Book Review: Hansel and Gretel by Neil Gaiman, Lorenzo Mattotti

hansel and gretel #gaimanBest-selling author Neil Gaiman and fine artist Lorenzo Mattotti join forces to create Hansel & Gretel, a stunning book that’s at once as familiar as a dream and as evocative as a nightmare. Mattotti’s sweeping ink illustrations capture the terror and longing found in the classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Neil Gaiman crafts an original text filled with his signature wit and pathos that is sure to become a favorite of readers everywhere, young and old.

Am in two minds about this book – whilst I normally adore Neil Gaiman’s style of writing (and have adored his other recent fairy tale retelling in The Sleeper and The Spindle),  I cannot immediately tell which part is Gaiman and which isnt.

Meanwhile, the illustrations are fabulous, in strong black and white (it says it’s ink, but I would say it was charcoal), with figures in silhouette rather than full definition. The telling is traditional, with little variation from the Grimm’s fairy tale – Hansel and Gretel are left in the woods by their parents, who are running low on food after a period of war and famine. The first time, they make their way back to their home, after Hansel has the foresight to load his pockets with white stones to mark their way. The second time Hansel doesn’t have the time to gather the stones, and his bread is eaten by the birds before they find their way home.

The siblings, already starving, find their way to a house made of gingerbread, where an old woman lives. She captures both children, locks Hansel in a cage in order to fatten him up, and chains Gretel to the table for her to do housework. The woman struggles to see, and fails to realise that Hansel is getting fatter, but uses a bone when she feels his finger to find out how fat he is getting.  Gretel uses her brains, and when the witch wants to roast both of them for her dinner, Gretel pushes her into the hot oven.

The two children escape home, with lots of loot from the witch’s house, and find their mother (the one who insisted they were to be “lost” in the woods) has died not long after their disappearance.

All the standards are there: the trail back home , the gingerbread house, death by roasting…is this my favourite Neil Gaiman? Not convinced. Is it a wonderful hardback addition to the collection of books-with-pictures? Oh yes indeedie

Book Review: The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman, Eddie Campbell

the truth is a cave in the black mountains #gaimanYou ask me if I can forgive myself?
I can forgive myself…

…for many things. For where I left him.
For what I did

And so begins The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains, a haunting story of family, the otherworld, and a search for hidden treasure. This gorgeous full-colour illustrated book version was born of a unique collaboration between New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman and renowned artist Eddie Campbell, who brought to vivid life the characters and landscape of Gaiman’s award-winning story. In this volume, the talents and vision of two great creative geniuses come together in a glorious explosion of colour and shadow, memory and regret, vengeance and, ultimately, love.

Written in 2010, initially as a spoken word piece to be performed in Sydney Opera House (with paintings and music in the background), this has been taken forward with original and additional paintings from Eddie Campbell. It’s not quite “picture book” and not quite “graphic novel” but a mixture of several types of delivery.  Some of the illustrations appear to have been originally rendered in oils (I could be wrong) as they seem to have a specific texture about them you can feel off the page….

Set on the Isle of Skye in Scotland a long time ago, a dwarf visits Calum MacInnes who knows the location of a cave far away in the mountains – a cave that contains gold to make a man rich for a lifetime. There is still some resentment about the English king, and a hope that the Scottish King would return and overthrow the foreigners……The Dwarf persuades the man to become a guide to said cave, which takes several days to reach there. Neither man trusts the other, and the fear of the cave makes for several attempts at double cross along the way. Ultimately we see why the dwarf wants to go to the cave, and that the previous visit by the guide has resulted in the curse coming true – after a fashion.

Neither men come out of the story a winner, and the women who are included dont fair very well either but this is not a fairytale happy ending kind of book. This is NOT suitable for young(er) children – there are some images and ideas that I wouldn’t want them getting access to – give them “Wolves in the Walls” or “The day I swapped my dad for two goldfish” by the same author instead.

