Monday, February 29, 2016

Review: I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery. 
That's when the first ace arrives in the mail. 
That's when Ed becomes the messenger. 
Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

Review: It took me a long time to write this review because I have a feeling that this is a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Nineteen-year-old Ed is a cabdriver who believes that he has achieved everything that he is going to achieve in his life. He lives in a shack with a smelly dog, plays cards with his friends at night, and doesn’t do much else. Then, one day, he inadvertently foils a bank robbery and becomes a minor celebrity. Soon after, playing cards start arriving in his mailbox with messages that he needs to deliver.

Markus Zusak’s other book, The Book Thief is one of my favorite YA novels ever. I think The Book Thief gave me such high expectations that this book could never live up to it. I wanted to like I Am The Messenger a lot more than I did. I think I would have liked it more if I hadn’t read The Book Thief first.

I do have to say that I love the way Markus Zusak writes. It’s poetic and distinctive. I could probably read 1000 of his books and never get sick of them.

I Am The Messenger has one of the funniest opening chapters I’ve ever read. It starts with Ed and his friends getting caught in the middle of a bank robbery, but they are so busy arguing about Ed’s friend’s useless car that they barely notice the robbery. Ed accidently helps the police catch the robber.

Ed is a good narrator. He’s an average guy who doesn’t have the best self-esteem. It’s easy to relate to him because he wants to do good things in the world and live a purposeful life, but he doesn’t know how. He feels stuck. The playing cards in his mailbox give him the push he needs to start making his life better.

My biggest issue with this book is that it feels repetitive. I flew through the beginning, but the middle took me a while. Ed spends most of the book doing nice things for people. It’s sweet, but not exactly gripping. I wanted more suspense. I also think some of the people overreacted to his good deeds. He buys a family some Christmas lights, and they practically make him a saint. Maybe I’m cynical, but some of the reactions are a little too over-the-top for me. I have a hard time believing them.

There is a huge twist at the end of the book, and it left me disappointed. While I understand the twist, it seems like a cop-out.

This definitely isn’t a bad book. I’m possibly being too harsh on it. It’s well-written, funny, and I love the Doorman, Ed’s dog. The book has an uplifting message about helping others and working to improve your life if you are unhappy with it. This book just didn’t quite live up to my (possibly unrealistic) expectations.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Sunday Post #39

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak.
  • On Tuesday I list 10 books to read if you’re in the mood for crippling depression.
  • On Wednesday I review Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.
  • On Thursday I wrap up February.
  • On Friday I talk about the role that horror books have played in my life.

In My Reading Life

Last week, I read Burial Rites by Hannah Kent and The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer. Then I started The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan. People have been telling me for months that I need to read Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, so that will probably be next.

In My Blogging Life

My blog was featured on last week’s Feature & Follow Friday. If you voted for me, thank you!

Also, at the beginning of last week, I randomly got like, 40 new Twitter followers within a few hours. I feel like a celebrity, but I have no idea how I became one. Twitter is a mysterious beast that I will never understand.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. I read some awesome books.
  2. New books came in the mail, even though I’m supposed to be on a book-buying ban. Curse you, Book Outlet.
  3. I did a (fairly) good job of eating healthy and getting on the treadmill every day.
  4. Remember the Giant Essay From Hell that I’ve been whining about for months? Well, I finished it, and now I’m waiting to see if the university approves it.
  5. Midsession at school is almost over. Hopefully everything will feel less hectic after that.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

FF Friday: In Which I Tell You Why I Read Books For Grown-Ups

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. This week, I’m supposed to tell you why I read my favorite genre, but that’s kind of a problem because I’m not entirely sure what my favorite genre is. I’m tempted to say that it’s YA contemporary, but sometimes I get really sick of YA. Also, I feel like I’ve already written a lot about YA on this blog. So, I’m going to list the reasons why I sometimes prefer adult books to young adult books. That’s close enough to this week’s prompt, right? *Is terrible at following directions.*

Why Books For Grown-Ups Are Awesome

Books for adults won’t make you feel like an old curmudgeon. Let’s face it: Teenage characters are sometimes annoying just because they’re teenagers. They often make stupid, emotional, hormone-soaked decisions that grate on your nerves because you’re past that stage of life.

Character-driven books. Most of the YA books I’ve read are plot-driven. They’re fast-paced and have a lot of stuff going on. Adult literary fiction is often slower-paced and focuses on the inner lives of the characters. There are some really complex and interesting characters in adult fiction.

