Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I know they tell you not to judge a book by it’s cover, but I just have such a hard time not doing that. Some book covers just call to you, and some book titles just whisper in your ear until you give in and pick them up to read. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of them. The dark cover with the light center drags you into it and the girl who seems to be floating (or maybe drowning) in the depths compels you to pick it up. Maybe it’s all those blue hues that I am so particularly attracted to. And that title! It just rolls off your tongue and conjures all kinds of images to your mind.

I love the way Neil Gaiman writes. His words just seem to be so deep without being pretentious, or completely incomprehensible. While this is one of his adult novels, because it is written from the childhood memories of the adult narrator, it has a very childlike fantasy feel to it, that really helps you believe in all of the unbelievable things that happen in the book. Things are so much easier to believe in as a child, and even when you think back on them as an adult, for that moment that you are thinking about it, you can believe again. And with this novel being only 178 pages, it is a short read that is not in the least intimidating.

The story reminds me of a dark, fairy tale or myth. Definitely not something you would read as a bedtime story to a child as it really was quite creepy in many ways. As an adult, the narrator visits his childhood home and makes his way to one of his childhood friend, Lettie’s, home and shares his memory of his short friendship with her and how she disappeared. The whole story is shrouded in mystery with nothing ever being completely revealed, even toward the end, however, the story does not feel unfinished or leave you feeling like you need or want more. Gaiman does an excellent job of letting you come to your own conclusions about what is really happening in the story without giving it all away.

I really enjoyed reading this book and am so glad I finally read it as it has been on my To Be Read list for quite a while now. I have read other books by Neil Gaiman such as Good Omens, Coraline, and Stardust (Coraline and Stardust have also been turned into fantastic movies!) and really want to read some more of his work. I think I will have to add American Gods and Neverwhere to my To Be Read list now. Have you read any of Neil Gaiman’s books? Which ones do you recommend?


Movie Review: Kills on Wheels

This past weekend, me and Jason watched a movie, and I feel compelled to tell people about it because it was so different than a lot of the other movies I have seen lately and I really enjoyed it.

Kills on Wheels is an award winning Hungarian film written and directed by Atilla Till that was released in 2016. Forewarning for those who hate captions, this film is foreign-language, but totally worth turning on your captions.

It is about two comic-book obsessed, severely disabled teens who befriend a wheelchair-bound hit man. They begin to use the hit man as inspiration for a comic book, which leads to their involvement in his jobs. He takes them under his wing to show them that they can be bad asses too. Together they are a dynamic trio who make the movie action-packed and darkly humorous. Nothing like the threat of death and constant self hatred to make a person cynically hilarious.

I think the movie does an excellent job of portraying the fear handicapped people have of being incapable of doing things or seen as useless, as well as touching on how hard it is for the people who have disabled family members and how it affects them. My favorite part of the movie though was the way it ended. I don’t believe in giving spoilers, but I will say that there is a twist and it is extremely well done. I actually love the way it brings the whole movie together.

If you are interested in watching an action-comedy that is on the dark side, and something that is totally different from all the movies that I have seen released recently, this movie is definitely for you. I highly recommend it and would give it 5 stars!

Click here to view a trailer!

Living on a Budget: Managing Entertainment

I am by no means starving or wanting for anything in life. I am extremely fortunate, and I know that. However, like most college graduates, I have amounted an impressive amount of debt and it has become our life mission to get out of debt, which means budgeting.

I hate the word budgeting. I’m not a shopaholic or a spend thrift, but I feel like I work hard for my money and should be allowed to get all the things that are going to let me enjoy the time I spend not working. While trying to pay off all my student loans, that just is not really possible. Not if I really want to make a dent. I have, however, managed to find ways to still afford some luxuries and that is what I want to share with you today.

There are four things I consider luxuries for spending money in my budget: music, movies/TV, books, and clothes. I have found a way to still access three of these without spending any money at all!

My biggest tip to those that want to save money and still have access to entertainment is to access your local library. Most libraries nowadays have access to a good amount of ebooks, music, and even movies and TV shows. My library uses several different sites.

For ebooks I use overdrive and can access over a hundred thousand books, not counting my prime membership books. I can check out all of their books for up to two. My library also lets us download 7 items from Hoopla each month which has access to music, movies, TV shows, ebooks and audiobooks. I’ll use Hoopla to download music and get 7 new albums each month!

