Adventures in Reading


Fiction: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, 2008
December 16, 2008, 2:50 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , , ,


On a rainy day in her new home, Coraline Jones’ mother shows her a door that opens to a brick wall. But over a stretch of the overcast and final days leading up to a new school year, Coraline discovers a hallway through the door identical to her own home that leads to her apartment, her house, her yard. It’s a strange world slightly off kilter from Coraline’s reality and here she meets her other mother and other father: strange likenesses of her parents with buttons for eyes (and that want to sew Coraline’s eyes closed). When Coraline’s real parents go missing, she must return through the door to save them.

Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is a children’s horror book written with children in mind, for children, and with the structural simplicity of children’s books. Coraline has thematic issues of losing and rescuing parents, searching for home, and exterior and interior realities. And it’s all a bit gruesome as the world is slightly off and includes button-eyed people, rats (enough to creep me out), and a hand that chases Coraline. I will say from reading the quotes on the book jacket I expected something stupendous and I thought it was fair (though I do look forward to the movie). I found it similar to Vivian French’s Robe of Skulls.

Conclusion: Tossed.



Fiction: Branchwater by Steven Maus, 2008
November 16, 2008, 11:13 am
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , ,

“There were people cheering, coming out of their seats in excitement. This kind of thing happened only once a year and nobody was inclined to miss it.”

Steven Maus’ Branchwater is the fantastical story of humans and mantliks, human created guardians. After a great period of peace, the mantlik and human races have nicely started on their separate ways until the human town is threatened by outside forces. The mantliks are called upon to return to their guardian position to help save the humans as well as themselves.

Branchwater is a self-published book from iUniverse and Maus is a promising author. It’s an interesting plot that allows for diverse interpretation regarding the relationships between these three groups. The story development is somewhat peculiar as the world of Branchwater and particularly the mantlik creatures are never at once fully divulged; rather, Maus leaves a trail of breadcrumbs for the reader to put together, but I confess it was somewhat demanding for the reader to follow.

My fantasy experience is a bit limited to my enthusiasm for Terry Pratchett, but I found elements of Branchwater bothersome as a fiction reader. Maus has a somewhat unagreeable writing style as he consistently uses adverbial clauses and often with misplaced commas. While I normally don’t find grammar mistakes too distracting, the clauses along with some basic language errors made the book cumbersome. Though the plot seems sound with some catchy themes in development, I did not finish Maus’ Branchwater.

I can only imagine the difficulties of self-publishing an entire novel (nearly 200 pages) but the writing tutor in me acknowledges that more preparation could have been used. If you need professional help when it comes to editing Words by Rachel is a reader I’d recommend.

Conclusion: Tossed.
(Available on Bookmooch.)

Comments Off on Fiction: Branchwater by Steven Maus, 2008


Fiction: The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett, 1986

“The sun rose slowly, as if it wasn’t sure it was worth all the effort.”

Terry Pratchett’s The Light Fantastic continues from the cliffhanging finish of The Colour of Magic. Our heroes, the wizard Rincewind and the tourist Twoflower, begin the story dangling off the edge of the world; thanks to one of the eight great spells (left behind by the creator) lodged in Rincewind’s head, the two travelers find themselves on a haphazard journey to save the Discworld.

The Light Fantastic is a great and early example of Pratchett’s literal engagement with the Discworld; for example, Great A’Tuin the world turtle acts like a regular, old turtle. Thus the strength of the main plot doesn’t have to rely on too far fetched ideas, something that seems to crop up particularly in fantasy, but rather depends on a turtle doing turtle-like things. This early book in the series does have a couple of developmental issues ranging from scene switches to some thematic humor issues, but these don’t take away from the story.

A lot of the fun in rereading The Light Fantastic is in discovering the loose assortment of foreshadowing. Pratchett seems to reference at least three future books. If not the best of the Discworld series, The Light Fantastic is a satisfying read with the usual Pratchet philosophical wanderings.

Conclusion: Keeper.