attention to books I'm not enjoying. Here are the books and why I dropped them like it's hot.

Unleashing Mr Darcy. I really wanted to like this one but the Mr Darcy in question was such a drag. He's a dog show judge and I would expect a guy in that position to be more fun and less brooding. You judge dogs, dude! Also the heroine was too wishy-washy. Abandoned at 56%

How Stella Got Her Groove Back. Ugh, Stella. Stella is a pain in the ass. She's narrow minded and stubborn. Some of her ideas are so antiquated and granny-like. I swear to God she's 42 and thinks she's 82. I don't know why young Winston would want to hang out with such a crabby-pants. Maybe he has Granny issues. Trust me, I have no problems with Cougars being Cougars but I don't care if Stella got her groove back or not. Abandoned at 51%. (I hear the movie is much better.)

I'm just glad I bought these books with a coupon. Maybe it was because I was on vacation but I wanted to spend time with people who were having fun and enjoying life. These weren't the characters for that, especially Stella. It's like she went out of her way to be awful.

I really hope I can get my reading groove back though.