Two Winners by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is the rare author who successfully writes books for kids, teenagers, and adults.  Most of his books are fantasies, but don’t look for zombie fiction or bodice-rippers in the form of vampire tales.  I’ve found Gaiman to be, at heart, a hearth-and-home type, and however far in this world (or others) his characters stray, most of them seem to be looking for love and security.

ocean at the end of the laneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane (in both our adults and young adult fiction collections) opens with deceptive ordinariness.  The narrator has returned home for a funeral and finds himself traveling, literally and in memory, down the lane to the house of his childhood friend Lettie Hempstock.  Six years older than the narrator, Lettie had been an authoritative and self-contained youngster, and as such children do, she commanded great respect from her younger friend.  But Lettie was unlike any other child the little boy ever knew.

On its surface, this novel is a story of monsters and magic (and it’s very good at that level), but beneath that, it is about death, betrayal, and the looming poverty that threatens the boy’s family, problems beyond a young child’s understanding and which make his life monstrous in ways he cannot describe.  But Lettie, her mother, and her grandmother understand exactly what is happening and come to his rescue.

The descriptions of terrible creatures and life-threatening situations are balanced by homey depictions of such down-to-earth things as lovingly prepared meals, the comfort of a hot bath, the harvest moon (or two!) on a clear night, and the firm grip of a friend’s hand.

fortunately__the_milk_by_skottieyoung-d6jdt8eFortunately, the Milk is Gaiman in kid mode, and it is a delight!  Fortunately, the Milk is a brisk, silly shaggy-dog story that has EVERYTHING:  dinosaurs, aliens, time travel, dwarfs, pirates, volcanoes, vampires, ponies, galactic police, piranhas, and breakfast cereal.  Gaiman’s whimsical text is ably matched by Skottie Young’s funny, fluid pen-and-ink illustrations.  This book should not be limited to children!

—Diane

P.S.  Don’t miss Gaiman’s lecture on libraries, reading, and imagination:

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/15/neil-gaiman-future-libraries-reading-daydreaming

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The 2013 Edgar Awards!

The Edgar Awards, presented by Mystery Writers of America, are the most prestigious awards given for the mystery genre.  This year’s winners were announced on May 2nd in New York.  Click here for a full list of winners and nominees.

The winner for Best Novel of 2013 is Dennis Lehane’s Live By Night, while Chris Pavone’s The Expats won Best First Novel.

I’m sorry to say I’ve  not read either one yet, so I haven’t any comments.  However, having read and adored Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, I’m a bit surprised she didn’t get the prize.  Not that Live By Night doesn’t sound great–it’s set in the gritty crime world of the Roaring Twenties, and by all accounts is one that I should certainly put on my t0-read list.  Speaking of,  The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye, another runner-up, has been on my to-read list for a while.  I think I’ve started it twice and then put it down in favor of a thriller or something.

Years ago I used to read mysteries all the time.  The literary mystery was my favorite genre.  My tastes have evolved into a preference for suspense and thriller.  I enjoy mystery elements, I’ve found, but I’m not in it for the puzzle or the solution.  I’m in it for twists and turns and a big reveal, which sometimes occurs in mysteries, but happens more often in suspense.

The Edgar Awards honor all types and sub-genres of mystery.   Here’s a link to the Edgars Database, where you can search all past winners and nominees.

Also, congratulations to one of my favorite programs, Sherlock–Steven Moffatt snagged a Best TV Episode Teleplay award for the episode “A Scandal in Belgravia.” Obsessive nerdy fangirl that I am, I have to say that was my personal least favorite episode–I thought “The Reichenbach Fall” was much better, both as an episode and as a mystery…maybe it didn’t win because there’s no solution yet?

I can’t think of a good way to end this post, so enjoy this picture of my very favorite Sherlock Holmes and John Watson team:

Holmes and Watson, from the BBC's "Sherlock."

Holmes and Watson, from the BBC’s “Sherlock.”

These two are a *very* close second, though:

Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley in the film "Without a Clue."

Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley in the film “Without a Clue.”

–Marie