Besides their online content, the library also has many DVDs of movies and shows that can be borrowed, as well as the books that you would expect. Most libraries also offer all kinds of programs that you can attend FOR FREE. I have seen adult coloring get together soon, quilt guild meetups, and even board game nights. There are lasses for different computer programs and other topics of interest locally.

Everyone says libraries are a dying business, but I can’t see how, if more people would take advantage of what they have to offer. What with the free books, movies and music, and our $8 a month Netflix account, the only thing I have to really curb my spending on is clothes. I still haven’t managed to find a lending service for that, but I’ll keep looking, no worries.


Book Review: Brave New World

Brave New World has been on my TBR list since high school and I just have never gotten around to it. Sometimes I have a hard time with “classics;” I either love them or I hate them (probably depending on whether it is truly relatable to me). My mom told me about this book after I had read George Orwell’s 1984 (which I thought was amazing and have read a couple of time more since first reading it). Apparently George Orwell was a student of Aldous Huxley (at least according to the Introduction in my version of the book – I did not fact check this, so please let me know if I am wrong), so I thought that I was going to like this book as much as I did 1984. Unfortunately, I did not.

I didn’t hate this book, I just couldn’t really get into it the way I did 1984. The whole premise of the book dystopian in nature and modern society has turned into this place of clones and individuality where it isn’t okay to experience any kind of emotion besides happiness, so the government controls the people by forcing them (but not really because the people want to be happy) to take these pills that make them stay in this constant state of happiness and subordination to the system. One of the main characters begins to question how society is and sets into motion events that make other question what is right and what is wrong as well.

I like the whole idea of the book. And I think that it is very relevant to today and our future society, however I just did not like the writing or the where the plot goes too much. It did not read easily the way 1984 did to me and some of the characters really did just annoy me. I did not feel like there was as much growth from the characters, which I guess could be a kind of criticism on mankind and how growth is usually very limited or even impossible for most people. Call me shallow or naïve or whatever, but I think humankind is not nearly as unteachable as they are portrayed in this book, and I prefer novels that give me hope for the future as opposed to having depressing, abrupt endings.

I probably could be convinced to like this book more, but it just missed the mark for me.


Playing Tourist for the Weekend

Jason’s best friend Gary came to visit this weekend, so we played tourist with him. It is not his first time in our area, but it was his first time visiting since we built the house and moved out to Travelers Rest. 

On Friday night we went to Birds Fly South Ale Project. This is a cool little brewery that was built by the Swamp Rabbit Trail. It is very popular with the biking community and they have brought a lot of new businesses to the area too. When they first opened at Hampton Station, it was just the brewery and sometimes a couple of food trucks would make there way over there. They have now been there for a while, and a taco place has moved in next door as well as a few other studio type shops in the surrounding warehouses. While we did not get to eat the tacos there, I am really hoping we go back at some point, because they smelled absolutely delicious. One of the new shops that I was excited to to see was the axe throwing bar. After passing it by, I stopped real quick to ask the guy at the desk how much and he said $20 a person. It seems like a good time and something I would come back to do another day.

We decided to just hang out at the brewery and drink a few of there beers. They always have some interesting concoctions. That day the two that I tried were a sour made with local beets and honey that had a very interesting flavor. It was very fresh tasting and on the sweeter side, but my favorite thing about it was the beautiful dark pink color it got from the beets. The other beer I tried was a hefeweizen that had been brewed with raspberries. It was sweeter and had a reddish color from the raspberries (I think I’m seeing a pattern in my tastes for beer lol). This beer was in my opinion better than the beet beer in flavor and I really enjoyed it.

Saturday had us starting at Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve, which is a location me and Jason have been to several times, but Gary had never seen it. It is the historical site of a bridge built back in 1820 that was used to travel from Greenville to Asheville. It is a beautiful spot about 20 minutes from where we live and is a fun little drive through some winding hilly and mountainous roads passing a vineyard and some pretty creeks and forest areas. The last time we were there, it looked like there were some marked trails that might be for hiking. This time I decided to check them out and it looks like they are on private property (possibly belonging to the Camp Old Indian that is next to the site). I will have to do further research to see what they are used for and whether they are open to the public at all. Of course I left both my phone and my camera behind on this excursion, so I couldn’t take any pictures. However, here are some pictures that I took there about two years ago. It really is a gorgeous little spot.