Reviews of books by the same author that you might be interested in:
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman, Dave Mckean

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, Chris Riddell

The Sleeper and the spindle #GaimanA thrillingly reimagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell – weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish.

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift.

This is a variation on a Fairy Tale theme, where a Queen (not a prince) finds her wedding day threatened by a sleeping sickness that is spreading across the country from over the mountains.

There are tales to be told of a princess, asleep for 100 years under the spell of a wicked woman (no one can agree if she’s a witch, wicked woman or enchantress) and where the whole land drops asleep where they stand or sit.

The Queen, like the dwarves who come to visit, is immune to the sleeping spell, having been woken after a year’s enchanted sleep (snow white anyone?). She goes off to wake thisprincess, to prevent the sleeping spoiling the Queen’s wedding. Not everything ends up as expected though and things are not as they seem.

It’s certainly worth getting this book in the hardback, as the whole package is just fabulous. The drawings are primarily in black and white line drawings, with the occasional use of gold ink.

The story has the usual Neil Gaiman elements of a deviation from the norm whilst still working.

Some have read this as a LGBT tract, where the Queen kisses the princess on the lips to wake her up, only for those readers to be disappointed with the marked lack of passion and engagement. I see it more of a point of feminism – the Queen takes charge, organises those around her, rides off in full armour to “rescue” another in distress, and then makes her own decisions as to what she wants to do next.

Some additional reviews you might want to check out

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman, Dave Mckean

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman

Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

Book Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

themilkFortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

“I bought the milk,” said my father. “I walked out of the corner shop, and heard a noise like this: T h u m m t h u m m. I looked up and saw a huge silver disc hovering in the air above Marshall Road.”

“Hullo,” I said to myself. “That’s not something you see every day. And then something odd happened.”

Find out just how odd things get in this hilarious story of time travel and breakfast cereal

Brought and read in 2014 – one copy for a niece and one for me (naturally!),

Great little book, about 100 pages, with some wonderful drawings – the father looking disturbingly like Neil, which makes you wonder about the other characters in the book.

The book involves some children, a father who has forgotten the milk, does time travel in both directions with a rather clever set of dinosaurs, gets kidnapped by aliens, meets some wumpires, and has a run in with some dancing gnomes that no-one saw coming.

Overall a wonderful book that introduces children, and some adults, to the thought of timetravel, humour, parental story telling and the sense of adventure

New Acquisitions – December 2013

The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie

A lovely paperback version sent to me by Harper Collins (I must stop interacting with Publishers on twitter!)

Roger Ackroyd knew too much. He knew that the woman he loved had poisoned her brutal first husband. He suspected also that someone had been blackmailing her. Now, tragically, came the news that she had taken her own life with a drug overdose. But the evening post brought Roger one last fatal scrap of information. Unfortunately, before he could finish the letter, he was stabbed to death…

medeaThe Medea Complex by Rachel Florence Roberts

An ebook version obtained free from

1885. Anne Stanbury. Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems? Edgar Stanbury. The grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage. The well-respected psychiatrist and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

burnablebookA Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger.

Another book received from HarperCollins, due out at the end of January

In Chaucer’s London, betrayal, murder and intrigue swirl around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. A Burnable Book is an irresistible thriller, reminiscent of classics like An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Name of the Rose and The Crimson Petal and the White.

London, 1385. Surrounded by ruthless courtiers—including his powerful uncle, John of Gaunt, and Gaunt’s flamboyant mistress, Katherine Swynford—England’s young, still untested king, Richard II, is in mortal peril, and the danger is only beginning. Songs are heard across London—catchy verses said to originate from an
ancient book that prophesies the end of England’s kings—and among the book’s predictions is Richard’s assassination. Only a few powerful men know that the cryptic lines derive from a “burnable book,” a seditious work that threatens the stability of the realm. To find the manuscript, wily bureaucrat Geoffrey Chaucer turns to fellow poet John Gower, a professional trader in information with connections high and low.

manningsistersThe Manning Sisters by Debbie Macomber

When Taylor Manning accepts a teaching job in Cougar Point, Montana, she discovers that life there is very different from life in Seattle. So are the men She soon notices a handsome, opinionated, stubborn rancher named Russ Palmer, and he notices her. In fact, they more than notice each other…. After only a few months, Taylor’s certain of one thing. Despite their conflicting backgrounds, she’d love to be The Cowboy’s Lady.

