Showing posts with label neil gaiman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label neil gaiman. Show all posts

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman


Title: Trigger Warning
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction--stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013--as well "Black Dog," a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection.

Trigger Warning explores the masks we all wear and the people we are beneath them to reveal our vulnerabilities and our truest selves. Here is a rich cornucopia of horror and ghosts stories, science fiction and fairy tales, fabulism and poetry that explore the realm of experience and emotion. In "Adventure Story"--a thematic companion to The Ocean at the End of the Lane--Gaiman ponders death and the way people take their stories with them when they die. His social media experience "A Calendar of Tales" are short takes inspired by replies to fan tweets about the months of the year--stories of pirates and the March winds, an igloo made of books, and a Mother's Day card that portends disturbances in the universe. Gaiman offers his own ingenious spin on Sherlock Holmes in his award-nominated mystery tale "The Case of Death and Honey". And "Click-Clack the Rattlebag" explains the creaks and clatter we hear when we're all alone in the darkness.


My Review:

When I saw this on the Recent Releases shelf at my library, I figured I could not go wrong with a collection of Neil Gaiman short stories.  My attention span has been so limited lately that some short fiction sounded perfect, and my two forays into Gaiman's work thus far have been positive.

Unfortunately, this one fell into the so-so category for me.  I KNOW.  I'm just as surprised as you are.

Even so, there were a lot of great things about this collection, because it IS Neil Gaiman.  All of his stories are subtly unsettling, a writing tactic that I came to love in Neverwhere.  He skips the obvious, sometimes gory, horror of a Stephen King novel, and instead leaves you with a vague chill in your bones at the end of each tale.  That certainly did not disappoint.

And some of the individual stories were pretty great, all on their own.  "The Thing About Cassandra," "A Calendar of Tales," and "A Lunar Labyrinth" were my favorites, all excellent stand-alone stories that left me with much to ponder afterwards.  I also loved Gaiman's introduction to the collection--he explains his thought process behind each story (helpful for me as a reader), and also makes some really spot-on points about whether or not books should include "trigger warnings" to warn readers of possibly-sensitive material.

That said, there were two main reasons why I felt lukewarm on this book.  First (and Gaiman does acknowledge this in the introduction), the genre of the stories jumps around way too much for my liking.  There's horror, sci-fi, fairy tale retellings, a Doctor Who-based story...some prose, some poetry...they are all so vastly different.  This is the first short story collection I've read that jumps around so much in genre, and it made for a very choppy reading experience for me.  Though the tone was fairly similar between stories, I would have liked a little more continuity in the genres as well.

The second issue I had is that so many of the stories require previous knowledge of other stories.  As I mentioned, there is a Doctor Who story (which I actually liked more than I thought I would, though I probably would have enjoyed it even more if I'd ever seen the show), a Sherlock Holmes tale, two stories that are based on Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, respectively (I had to brush up on my fairy tales to understand them), and a story related to American Gods, a Gaiman novel that I've not read yet (so I don't think I fully appreciated the story).  Again, this made for a very choppy reading experience as I was constantly Googling information about these other sources in order to understand the story at hand.

Overall, if you're a Gaiman fan to begin with, and have good background on the original tales he spins off from, then this book is likely a win for you.  But otherwise, I think Trigger Warning has the potential to be a rougher read than what you may expect from short fiction.

Have any other Neil Gaiman fans read this one yet?  What did you think?
And can anyone tell me what the draw is to Doctor Who?  Because seriously, fans of that show are HARDCORE.  This was my first experience with a TARDIS.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Monday, and I promise I'm reading!


Hello, reader friends!  I know, I know...not a lot of bookish goodness around here lately!  As the mileage has increased for my half marathon training, reading/blogging time has gotten tight.  But I promise that I AM reading!  And I have so many good books on the horizon.  I figured it was high time to update you on my literary life.

As always, I was super jealous of everyone participating in Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon this past weekend...I hoped to be able to do it this time around, but then my race happened and I knew I wouldn't be able to swing it.  Maybe in the fall?  FINALLY?!?

I recently finished...

Inside the O'Briens by Lisa Genova

This book was excellent!  It follows the lives of a family when they find out that their patriarch (Joe O'Brien) has Huntington's disease.  HD is autosomal dominant, which means that if one parent has it, each child has a 50% chance of getting it as well.  The O'Briens struggle to come to terms with both Joe's diagnosis, as well as what this means for each of their individual futures.  I have enjoyed two of Genova's previous novels, and this one did not disappoint either.  Reviewing soon!

I am currently reading...

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon

I just started it, so not much to say yet, but here's a plot summary from Goodreads for you:

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school. 