Adulthood is a longer stage of life. Characters in YA books are usually between 15 and 19 years old. Adulthood goes on for a lot longer than young adulthood, so the characters are a wider range of ages and maturity levels. One of my favorite adult books last year was Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress. I love that book because many of the characters are retired people or elderly people in nursing homes. That isn’t a life stage that you get to read about very often in YA books.

More themes. This is related to the point above. Young adult books can sometimes feel repetitive because 15-19 year olds experience a lot of the same problems. In YA, you’ve got your “Coming of age story,” your “First love story,” and your “Making a difference in the world story.” Since adulthood goes on for so much longer than young adulthood, it feels like there are a wider variety of problems and themes.  

Better quality of writing. There are some ridiculously well-written YA books out there, but most of the great writing I’ve seen has been in adult literary fiction and nonfiction.

Classics. YA seems to be a relatively recent invention. There are some classic children’s stories, but most of the really old classics seem to be for adults.

Family sagas. When family sagas are done well, they are phenomenal. Unfortunately, family sagas don’t really seem to exist in YA. The only really good one I can think of is The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender.

Interesting narrative structures and experimental literature. Since YA is aimed at a younger audience, authors who write in that genre don’t experiment very often. I don’t think I’ve ever come across a YA book that could be called “experimental.” This is probably because younger readers wouldn’t have the patience for books that are bizarre and possibly confusing.

Gritty realism. Many publishers have limits on the amount of sex, drugs, violence, swearing, bodily functions, etc. that they will allow in a YA book. As a result, adult books about certain topics can feel more realistic and honest than their YA counterparts.

Larger variety of short story collections. We need more good YA short story collections. I’m going to keep saying this in every single blog post until it happens.

Do you read books for grown-ups? What do you like about them?

The follow part of FF Friday: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you. 

February Currently . . .

Here’s what I’ve been up to in February.

I’m Currently . . .

Reading: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan.

Watching: Survivor and The Amazing Race. I’m a reality TV junkie, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.


Stalking: Do you like really pretty blogs? Check out Cindy’s Love Of Books. It’s one of the prettiest book blogs I’ve ever seen.

Planning: To do better with my book-buying ban. I wanted to read 30 books before I bought new ones. So far, that’s been a colossal failure. Seven new books showed up in the mail yesterday. Oops.

Making: Progress on school stuff. Midsession is on the 28th, and the amount of stuff that I have to do by midsession is slightly overwhelming.

Stocking up on: Blog posts. I’ve been so busy that I got behind on scheduling posts. I’m trying to get ahead again.

Wishing for: Donald Trump to go away. It’s probably not cool to talk about politics on a book blog, but I’m tired of having his face all up in my face every time I turn on the TV. It's February, and I'm already tired of the constant election coverage.

However, I am liking the amusing candidate-bashing on Twitter:


Enjoying: Writing blog posts. I always feel like I accomplished something when I schedule one.

Trying: To get on the treadmill every night, even when I don’t feel like it.

Eating: Healthy stuff. Just like with my book-buying ban, my goal of eating healthy stuff has been a colossal failure. I’m going to try to be better about it.

Goal setting: Survive midsession.

Learning: That I need a lot of sleep to function. Deluding myself into thinking that I don’t need sleep isn’t productive.

What have you been up to this month?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Review: The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist – Jessie Burton

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office—leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin. 
But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist—an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . . 
Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand—and fear—the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Review: In 1600s Amsterdam, Nella agrees to marry a rich merchant. She looks forward to living in the city and being a wife and mother. However, when she gets to Amsterdam, she discovers that her husband wants nothing to do with her. He’s rarely home, and he leaves Nella in the care of his ultra-religious sister, Marin. The only affection he shows Nella is when he buys her an empty dollhouse. At first, Nella is offended by the gift: she isn’t a child and doesn’t need toys. But, when she decides to furnish the dollhouse, she meets a mysterious miniaturist who seems to know all of the secrets that her husband and his sister are hiding.

The setting of this book is fascinating and well-researched. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction, but I’ve never read a book set in Amsterdam in the 1600s. Nella lives in an extremely religious society. Doing anything un-Christian can get a person executed. The characters constantly need to keep up their pious appearances to avoid arousing the suspicion of their neighbors.

I love how this book confronts issues that are still problems in modern-day society. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but the book talks about race, sexuality, religious, and gender discrimination. It shows how far we’ve come since the 1600s and how far we still need to go.