The first day Christy Manning visits her sister, Taylor, she meets Sheriff Cody Franklin. To Christy’s shock–and Cody’s–they’re immediately attracted to each other. Intensely attracted. There’s a problem, though. Christy’s engaged to someone else, someone back in Seattle. So what’s the solution? See what happens when The Sheriff Takes a Wife…

On loan from another Macomber fan (with warnings about being rather “romance-y”….!

strangenorrellJonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Read this years ago, but found a copy in a charity shop over the Christmas period, so brought another copy

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, two very different magicians emerge to change England’s history. In the year 1806, with the Napoleonic Wars raging on land and sea, most people believe magic to be long dead in England—until the reclusive Mr Norrell reveals his powers, and becomes a celebrity overnight.

Soon, another practicing magician comes forth: the young, handsome, and daring Jonathan Strange. He becomes Norrell’s student, and they join forces in the war against France. But Strange is increasingly drawn to the wildest, most perilous forms of magic, straining his partnership with Norrell, and putting at risk everything else he holds dear.


And coming into the books I received at Christmas!

12251225 Christmas Tree Lane by Debbie Macomber

The people of Cedar Cove know how to celebrate Christmas. Like Grace and Olivia and everyone else, Beth Morehouse expects this Christmas to be one of her best. Her small Christmas-tree farm is prospering, her daughters and her dogs are happy and well, and her new relationship with local vet Ted Reynolds is showing plenty of romantic promise.But…someone recently left a basket filled with puppies on her doorstep, puppies she’s determined to place in good homes. That’s complication number one. And number two is that her daughters Bailey and Sophie have invited their dad, Beth’s ex-husband, Kent, to Cedar Cove for Christmas. The girls have visions of a mom-and-dad reunion dancing in their heads.As always in life ? and in Cedar Cove ? there are surprises, too. More than one family’s going to have a puppy under the tree. More than one scheme will go awry. And more than one romance will have a happy ending What would the holidays be without a newChristmas story from Debbie Macomber?

The ShuttleThe Shuttle by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Shuttle is about American heiresses marrying English aristocrats; by extension it is about the effect of American energy, dynamism and affluence on an effete and impoverished English ruling class. Sir Nigel Anstruthers crosses the Atlantic to look for a rich wife and returns with the daughter of an American millionaire, Rosalie Vanderpoel. He turns out to be a bully, a miser and a philanderer and virtually imprisons his wife in the house. Only when Rosalie’s sister Bettina is grown up does it occur to her and her father that some sort of rescue expedition should take place. And the beautiful, kind and dynamic Bettina leaves for Europe to try and find out why Rosalie has, inexplicably, chosen to lose touch with her family. In the process she engages in a psychological war with Sir Nigel; meets and falls in love with another Englishman; and starts to use the Vanderpoel money to modernize ‘Stornham Court’.

twomrsabbottsThe Two Mrs Abbotts by D. E. Stevenson

Mrs Abbott is flustered at the thought of putting up a lady from the Red Cross, but is happily surprised when she turns out to be an old friend from her previous life as Miss Buncle, infamous writer.

Of course, she’s now far too busy with her children to write, not to mention helping out in the lives of the villagers. And with a possible spy in their midst, evacuated families, potential love matches and a visit from a famous writer, she’s got her work cut out for her. Luckily for her, the other Mrs Abbott is around to help.

My Review of Miss Buncle’s Book

highwagesHigh Wages by Dorothy Whipple

Read this recently, but didnt get my own Persephone edition, so this is it!

It is about a girl called Jane who gets a badly-paid job in a draper’s shop in the early years of the last century. Yet the title of the book is based on a Carlyle quotation – ‘Experience doth take dreadfully high wages, but she teacheth like none other’ – and Jane, having saved some money and been lent some by a friend, opens her own dress-shop.