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.
As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

My review is coming next week for TLC Book Tours!

I will soon be reading...

Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa
I was recently offered a copy of this for review, and I could not resist the idea of some solid food science nonfic right now!

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Picked up from the library this week because I totes cannot turn down Gaiman short stories.

Lots of books to keep me busy around here!  Hope you all are having as much luck with your reading choices lately as I am.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

2014's Best Book Covers (#amonthoffaves)

The Month of Favorites continues!

Today we're chatting about our 10 favorite book covers.  I couldn't tell from the prompt if we were supposed to keep this to books that we read in 2014 (or if it even has to be books that we've read...perhaps book covers we've admired but not yet picked up?), but since it's the end of the year and we're wrapping up, I decided to limit this to books I read in 2014.

However...I've only read 43 books so far this year, and choosing 10 would mean nearly a quarter of the books I read this year would have to have eye-catching covers.  Which is not the case, unfortunately.  So instead, this is my top 5 book covers of books I read in 2014, because I was only honestly able to pick out 5 that seemed exceptional!

In no particular order...

1. Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult  (review)

It's just so pretty and calming.  Sometimes simplicity is all I want from a book cover.

2. The Blonde by Anna Godbersen  (review)

As much as I disliked the book itself, the cover is fairly dramatic.

3. Croak by Gina Damico  (review)

If you've read this book, you'll know that the main character (Lex) is fairly sassy and bad-ass, and this picture sums her up so well.  Plus, you know, scythe.  Kind of disarming.

4. What I Had Before I Had You by Sarah Cornwell  (review)

Makes me want summer and roller coasters and slurpees.

5. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman  (review)

The image of the girl in the water is beautiful, but also rather haunting.  A perfect fit for this novel.

What say you, readers?  Did you read anything with an especially lovely cover this year?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman


Title: The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: June 18, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

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.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark. 


My Review:

Why is it that I am generally not a fantasy-genre fan, and yet I continue to love Neil Gaiman?  DISCUSS.

I guess I should first clarify that this novel is not easily placed into one genre.  Fantasy seems closest to the mark, but perhaps magical realism?  A fable?  A tad bit of horror?  So maybe one reason that I enjoyed this book is because it flies in the face of the very IDEA of genres.  It's got a bit of everything, and Gaiman manages to meld it all together masterfully.

I love how this book begins as a middle-aged man's reminiscence about his childhood, and then creeps, almost imperceptibly, into a story that is rather disturbing and at times, horrific.  I felt similarly about Coraline and Neverwhere.  I hate to make broad generalizations about Neil Gaiman's work when I've only read 3 novels so far, but based on that limited repertoire, I'd say he has a knack for probing the (potentially frightening) forces that make our world tick.  While you're innocently working at your job, or sitting in Starbucks, or reading a book on your couch...who (or what) is out there, allowing our world to exist?  Are they good, or evil?  Do they even LIKE us?  The Ocean at the End of the Lane will leave you wondering about that.  A lot.

I was also drawn to the way this book often sets up children vs adults scenarios, and the power that the child characters wield (even when they don't think that they do).  This idea of there being strength in the innocence of childhood (especially in the face of evil) has always been an interesting theme for me, and is seen quite a lot in Stephen King's work too.  In the case of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, the young main character's POV also lends a more unfiltered view to the story than anything an old, "jaded" adult could have provided, which makes the end result that much more powerful.

Notice how I didn't delve into many plot specifics here?  I don't want to spoil anything for you.  But trust me--the broader points (like the way the tone so gradually shifts, and the deeper meaning behind the plot action) are what will stick with you anyway.  Yes, the story is great, but it's the story-behind-the-story that's going to leave this one rolling around in your brain for a while.

As always, much thanks to Trish and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
Check out the other blogs on this book tour HERE.  And connect with Neil Gaiman on his websiteTwitter, and Facebook.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Wondrous Words Wednesday (4)



Word Nerd Time!

Wondrous Words Wednesday is hosted by Bermudaonion each week.  It's an opportunity to share new words you've encountered in your reading, or highlight words that you particularly enjoy.

Here are three of my favorites new-to-me words from some of my recent reads.  All definitions from Dictionary.com.


1. legerdemain.   "...Ronald Reagan was doing quite well with his brand of verbal legerdemain..." (from Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama)

noun
1.  sleight of hand.
2.  trickery; deception.
3.  any artful trick.

2. plangently.   "This smell was plangently like that—sickish sweet and decayed sour, mixed together and fermenting wildly."  (from 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King)

adjective
resounding loudly, especially with a plaintive soundas a bell.

