Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Part I: The Pox Party

Book:  The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Part 1:  The Pox Party
Author:  M.T. Anderson
Like/Don't Like:  this was kind of mind-blowing

I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up at the library.  I just saw the cover and thought it looked interesting.  I didn't even read the inside flap. So when I started reading it I was immediately blown away because I just didn't have a clue what I was in for. It surprised me from the very first page.  I was not prepared for how gripping it would be. To tell you the premise would mean giving away most of the story so I'll just say that it's part historical novel (set in Boston just before the Revolutionary War began), part coming of age tale (Octavian is a teenager through most of the book - it's a YA novel in case you decide to look for it), and part vocabulary lesson (you're going to need a dictionary). It was not an easy book to read because of the subject matter but I flew right through it because it was such a great story.  Loved it.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

Book:  The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author:  Neil Gaiman
Like/Don't Like:  I loved it.

I have very few childhood memories.  There is an overarching feeling of love and well being - I know it was a good childhood and that I was a happy child - but when specific memories come to mind they are often dark. Writhing in pain in the back seat of the van as I'm being driven to the hospital; seeing on the news that someone had escaped from the prison a few miles away; being chased by some teenage boys on my walk home from school. This story deals with the scarier side of childhood, how it can be confusing and uncertain and dark.  How could it not be? When you're small your world consists of very few things so the alteration of any one of them amounts to a tragedy. And any out of the ordinary occurrence (in this case, an unexpected death) can rip a hole in your world, exposing you to new and sometimes terrifying things.

As usual, Neil Gaiman shows that he gets being a kid, like those feelings of finding joy in the simplest things, being powerless against adults, not really understanding all that is going on but desperately wanting to.  He shows that sometimes bad things happen when you let go of some one's hand.  And sometimes you have to let go in order to be brave.