Thursday, December 25, 2014

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NY1 teams with contributors from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, and Essence Magazine to review the latest books and book-related trends.

The Book Reader: "The Ocean At The End Of The Lane," "The Shining Girls"

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Andrew Losowsky of The Huffington Post reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

What makes a great summer book? For many people, it's a story that takes them away from reality, but that doesn't have to mean a sunny plot.

Neil Gaiman's new book, "The Ocean At The End Of The Lane," is a dark and strange read. Though the narrator is a 7-year-old boy, this is a fairy tale for adults, designed to scare. Something dangerous has entered the world, and only three generations of women, who live next to the duck pond that they call an "ocean," can restore balance to our universe.

What makes this book so engaging is a complex mythology at its heart that is never explained, glimpsed only through the words and actions of its characters. And despite its fantastical framework, this is actually a story of childhood and love, of growing up and realizing how easily we forget to believe in magic.

This short book is, in a literal sense, enchanting, and I ended it craving more of the mysterious Hempstock family. The book is out now in hardback and download from William Morrow.

Another new title that combines the fantastical and the scary is "The Shining Girls" by Lauren Beukes, out now in hardback and download from Mulholland. It's not often that you can explain the conceit of a book in three words, but this one has a pretty good sell. Ready for this? "Timetravelling serial killer." Ta-da!

The book is more complex than that might suggest, as the story jumps between first-person narratives, including those the killer, his victims and those trying to investigate his crimes.

It's very well-written, but the final endgame felt rushed and too dependent on coincidence. The story had been so artfully constructed up to that point, I was expecting more from its resolution.

"The Shining Girls" is still a great read, spanning different historical periods in Chicago, and as with Neil Gaiman's book, it doesn't strain too hard to explain its otherworldly features. After all, if you have explain why something is magical, then it isn't magic any more.

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