3. beldam.  "Hush and shush, for the beldam might be listening!"  (from Coraline by Neil Gaiman)

noun
an old woman, especially an ugly one; hag.

What are your new words this week?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Coraline by Neil Gaiman


Title: Coraline
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 4, 2002
Source: received from Cass in the All Hallow's Read book swap!

Plot Summary from Goodreads:


Coraline's often wondered what's behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her "other" parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures.


My Review:

When I was filling out my preferences for the All Hallow's Read swap (courtesy of My Friend Amy's blog), I had a hard time summing up what type of book I preferred.  I love Stephen King, but I've read a ton of it.  Some crime thrillers are great for me, but others fall terribly flat.  I've read 1 Neil Gaiman novel, want to try more, but not sure what.

Well, turns out that lucky me was paired with Cass from Bonjour, Cass!, and I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of Coraline in my mailbox.  New-to-me Gaiman, but a middle-grade novella--very different from my previously-read (and loved) Neverwhere.  Plus, I haven't seen the movie, so the plot was entirely unknown to me.  I was intrigued!

Coraline is a short read, but it instantly transported me back to fifth grade, when I adored Roald Dahl's Matilda (and probably re-read it 10 times that year alone).  If you've read both books, you might think that's an odd comparison, but I actually see many similarities.  Two young, brave heroines, using their fantastical worlds to their advantage to outsmart the wily adults that rival them.  No wonder my long-repressed fifth-grade-self was awakened!  I think Matilda and Coraline would get along quite well, in fact.  And have many stories to share.  (Plus, they're both Brits, so hometown advantage.)

However, the obvious difference between these two books is the scare factor.  While Matilda does have its moments (that Miss Trunchbull was a bear), Coraline is written with the Gaiman creepiness that I easily recognized from the adult-focused Neverwhere--and actually, there were several plot points that seemed to mirror things I read in the adult novel.  For example, the corridor between Coraline's flat and "other mother's" flat reminded me very much of the Night's Bridge in Neverwhere.  And the constant appearance of rats = Neverwhere's Rat Speakers.

Gaiman does not set out to ruin our children's psyches though.  In Coraline, there is less full-on fright, and more of an underlying sense of creepiness.  An uneasy atmosphere, created through the disconcerting imagery he provides.  The black button eyes?  The long-nailed white hands?  The quiet-but-always-watching rats?  None of these things are downright terrifying on their own (okay, maybe the eyes.  That was creepy), but taken all together, they provide just enough discomfort to make your spine tingle.

A bit more about Coraline herself.  What a precocious and amusing character!  Some of her interactions with her parents made me laugh quite a bit:
"'I didn't think you played with your dolls anymore,' said Mrs. Jones.
'I don't,' admitted Coraline.  'They're protective coloration.'
'Well, be back in time for lunch,' said her mother." (p 153)

And much like the hero-children I mentioned in Stephen King novels, her young innocence and wisdom are what lead her to triumph over her more senior foes.  (Page 20: "Coraline wondered why so few of the adults she had met made any sense.  She sometimes wondered who they thought they were talking to."  Parents just don't understand, y'all.)

I've nearly gone on here as long as the novella itself.  Can you tell I enjoyed it?  This was truly a book that transported me, mentally, back to my elementary- and middle-school reading years.  It is perfectly creepy enough for Halloween, and the eerie feel of Gaiman's other work shines through.  But Coraline's personality adds a lightness that makes this perfect for younger readers. 

(They might still have nightmares about the black button eyes though.  I'm not making any guarantees there.  Yick.)

Check out some other reviews of Coraline:
On A Book Bender
Reading Lark
The Cheap Reader
On The Wings of Books

What recent reads remind you of your childhood favorites?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August 2012 Reads (and other stuff)

On my old personal blog, I used to do a monthly post recapping all of the books I read that month.  I figured I'll continue that here, because even though I'm reviewing every book on the blog as I go, it's also nice to see what kind of progress I made over the last month.  Here's what I read in August (three were pre-blogging, so I included Goodreads review links):

The Other Woman by Jane Green (here's my Goodreads review)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Goodreads review)
Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Goodreads review)
Gold by Chris Cleave (blog review)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (blog review)
Look Again by Lisa Scottoline (blog review)

Definitely one of my more productive reading months this year!  I know that's not much compared to many other bloggers, but I think many moms of babies/toddlers will agree that reading habits inevitably get harder to maintain when you have a crazy (though adorable) banshee running through your house 24/7.  (Speaking of which, I saw this excellent post on Book Riot last week; mom book bloggers, check it out!)

