Mini-reviews: Smile, A Woman Entangled, and Ocean at the End of the Lane

Smile Telgemeier  Smile by Raina Telgemeier

2009. GRAPHIX. Paperback. 214 pages.

Review: This delightful graphic novel is a coming-of-age memoir aimed at a young-adult audience, but definitely enjoyable for adults. Raina Telgemeier depicts the story of her junior-high and high school years, which start inauspiciously with an accident that damages her two front teeth. Various dental surgeries and procedures become the throughline for her tale of teenaged life. The specifics of Telgemeier’s life touch on common, recognizable ground: the crushes, the frenemies, the discovered interests. My teenaged life was about a decade later than Raina’s, and was even more devoid of boys than hers, but oh, I definitely identified with the fear of embarrassment and being a teenaged observer to a natural disaster (hers a devastating earthquake, mine a much-less-devastating, but still powerful ice-storm). My absolutely favorite part of Smile was when Raina switches from one group of friends to a new group of friends: Telgemeier takes a moment to acknowledge that the old friends didn’t transform into sworn enemies, but rather morphed into friendly acquaintances.

Excerpts from others’ reviews:

13-year-old daughter of Average Girl Reads – “What I liked: it was in color; she was about my age for most of the book; it showed what braces are really like when you first get them; she does the right thing; there was comedy. What I didn’t like: the setting was before my time, so I was confused about some fads and fashion; it ended so soon! >=(” [This quote was changed from bullet point to paragraph form for better fit for my blog – Christy]

Beth Fish Reads – “This graphic novel autobiography is so honestly told that I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love it.”

The Blue Bookcase – “The character’s expressions are absolutely fantastic and the teenage world of San Francisco in the late 80’s and early 90’s is created well. The craftsmanship is excellent.

Woman Entangled  A Woman Entangled by Cecilia Grant

2013. Bantam. ebook. 336 pages.

Review: This is the second book I’ve read by historical romance author Cecilia Grant, and the third in a series (I read the first in the series.) In this book, Kate Westbrook is intent on improving her family’s lot by reconnecting with her father’s estranged family and marrying well. Family friend Nick Blackshear was once in love with Kate, but now has other things on his mind, principally the negative effect his brother’s marriage has had on his law career. I appreciate how Grant’s world shows the consequences of “unacceptable” marriages (as decided by society) and that there is no magic resolution for some situations. I like how Kate and Nick are flawed but likable, and that the story isn’t only about their developing relationship, but also about their relationships with their family and friends. The historical backdrop is much more smoothly integrated in A Woman Entangled than it was in Grant’s good, but sometimes dragging, A Lady Awakened. I would recommend this for fans of Courtney Milan. They do not have exactly the same style, but some of the same sensibilities.

Excerpts from others’ reviews:

Dear Author – “A Woman Entangled did finish much stronger than it started, making it a worthwhile read, if still a slightly disappointing one.”

Jenny’s Books – “My point is, I like it that the characters aren’t consistently right or wrong by virtue of serving as protagonists or antagonists.”

ocean at the end of the lane  The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

2013. William Morrow. ebook. 246 pages.

Review: I don’t love Neil Gaiman’s books. I’ve read two others besides this one: Neverwhere which I disliked, and Stardust which I liked but didn’t leave much of an impression. I added myself to the library’s waitlist for this ebook because The Ocean at the End of the Lane had been near omnipresent for a while on my blog feed. It’s a fairly simple tale, with some interesting fantasy details. But as I’m writing this, I’m kind of wondering what else to say. I mean, the book is not without some quietly powerful moments, such as when the main character – a young boy – stands up to his father. And everything about the farm is warmly inviting. I liked the bittersweet tone of the book overall. But it’s just not a very memorable book for me.

Excerpts from others’ reviews:

bookshelves of doom – “If the books of Ray Bradbury had an affair with the books of Diana Wynne Jones, the resulting lovechild would very probably look something like The Ocean at the End of the Lane.”

Shelf Love (Jenny) – “[Gaiman] lets us see the strong places, too, and the love, and the comfort, whenever there is any, and the eventual possibility of healing. I’d say this book — like all true art — is bigger on the inside than on the outside.”

The Wertzone – “It’s almost like Gaiman wanted to write a moody piece about childhood but then decided he needed some sort of existential threat to be introduced and defeated because, well, it’s a fantasy novel.”


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4 responses to “Mini-reviews: Smile, A Woman Entangled, and Ocean at the End of the Lane

  1. Oh man, I thought Neverwhere was okay but I absolutely LOVED The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I thought it was just unutterably beautiful. I’m sorry it wasn’t memorable for you!

  2. I didn’t love The Ocean at the End of the Lane nearly as much as everyone else did. Maybe on a reread it’ll get me. I know that I didn’t love Neverwhere the first time I read it, and it’s since become one of my favorite books. (American Gods I loved straightaway, and it has not aged well for me.)

    • I’m not much of a re-reader, though it’s possible that enough time has passed since I read Neverwhere that it could make a difference. However, when I read it about ten years ago, it was during a time where I was game for most anything and I think I’m more fussy now than I was then.

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