The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – A Book Review

Though very well written, I am afraid The Ocean at the End of the Lane did not entice me the way other Gaiman books have in the past.  The plot involves a young boy who, after the death of his family’s tenant, meets a family of women at the end of a lane.  Before long, he discovers that these women are more than they seem, and when they suspect an evil entity has entered the world, the youngest, Lettie, seeks to contain the unwanted presence.  Unfortunately, the creature is more resourceful than the eleven-year-old Lettie suspected, and our narrator, the boy, suffers for her misstep.

Though I would rate this amongst Gaiman’s best in terms of prose, the story itself failed to deliver any real emotional impact.  The protagonists were likable, but I would not necessarily describe them as charismatic.  The villain of the story, while in human form, proved the most interesting, but that was all too brief a portion of the book.  While not in human form, she was difficult to process.

Gaiman wrote an entertaining tale, but I must wonder if the first-person narration hindered the overall story to a degree.  We only got our information from the narrator’s perspective, and because he did not truly understand what unfolded before his eyes, we received only a portion of the happenings.  Because of the fantasy aspect of this book, I believe a different perspective may have freed the more magical elements for the reader to enjoy.  After all, Gaiman is amid the best at making fantasy feel real.

I understand that Gaiman wanted to explore the disconnect between the child’s world and the adult’s, but the story should not suffer as a result.  In the end, we have far more questions than answers, and while that is not always a bad thing, in this case, it weakened the book.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane is, from a craft standpoint, a beautifully written story, but in terms of an engaging read, it lacked the charm of previous Gaiman works.

Please Help Support My Donors Choose Project – “Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!”

Hi Friends,

As you may know, I’m a high school English teacher in Bloomington, IL, and I want to make sure my students have the materials they need to succeed. So I’ve created a classroom project request at, an award-winning charity.

I’m asking for donations of any size to help my kids.  If you give by August 21, any donation you make to my project will be doubled (up to $100). If you know anyone who is passionate about education, please pass this along. Your donation will brighten my students’ school year, and you’ll get photos and thank yous from our class.

Here’s my classroom request.  Simply click on it:
Give Students High Interest Books and They Will Read!

To have your donation matched dollar for dollar, enter the match code INSPIRE on the payment screen. This awesome match offer lasts through August 21, 2013.

My students and I greatly appreciate your support.  A good book can change a student’s life forever.  Please help me put such a book in my students’ hands.


Prophet: Brothers by Brandon Grapham – A Book Review

As you may recall, I lauded the first volume of Prophet published by Image comics as a startlingly original, unpredictable, almost revolutionary work in that it went against the grain of most comic book conventions.  In the first volume, we witnessed the rebirth of several John Prophets and followed their plights in unusually alien worlds.  It didn’t’ reveal much of what was going on, did not focus on any one character for too long, explored an expansive universe, and displayed a wildly visionary story.  I’d never read anything quite like it and instantly became a devoted fan.

Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, in the second volume, Prophet comes back down to Earth as it realigns with customary comic book craft.

In this second volume, we meet the original John Prophet.  And though the story takes place far into the future, he is joined by Diehard, who you may remember from the comic book series Youngblood.  We even are given a brief glimpse of the character Supreme.  Old man Prophet is seeking out past allies to aid him in the coming war.  This volume is linear and, though the art is still gritty and thrillingly unattractive, rather boring.  The first volume seemed intent on creating an entire universe, one that delighted with its uniqueness.  But this volume focuses on one character with his prerequisite band of misfit cronies.  It all seemed the antithesis of the first volume.

I’ll be honest, Diehard really ruined the book for me.  I just wanted this book to continue being so inimitable, but with Diehard in it, it can’t help but make me think that this is a “super hero” book when that is the last thing it set itself up to be.  And with all of the imaginative alien names and language, having a character called “Diehard” is jarring to the experience and takes this reader out of the moment.

I will read volume three upon its release, because I believe in the creators’ work, but if things don’t change, it may be my last volume.

By the way, if you haven’t read the first volume, entitled Remission, do so immediately. As probably made evident, it’s one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in some time.

Dr. Nekros: The Realm Within (Volume III, Episode I) Is Live!

In this first installment of the final volume, Dr. Nekros finds himself in a strange land—the land of Xaphan! But all hope is not lost, for there are unexpected allies in the demon’s hellacious world, and with their aid Dr. Nekros may finally be rid of his greatest enemy.

Meanwhile, Anton Hall and Lillian Florence are about to engage in their climatic ghostly duel with Zetta, Joey, and the Vadenburghs caught in the crossfire!

This is the beginning of the end, and there’s no better time to join the saga than now!

Get your copy for the Kindle HERE!

Would you like to catch up on the previous twelve episodes? No problem!  Click HERE!



Pacific Rim – A Movie Review

I generally have a difficult time making it out to the movies, but I recently decided that for a small list of directors, that effort is well worthwhile.

Guillermo del Toro is one of those directors, and so I figured I’d better get to the theater for Pacific Rim before it left.

I’ll be honest: I liked it, but I didn’t love it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I paid the matinee price to see it, but it didn’t leave me as giddy as I hoped.

As for production value, spectacle, and general “coolness,” del Toro always gets it right.  I can’t think of a better director to helm a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  The most impressive thing is that it all looked real.  The attention to detail in this film is staggering.  I don’t know how much was digital and how much was models, but the artists did a fantastic job.  The amazing robots actually looked like they’d battled giant monsters for a few years.  The monsters actually looked like they had weight behind them.  Every piece of machinery looked complicated and intricate.  It’s really a beautiful movie when looked at from that perspective.

I didn’t need much from the story.  After all, the film is about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  I’m good; I’m on board with that.  However, I was disappointed with the explanation for why the monsters were coming to Earth.  It was a tired reason, and it’s been done time and time again.  I really thought del Toro would shake it up a bit in that regard.  Also, some of the names were just awkward.  Hercules Hansen?  Really?  There were lots of overused phrases as well.  If I heard “neural handshake” one more time …

Some of the acting was top-notch, and some of it was, well, not.  Idris Elba blew me away.  I believed he was Stacker Pentecost.  That man owned the screen every time he appeared.  The rest of the acting … not so great.  But again, I don’t need too much, it’s a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters.  I’m good with that.  Let’s do that.

But, there was one little thing that kept me from loving the movie … I didn’t care.  I just really didn’t feel emotionally invested in any of the characters.  I didn’t care which of them lived or died.  I didn’t feel like cheering for some or crying for others.  I just watched.  There are some movies that move you to clap, or tear up, or even yell in delight, but Pacific Rim is not one of those movies even though it probably should have been.  They tried.  Oh, man, did they try.  But, most of the actors trying to execute complex emotional scenes just didn’t have the oomph to get it done.  I’ll give del Toro this, though, the man knows funny.  Like with Hellboy, there were lots of really funny moments.

Do I think you should see it?  Absolutely!  After all, it’s del Toro doing a movie about giant robots fighting giant monsters!  Nobody could do it better than him, but just don’t expect to high five the person next to you at any point.