Later we went to Downtown Greenville to see some of the social scene there. Me and Jason don’t make it over there very often, even though I really do love it. It has gotten so much more crowded through the years, and there are soooo many restaurants and bars to choose from.

We started out at Pour which is a taproom where you pour your own beer. They give you a bracelet with a scanner in it and at every tap you go to you scan it before serving yourself and it keeps track of the ounces of which beer you have poured. It is great for large groups since there is such a wide variety of beers and they even have about six wines to choose from also. It was pretty crowded the whole time we were there and we got there early in the afternoon. Apparently there was a taco crawl happening downtown that day and we got to people watch all these people doing the crawl, some of them dressed up in taco costumes or wearing taco hats.

We started to get hungry and went to Carolina Ale House to eat. They didn’t have a wait at the bar so we sat there and got a meal quick. At this point I was at that point before hangry where you are just quiet and zoning out. I would not say that the Ale House is a must see downtown. We go there often because there is enough variety on the menu that everyone is happy and they have a wide variety of beers and mixed drinks to choose from.

By the time we were done eating, the main pub that we wanted to visit was opening, so we headed to Addy’s Dutch Cafe & Restaurant. This little place is a cozy dark little bar/restaurant that has ben around 1989. In fact, it is one of the oldest bars downtown. It is no wonder that it has managed to keep its doors open. It has an amazing ambience inside and an authentic selection of dutch beers. I have heard that the food is amazing although I have never eaten there myself. The bar tenders are always great, friendly people who really know their menu and seem to care about the place. We sat there for a while, talking and drinking, and had a great time.

Me and Jason stopped at a bar/club called DTs around the corner from Addy’s to meet up with an old friend of ours that we had not seen in a while. It’s not exactly our scene and it was starting to get late by then so we didn’t stay long, and decided to head home after that.

All in all, it was a fun, albeit expensive, weekend pretending to be tourists. While we are not the types to go out often, I really do feel like we should go to some of these places more often to be more social. Maybe we will try to mix it up every once in a while and take a night out on the town, or at least to one place out on the town.


Book Review: The Mermaid’s Sister

This book, this book, THIS BOOK! I have a serious thing for YA books guys and this one met all the requirements. It was beautifully written and felt almost magical with a theme about loving who you are and believing in yourself.

If the title did not give it away, this is a fantasy novel about a 16 year old girl whose sister slowly starts turning into a mermaid and she must help her get to the sea. Along the way, she must overcome her fears and learn her purpose in life. This book was written in the first person from the perspective of the sister who is watching her sibling turn into a mermaid. As she was narrating, I really felt like this girl was talking to me. I could see them trying to make a movie out of this book easily.

I loved pretty much everything about this book and highly recommend it to others who like fantasy YA.


Book Review: The Paper Magician

Harry Potter (HP) is one of my all-time favorite books, both as a kid and as an adult. I am a total Potter nerd who lost despaired at never getting an invitation to Hogwarts. I reread these books every year because I couldn’t find a book that makes me feel just as good reading it. Pinterest is always marking books for readers who loved HP and I finally decided to check one of them out.

Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg is a fantasy novel. I really don’t know whether to classify it as adult or young adult, but it is probably closer to young adult. A couple of weeks ago the e-book was on sale for $1.99 so I snatched it up while it was cheap in case I did not like it, but I could have spent full price and been totally happy about it.

It takes place in an alternate world back in either the late 1800s or early 1900s and the main character is a 19 year old girl who is starting her apprenticeship with a paper magician after her year at school. Her mentor ends up in trouble and she must go and save him. The book has almost a regency feel to it with a bit of a school story (but more college-y, if that makes sense) aspect to it. Lovers of all things steam punk would definitely enjoy this.

The thing that reminded me most about HP in this book was the way the author makes the magic seem like it could totally be real. In HP you never question the validity of the magic; it all just seems so wonderful and possible. The magic in this book is very much like that too.

However, this book is nothing like HP. First of all, it has way more of a romance angle to it than HP, and also the way the magic works is completely different. Regardless, it is totally binge-worthy and a fun read that will make you want to be a wizard all over again, while not feeling like you are reading a children’s book.

I am always excited to find a new book to fall in love with and even more excited when it is a series and I know that the story will go on (I have a hard time letting go!). This book may even make it into my reread pile because it just made me feel happy as I was reading it.

If you have any other book suggestions that are like Harry Potter or The Paper Magician, please comment with the title. I would love to find some new books to try.