My review of the book can be found here

greenbanksGreenbanks by Dorothy Whipple

An early novel by Persephone’s most popular author about an early 20th century family and, in particular, the relationship of the grandmother and granddaughter.

Greenbanks was Dorothy Whipple’s third novel – her first was Young Anne and her second High Wages (see above!)






Book Review: Signal to Noise by Neil Gaiman, Dave Mckean

Somewhere in London, a film director is dying of cancer. His life’s crowning achievement, his greatest film, would have told the story of a European village as the last hour of 999 A.D. approached – the midnight that the villagers were convinced would bring with it Armageddon. Now that story will never be told. But he’s still working it out in his head, making a film that no one will ever see. No one but us.

Serialized in The Face in 1989, expanded and revised into a graphic novel in 1992, and adapted for radio in 2000, Signal to Noise has never stopped evolving. The bonus material in this first-time hardcover edition captures every leg of the journey, including three related short stories unseen in nearly two decades, an additional chapter created for the CD release of the radio drama, and a new introduction by Dave McKean along with the original by Jonathan Carrol and the radio drama introduction by Neil Gaiman

Received in ebook format from  Due to size etc, only able to view on laptop, and using the dreaded ADE which makes it clunky to navigate trough and difficult to read the text.

This is one of the Gaiman/Mckean books I missed first time round and am only coming across on republication. it’s a relatively short story – about a film director, who finds out that he’s dying of cancer, and looks back on the research and work he’s done for a film he planned to make about a village waiting for the turn of the century and millennium of 999AD. Despite being ill and feeling week, he commences his screenplay, only to never see it get made.

McKean’s drawings are of his standard occasionally fuzzy style and makes use of film stills (Groucho Marx and Monroe in particular). Gaiman’s narrative brings across a level of pathos of a man feeling that he has not achieved what he wanted and that his life has been wasted.

I have seen the print version of this in the local comic book store and may well pick it up to read it in all its paper glory (that I dont think I got in the digital version)

New Acquisitions – October 2013

Actually picked up a couple of these at the end of September – after my previous post – so I decided to add them here instead
drsleepDoctor Sleep by Stephen King
Stephen King returns to the characters and territory of one of his most popular novels ever, The Shining, in this instantly riveting novel about the now middle-aged Dan Torrance (the boy protagonist of The Shining) and the very special twelve-year-old girl he must save from a tribe of murderous paranormals called The True Knot who travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.

King rarely does sequels (The Last Gunslinger books are the exception and more of a series than a set of sequels).  This is what happens when we check on Danny, whose already been through the nightmare of The Shining, and all grown up now.  Preordered in my local Waterstones store and actually picked up on the day of release (so a September book really!).  Took part in a readalong so you may have seen the posts from me elsewhere

ftmFortunately the Milk by Neil Gaiman

A little boy and his little sister awake one morning, milkless. Their mother is away on business, their father is buried in the paper, and their Toastios are dry. What are young siblings to do? They impress upon their father that his tea is also without milk and sit back to watch their plan take effect. But something goes amiss, and their father doesn’t return and doesn’t return some more. When he does, finally, he has a story to tell, a story involving aliens; pirates; ponies; wumpires (not the handsome, brooding kind); and a stegosaurus professor who pilots a Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier (which looks suspiciously like a hot-air balloon). There is time travel, treachery, and ample adventure, and, fortunately, the milk he has procured is rescued at every turn. Gaiman’s oversize, tongue-in-cheek narrative twists about like the impromptu nonsense it is, with quick turns, speed bumps, and one go-for-broke dairy deus ex machina. Young fills the pages with sketchy, highly stylized images, stretched and pointy, bringing the crazed imaginations to life with irrepressible energy. 