My favorite character is Marin. She’s so unlikeable at first, but by the end of the book, I loved her. She’s complex. She’s hiding a lot of secrets and using her religion and bad temper as a shield to protect her family. Marin is probably the most intelligent character in the book. She’s practically running her brother’s business, even though she’s not allowed to because she’s a woman.

I like Marin, but I have problems with the other characters. Nella is a fairly bland protagonist. She doesn’t have a lot of personality, and I don’t understand her loyalty to Johannes. She’s married to him, but she doesn’t really know him. They barely interact for most of the book. Then, when Nella attempts to get to know him, she discovers that he’s doing something that goes against her religious beliefs and the laws of her city. I understand why she wouldn’t want him arrested, but why does she suddenly become so loyal to a person she barely knows? He doesn’t even seem like he’s that great of a person. He has a family to support, but he’s careless about his illegal behavior. If he gets caught, his family could lose everything. I just don’t get Nella’s loyalty.

I also had a hard time getting into the author’s writing style. The writing is a bit clumsy, like it’s trying to be formal, but it isn’t quite succeeding. My copy of the book also has noticeable typos. The typos and writing style slowed down my reading enough that I got annoyed.

It took me a long time to get interested in this story, and I had some problems with it, but I’m glad that I didn’t give up on it. I did briefly consider quitting because the beginning is slow, but by the halfway point, I was totally hooked. I couldn’t put it down. The mystery of the miniaturist is compelling, and the family has so many secrets that I had to keep reading to find out what Nella would uncover next. The crazy ending helped make up for the slow start, and I would love to read more books set during the 1600s.   


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: The Murky Fringes Of My Comfort Zone

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Once again, I’m going to be a rebel and not completely follow the prompt. I think I’m supposed to be listing ten recent reads that are out of my comfort zone. Instead, I’m going to list the genres that are at the edges of my comfort zone. I’m comfortable with reading these genres, but I don’t go out of my way to seek them out. If you have any awesome recommendations for books in these genres, I’d love to hear them.

10 Genres At The Fringes Of My Comfort Zone

1. Fantasy: There are some fantasy novels that I obsess over (such as Harry Potter), but fantasy books tend to have a lot of stuff going on. There are a bunch of characters whose strange names I can’t remember because I’m terrible with names. There are new worlds that I have to understand. Also, I’m bothered by anything illogical, so if the magical worlds don’t make perfect sense, I rage a little.

2. Memoir: I have a love/hate relationship with these. Some of my favorite books ever are memoirs, but so many memoirs feel like an author’s self-indulgent ramblings. Most people’s lives just aren’t that interesting.

3. Poetry: Okay, confession time. I’ve spent the last six years working as an editor for literary journals and anthologies. I read poetry every single weekday. I like poetry, but I don’t love it enough to read a ton of it in my free time. I am trying to change this. I’m just extremely picky about my poetry.

4. Plays: When I read plays, I tend to like them. I don’t know why I don’t read more of them. I usually only read 2-3 plays a year.

5. Graphic novels: I started reading these last year. I wasn’t sure if I’d like them, but now I want to read all of the graphic novels.

6. Nonfiction: I’ve read tons of nonfiction, and I own shelves and shelves of it, but almost all of my nonfiction books are about religion or cults. I guess non-cult-nonfiction would be at the edges of my comfort zone? I do occasionally read nonfiction about non-religious things.

7. Series: Am I the only one who’s biased against series? When I see that a book is #1 of a series, I’m reluctant to read it. I do try to read 1-2 finished series a year, but series are big time commitments. I’d rather read standalones.

8. Children’s/Middlegrade: I read these genres because I’m getting a master’s degree in children’s lit., but I’m more comfortable at the YA end of the children’s lit. spectrum.

9. Romance: Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda made me reconsider my hatred of book romances. I still have a hard time finding romancey (that’s totally a word) books I like. I want a romance that isn’t tropey, isn’t too fluffy, isn’t pointlessly angsty, isn’t abusive, and doesn’t instantly fix all of the characters’ problems in life. Is that too much to ask?

10: LGBT: I started reading this genre last year. I found a few books I like, but books in this genre tend to be romancey, so I have the same problem as #9.

Which genres are at the fringes of your comfort zone?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Review: A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator), Siobhan Dowd (Concept)

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness (Author), Jim Kay (Illustrator), Siobhan Dowd (Concept)

The monster showed up after midnight. As they do. 
But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming . . . . 
This monster is something different, though. Something ancient, something wild. 
And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. 
It wants the truth.

Review: Brace yourself for my terrible bookish photography.