I used to average about 75 books/year...now I'm closer to 50.  But I'll trade those 25 books for time with my little banshee, no questions asked.  Also, since this is still a new blog, I should warn you that I am also an obsessive mommy photographer, and any mention of my son requires me to immediately share a heart-melting photo of him (well, it melts mine, and so I naturally imagine it melts all others).  Ooooo, here it comes!

Le sigh.

Anywho.  I'll end here by saying that I'm quite enjoying this book blogging venture so far.  Thanks to all those that have welcomed me to the blogging community (book bloggers and book readers alike!).  If you haven't yet, follow me on Twitter @TheWRRedhead...I'm still working on being witty in 140 characters or less.  Twitter is not for the verbose.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A quick and dirty survey.

I saw this brief book survey on The Broke and the Bookish today, and I had to repost.  An easy way to give you some insight into my latest reading habits.

The book I'm currently reading: Look Again by Lisa Scottoline.  I saw a brief summary of this book a year or two ago, and have been dying to read it ever since.  Unfortunately, it's not all that I thought it would be, but I have another 100-ish pages for it to change my mind (I'll keep you posted on how that goes). 

I'm also listening to The Confession by John Grisham on audiobook, and it's been an excellent way to spend my commutes these last couple of weeks.

The last book I finished: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman--you saw my happy-customer review here.

The next book I want to read: I am hoping to get my hands on a copy of Emily Giffin's new one, Where We Belong.  I'm a big fan of her other work.  I've been on the library wait list for a while now, I should be up soon!


The last book I boughtCommencement by J. Courtney Sullivan--I do indeed have a professional life in higher education (book bloggin' JUST DON'T PAY), so books about colleges/universities, undergrads, recent grads, etc. always catch my interest (I Am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is one of my absolute favorites, all-time).  I haven't read this one yet but it's on my Kindle and I'm looking forward to it.


The last book I was given: Left Neglected by Lisa Genova.  Cari gave me this book a few months ago, and it was an excellent recommendation for me.  It's about a high-powered working mom whose life is turned upside down when she is in a terrible car accident, leaving her with a traumatic brain injury.  The physical and emotional changes she goes through in the novel are amazing.  A great read for anyone who loves Jodi-Picoult-style family dramas.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Book Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Title: Neverwhere
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: BBC Books
Release Date: September 16, 1996
Source: bought it for my Kindle via Amazon

Here's the plot summary from Goodreads:
"When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere."

My Review:
First of all, I have to say I was a bit intimidated to read this novel.  The ladies from my online book club found out that I had never read any Neil Gaiman, and immediately took to arms with cries of, "GET THEE TO THE GAIMAN!"  And so, after many months of agonizing over which to begin with, I picked up Neverwhere.
I was a tad skeptical at first.  Fantasy novels are not one of my top genres, and generally only work well for me if the author does a downright AMAZING job of making the fantastical world "believeable", on some level.  But guess what--Neil Gaiman does this in spades.  Richard, the main character, falls from London Above (our real-world, Olympics-hosting London) to London Below, a seedy, horror-filled underworld-London where all the people and things that have "fallen through the cracks" over time end up.  London Below is described in such a way that it is extremely detailed, but not at all overdone.  I think this is partially because the concise and sometimes depressing descriptions of London Above mirror the way London Below was described...thus making it easy to mentally leap from one to the other.  Anyway, I believed it.  I fell into it right along with Richard and I didn't look back.  Gaiman makes that transition so seamless, you don't have the time (or the desire) to question it.
The characters were also very well done; again, distinctive and quirky (and surprisingly human...even when they're not) without being over-the-top.  I'd have to say my favorites were the baddest of the bad guys, Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar.  Never before have I encountered villians that both gave me nightmares (true story), and at the same time hit me with hilarious one-liners throughout the entire book.  But Richard is also a wonderful protagonist, mostly because he keeps such an "average-Joe-ness" about him even after his craziest of encounters with London Below.
I do find it funny that this book is actually the companion to what was originally a British TV mini-series, because as I was reading it, all I could think was, "Oh, I hope no one tries to make this into a movie.  No one could do this justice on screen, BLASPHEMY!"  Apparently, the BBC made Gaiman leave some things out of the TV series, hence the novel.  But I'm afraid to watch the series because I already so enjoy the world of London Below as it exists, safely in my head.
Overall?  Creepy, funny, and oddly believeable.  Well played, Neil Gaiman.  I'm late to the game, but you have a new fan.  I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys the fright and occasional fantasy bent of Stephen King, but is twisted enough to want a laugh at the same time.  (I'm not afraid to put myself in that category.)
 
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