KilingiriKilingiri by Janna Gray

1968, Srinagar, Kashmir and Nina is devastated by the death of her new-born baby girl. Sister Angela and Father Michael at the mission hospital step in to nurse Nina back to health but when the friendship between Nina and Father Michael turns to love, Michael makes a decision which will resonate through the years. It is 1981 and in Kinsale, Ireland, Nina, devoted to her son Joshua, lives a loveless existence, but a chance encounter changes everything. Michael is back in her life, he leaves the priesthood and happiness is within their grasp.

But when past and present collide, their whole world is turned upside down. Only by facing the consequences of what has gone before, can Nina and Michael embrace the future.

Picked up in ebook format from

untitledladyAn Untitled Lady by Nicky Penttila

Shocking family news forces Madeline Wetherby to abandon her plans to marry an earl and settle for upstart Manchester merchant Nash Quinn. When she discovers that her birth father is one of the weavers her husband is putting out of work—and a radical leader—Maddie must decide which family she truly desires, the man of her heart or the people of her blood.  An earl’s second son, Nash chose a life of Trade over Society. When protest marches spread across Lancashire, the pressure on him grows. If he can’t make both workers and manufacturers see reason he stands to lose everything: his business, his town, and his marriage.  As Manchester simmers under the summer sun, the choices grow more stark for Maddie and Nash: Family or justice. Love or money. Life or death.

Read, and the review will come out in December.

preservationPreservation by Rachael Wade

Kate has no time for meaningless romantic charades, and definitely no time for hot college professors who are full of themselves and smitten with her. Constantly battling eviction notices, tuition she can’t afford, and a sick, dependent mother, the last thing she needs is to be distracted with someone else’s complicated baggage.  When she stumbles into Ryan Campbell’s creative writing class, he is only “Mr. Campbell” to her, until Ryan finds himself captivated by her writing and she is forced to face their mutual attraction. His cocky know-it-all syndrome is enough to send her running in the other direction, and his posse of female admirers and playboy reputation are enough to squander any odds in her favor. But underneath Ryan’s abrasive facade is something to behold, and she can’t stay away for long.

The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau

Three years have passed since Gustavo, a renowned psycholinguist, last spoke to his closest friend Daniel, who’s been interned in a mental institution for murdering his fiance. When Daniel unexpectedly calls to confess what really happened, Gustavo’s long-buried loyalty resurfaces and draws him into the center of a quixotic, unconventional investigation. As Daniel reveals his story through fragments of fables, novels, and historical allusions, Gustavo begins to retrace the past: from their early college days exploring dust-filled libraries and exotic brothels, to Daniel’s intimate attachment to his sickly younger sister and his dealings as an antiquarian book collector. As the clues grow more macabre and more intricate with every turn, an increasingly skeptical Gustavo is forced to deduce a complex series of events from allegories that are more real than police reports, and metaphors more revealing than evidence.

Ebook from
SeventeenSeventeen by Mark D. Diehl

Corporations control all of the world’s diminishing resources and all of its governments, dividing the world into two types of people: those who unquestioningly obey, and those who die.  Most of the world’s seventeen billion humans are unconscious, perpetually serving their employers as part of massive brain trusts. The ecosystem has collapsed, naturally growing plants have been declared illegal, and everything from food to housing to medicines must be synthesized from secretions of genetically modified bacteria. Only corporate ambulatory workers can afford patented synthetic food, and non-corporates fight for survival in the city’s sprawling, grotesquely violent ghetto known only as the Zone.  Nineteen year-old waitress Eadie challenges the hierarchy when she assists a bedraggled alcoholic known as the Prophet, drawing massive social-control machinery into play against her. The Prophet predicts she’s the general who will lead a revolution, and a few desperate souls start listening. How can she and her followers possibly prevail when she’s being hunted by a giant corporation and the Federal Angels it directs?

Ebook from

passionAll About Passion by Stephanie Laurens

When Chillington is elected an ′honorary Cynster′ at the end of All About Love, he knows he needs a wife, and an heir. His goal; a simple marriage without romance. He agrees to marry a woman he believes to be pliant and quiet. Unfortunately for him, the woman he thinks is Francesca Rawlings is really her cousin, Franni. Francesca herself is proud, passionate and opinionated in short, the perfect bride for a Cynster..