I knew that I needed A Monster Calls as soon as I saw the illustrations. I didn’t care what the story was about. I couldn’t pass up those pictures, and I still can’t believe I found such a pretty book in a used bookstore.

Luckily, the story is just as beautiful as the illustrations.

Thirteen-year-old Conor’s mother has cancer, and he’s struggling to cope with her illness and the changes it causes in his life. Then, a monster starts coming to his window at night. The monster tells Conor stories that are supposed to help him, but they confuse him instead. Conor doesn’t understand his complex feelings about his mother’s illness until he starts telling the monster stories of his own.

I seriously can’t come up with anything I didn’t like about this book. It’s a children’s/middlegrade book that doesn’t lie to its young readers. How awesome is that? It shows all the frustration, anger, sadness, and exhaustion of caring for a sick family member. It lets young people know that it’s normal to have less-than-positive thoughts about a difficult situation. You don’t have to pretend that everything is okay when you know it isn’t. It shows that life is complicated, and sometimes if you do everything exactly right, things can still go wrong. It’s refreshing to find a book that’s so honest. I wish this story had been around when I was a kid. Child-me needed it desperately.

The writing and the story are so good. Conor’s emotions are raw and realistic, but the story has a whimsical quality. It’s written like a modern-day fairytale, and it’s brilliant.

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I was worried that the monster would symbolize something cliché and stupidly obvious (such as cancer or grief), but it didn’t! The monster is more than a symbol. He’s an actual character with a strong personality and a lot of opinions.

I also love Conor’s reaction to the monster when they first meet. Conor isn’t scared because he’s seen scarier things in his life. His reaction is perfect. It lets the reader know so much about his character. This kid must have been through a lot to be unfazed by a house-sized monster randomly showing up at his window.

Another great character is Conor’s friend, Lily. Like all of the human characters in this book, she’s very realistic. She makes some mistakes, but she tries to fix them, and it’s really sweet.

I could keep gushing about this book forever, but I’m going to shut up before I give away spoilers. If it isn’t obvious, I think this story is amazing. It has some of the most interesting illustrations I’ve ever seen in a book, and it’s definitely a new favorite. For an adult, it’s a super-quick read, so go read it.

This is what's under the dust jacket. How can you pass up a book that looks so good naked?

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Sunday Post #38

The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to recap the past week, talk about next week, and share news.

On The Blog Last Week

On The Blog This Week

  • On Monday I review A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.
  • On Tuesday I talk about the murky fringes of my reading comfort zone.
  • On Wednesday I review The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton.
  • On Thursday I tell you what I’ve been up to in February.
  • On Friday I list the reasons why I read books for grown-ups.

In My Reading Life

Last week, I finished The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and read I Am The Messenger by Markus Zusak. Then I started Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

In My Blogging Life

Feature & Follow Friday is back! I actually quit doing FF Friday because the questions weren’t leading to quality posts, and I was getting frustrated with myself. But, FF Friday has been revamped! I’m going to give it another try. Click here to see how it has changed.

In The Rest Of My Life

Five things that made me happy last week:

  1. My mom’s birthday.
  2. President’s Day sales.
  3. Cheap Candy Day (February 15th).
  4. I got the impressions made for my nightguard. I’m one step closer to not waking up with annoying jaw pain.
  5. I followed approximately four gazillion new book blogs on Bloglovin’. I’ve been trying to support bloggers who are just getting started.

I hope you had a great week! See you around the blogosphere!

Friday, February 19, 2016

FF Friday: In Which I Tell You Why I’m A Blogger

Feature & Follow is a weekly blog hop hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read. This week, I’m going to tell you why I started blogging and the story behind Read All The Things! One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more personal posts, so this is me attempting to do that.

Why I Blog

Remember that movie, Julie & Julia? Well, there’s a scene where Julie says, “I can write a blog. I have thoughts.” That’s pretty much what happened with me. I started reading blogs when I was a teenager, but I didn’t know about book review blogs. Maybe they weren’t as prevalent back then. I mostly read blogs about extreme lifestyles. You might not know this about me, but I’m interested in wilderness survival, living off the grid, and being self-sufficient. Teenage-me was a misanthrope who had elaborate fantasies of living in the remote wilderness and never seeing another human again. I liked reading about people who were living my dream.