Picked up at the Bookcrossing Uncon 2013 in Leeds as we were bagging up books for the release walk. Because you cant have too many romances, right?

hiddendragonHidden Dragon by Irene Radford

Acclaimed author Irene Radford returns to her beloved Dragon Nibmus universe with book one of The Stargods. Here is the tale of the first Terrans, gifted with both psi powers and technology, who discovered a world where dragons are real…and are worshipped as gods.

After reading so many of her books as ebooks via librarything, it was nice to get one in paper at the Bookcrossing Uncon in Leeds



genesissecretThe Genesis Secret by Tom Knox

A gripping high-concept thriller for fans of Dan Brown and Sam Bourne.

In the sunburnt deserts of eastern Turkey, archaeologists are unearthing a stone temple, the world’s most ancient building. When Journalist Rob Luttrell is sent to report on the dig, he is intrigued to learn that someone deliberately buried the site 10,000 years ago. Why?

Meanwhile, in London, a bizarre attack is baffling the police. When a weird killing takes place on the Isle of Man, followed by another in rural Dorset, DC Mark Forrester begins to discern a curious pattern in these apparently random murders.

Because you cant have too many conspiracy thrillers, right? Again, from the Uncon

expertwitnessDeath of an expert Witness by P. D. James

Dr. Lorrimer appeared to be the picture of a bloodless, coldly efficient scientist. Only when his brutally slain body is discovered and his secret past dissected does the image begin to change. Once again, Chief Inspector Adam Dalgliesh learns that there is more to human beings than meets the eye — and more to solving a murder than the obvious clues.

Picked up at the Uncon again, and whilst I suspect that I’ve read this one before, it will have been so long ago, I know I wont remember it!

brideforkeepsA Bride for Keeps by Melissa Jagears

After three failed attempts, Everett Cline is not happy when another–uninvited–mail-order bride steps off the train. But is she the wife he’s been waiting for?

Ebook from

This book has been read and reviewed, and can be found here




lostfoundcedarcoveLost and Found in Cedar Cove by Debbie Macomber

Jo Marie has big plans for her bed-and-breakfast. With the help of handyman Mark Taylor, she intends to plant a beautiful rose garden in time for her upcoming open house. Jo Marie and Mark rarely see eye to eye—especially on matters of home improvement—but she knows he has her best interests at heart. After the two walk the grounds, Jo Marie realizes that her beloved rescue dog, Rover, is missing, and at a time when she most needs a friend, Mark abruptly leaves. Confused by Mark’s behavior and worried for Rover’s safety, Jo Marie searches for her precious dog all over Cedar Cove. But Rover is on an adventure of his own—one that will lead to a delightful surprise for two unlikely people.

A novella by Macomber from Review can be found here

Book Review: Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman


The winter isn’t ending. Nobody knows why.
And Odd has run away from home, even though he can barely walk and has to use a crutch.
Out in the forest he encounters a bear, a fox, and an eagle – three creatures with a strange story to tell.
Now Odd is faced with a stranger journey than he had ever imagined.
A journey to save Asgard, City of the Norse Gods, from the Frost Giants

My Rating:


A short but still nice children’s book introduction to the Norse Gods stories, where Odd, the son of a now dead Viking, who walks with a crutch because of his damaged leg, meets with the three main Norse gods – Odin, Thor and Loki.

He challenges The Frost Giants who have taken over Asgard and defeats them in a mental duel – knowing that to give them what they really want gives them the face to leave, without resorting to violence when confronted with those bigger than yourself.

“Odd” sounds very similar to “Bod”, the hero of Gaiman’s later work “The Graveyard Book”. Knowing how Gaiman narrates the latter book makes me think that this would be a very good story to read to a child as a bedtime treat.

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

oceanlanegaimanThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

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.