Since I spent so much time reading blogs, I eventually got it in my head that I should start one. I didn’t have the courage to do it until I was around 19. Through my first few years of college, I was a blogger/co-blogger on three different blogs. Thankfully, none of them exist anymore. The first blog was a humor blog (it taught me that I’m not funny). The second was a blog that put fad diets to the test (it taught me that eating cabbage for every meal is a terrible idea). The third was a blog about the history and ethics of capital punishment (it taught me many creative ways to kill people, none of which I've ever used). I enjoyed writing posts and doing research for these blogs, but I wasn’t passionate about any of them. Actually, that’s a lie. The death penalty history blog was interesting in a nightmare-inducing way, but you’re probably not here to read about brutal, historical, government sanctioned murder.

Okay. Fast forward to 2012. I was taking time off between finishing my undergraduate degree and starting a post-BA program. During my time off school, I discovered travel and journal-style blogs. I had always wanted to be the type of person who keeps a journal. So, I set out to start a journal blog about my life. I chose Blogger over Wordpress because I already knew how to use Wordpress and wanted to learn Blogger. I used my name as the blog’s URL because that’s what other journal bloggers did. I didn’t give the blog a name because I couldn’t think of one. I didn’t plan on telling anyone except my family about my journal because I like my privacy (as you can probably tell by my teenage-wilderness-misanthrope phase).

At the end of 2013, I sat down to post on my brand-new blog-journal, and . . . I realized that I’m mind-blowingly boring. I had nothing to say about myself. I started blogging about books because I spent a lot of time reading. That’s how my journal blog accidently became a book blog.

I didn’t actually know that book blogs were a thing until I became more active on Goodreads in 2014. I wrote book reviews on Goodreads and discovered some amazing book bloggers through that site. In 2014, I was the not-so-proud owner of a neglected, nameless blog, so after approximately 3.5 nanoseconds of thought, I slapped Read All The Things! in the header and started posting book reviews. Ta-da! I was now an official book blogger.

Read All The Things! has lasted longer than any other blog I’ve worked on. I think this is because I’ve finally found something that I’m passionate about. I love to read, and I love the book blogging community. I don’t know many people in real life who get ridiculously excited about books. You guys make me feel like slightly less of a weirdo, and that’s why I blog.

The follow part of FF Friday: If you are a book blogger and you leave a link to your blog in the comments below, I will follow you on Bloglovin’. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, TwitterBookLikes, or G+, that would be awesome, too. Click the links to go to my pages on those sites. I’m looking forward to “meeting” you. 


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Review: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – 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. 
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

Review: This is one of those books that you have to think about for a while after you finish it.

An unnamed man comes back to his childhood home for the first time in years. While he is there, he starts thinking about when he was seven years old. He remembers the suicide of the man who lived upstairs and the evil creature that the suicide unleashed. The narrator survived the creature because he was saved by his friend, Lettie Hempstock, but he hasn’t seen Lettie in a long time, and he doesn’t quite remember what happened to her.

If you just look at the surface of this story, it’s pretty simple. This book actually reminds me of a more-intense version of Coraline. The narrator and Lettie have to defeat the monster who comes to the narrator’s home disguised as a nanny. The narrator’s parents are oblivious to the fact that the nanny is a monster, so the narrator and Lettie are on their own.

I think this book will be disappointing if you take it at face value. It’s a pretty average horror/fantasy story, but there is a lot going on under the surface. The family that the narrator grows up in has problems. They don’t have much money, so they’re forced to rent out the top floor of the house. The narrator’s mother has to go back to work, and while she’s away, his father may be having an affair. His father may also be abusing him. This is a lot for a seven-year-old to handle. The reader has to wonder if the magic in the story is real, or if it’s just a way for a child to cope with his unpleasant reality. It makes sense that a seven-year-old would blame a monster for all of the scary things that happen to him. The nanny came into his life at the start of a difficult time, so he blames her for causing the problems that happen later.

Or, at least, that’s how I interpreted the story. I love books that make me question the reliability of the characters.

However, I have the same problem with this book that I have with Neil Gaiman’s other books. The magical elements aren’t explained enough for me. A lot of crazy stuff happens, but I never felt like I totally understood why it was happening. It frustrates me to not understand a magic system or a character’s motivations. I guess if this story comes from the imagination of a seven-year-old, there wouldn’t be complex villains and magic systems, but I wanted complex villains and magic systems. Too much of this book is left unexplained.

Like the other Neil Gaiman books I’ve read, this one is fast-paced and easy to read. I sped through it in a few hours. The magical world in this book is pretty sinister. There’s one scene where the narrator pulls a live worm out of a hole in his foot. I hate bugs, and I hate holes, so no . . . yucky. I think the author does a realistic job of showing this strange world through the eyes of a child and an adult. I liked this book and will probably continue reading Neil Gaiman’s work.