This is a tough book to review because of how hard it is to describe a Neil Gaiman book of this level of lyricism. I’ve read other books by Gaiman, including Anasi boys and Neverwhere, but this is really the first time with a text book where I’ve really been enamoured with the text and the story telling.

Some reviewers have felt short changed and let down that this return to “adult” fiction book is “simplistic” and short. It is a short-ish story, the core story covering a few days, and written in the voice and perspective of a 7 year old boy confronting a wide world with scary and powerful people with the limited world view of someone his age. This could easily be read those children who are happy with the more scary aspects of this book. However, really, this is an adult’s book because of the initial short, bloodless post-suicide scenes, plus one short scene involving the father and “au pair” (that most kids probably wont understand anyway).

The au pair and “the cleaners” are rightfully scary, and even as a middle aged man, his relationship with Lettie Hempstock and her family is still rightly gentle, an almost love affair of a young boy and a seemingly slightly older girl (who has been 11 for a Very Long Time).  There’s a marked difference between the Narrator’s home – where he escapes into reading books, feels lonely even when sharing a room with his sister, and doesnt eat for several days for fear of what the Au Pair is trying to do to him – and that of the Hempstock’s house, where he gets clean clothes, hot baths, and plenty of delicious food at the large kitchen table. The mother is almost never at home and the father is enchanted with the new girl in the house and so only pays attention long enough to shout at his children.

In writing this review, I struggled to remember the narrator’s name, and in looking at other reviews have realised that this was not a fault on my part – Gaiman manages to produce a whole book that succeeds without once giving a name to the central character.

Book Review: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

sandmanvol1The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In 1916, Dream is captured and encased in a glass globe in a failed attempt by a fictional Edwardian magician named Roderick Burgess to bind Death and attain immortality. Dream bides his time for decades until Burgess dies. In 1988, Alex’s guards grow careless and the guards watching him fall asleep in his presence, allowing Dream to use the sand from their dream to his benefit. When the guards awake and break the seal Dream was in, he is then able to escape. Dream punishes Alex by cursing him to experience an unending series of nightmares. The rest of the story concerns Dream’s quest to recover his totems of power, which were dispersed following his capture: a pouch of sand, a helm and a ruby.

The pouch is being kept by a former girlfriend of John Constantine’s. Once that is recovered, Dream travels to hell to regain the helm from a demon, where he incurs the wrath of Lucifer (an enmity that will have major repercussions later in the series).

The ruby is in the possession of John Dee, a.k.a. Doctor Destiny, a supervillain from the Justice League of America series. He has warped and corrupted the ruby, rendering Dream unable to use it, and with it he nearly tears apart the Dreaming. However, thinking that it will kill Dream, Dee shatters the ruby, inadvertently releasing the power that Dream had stored in the ruby and restoring Dream to his full power.

The collection ends with “The Sound of Her Wings”, an epilogue to the first story-arc. This issue introduces a character who has become one of the series’ most popular and prominent personalities: Dream’s older sister Death. She is depicted as an attractive, down-to-earth young goth girl, very unlike the traditional personification of death, and spends the issue talking Dream out of his brief post-quest depression

First book in the Sandman series.

An occult rite brings back the wrong member of the Endless. Looking to capture Death, they bring back her brother Dream, who gets imprisoned for 70 years. Since Morpheus no longer walks the earth, people are condemned to a life of permanent wakefulness, never to sleep or never to wake from a dreamless sleep.

Dream finally escapes after the death of his original captor, and weak (since no one has dreamt for so long, his world has collapsed). His tools – the bag of unlimited sand, his mask and his ruby – have been cast into the world and underworld and he needs to fight to get them back.

Along the way you meet many characters from multiple universes, including John Constatine, Cain and Abel, Belzebub. Dr Dee is given the most attention, having escaped Arkham Asylum with Dream’s ruby and using it to sow nightmares and terror.

Winning, he feels at a loss as to what to do next, but spending time with his sister Death reminds him of what it means to be one of the Endless…….

Iconic story, this isn’t one of the comic stories you read as a child.