Tag Archives: Neil Gaiman

Currently Reading + Upcoming Reviews

You’ll probably see a flurry of French cooking books on here. I’m getting a bit ahead of myself before the 6th annual Paris in July Reading Challenge takes place. At least, I hope it does. I haven’t heard any news or seen any icons for it yet. Either way, I’ll still be celebrating. Most notably by going down to the Santa Barbara French Festival this year. It should be lots of fun and I expect to come home with lots of little trinkets and treats.

Just Finished Reading
Two very wonderful and insightful books looking at life across the pond. What’s best is that these two books don’t bash US customs and traditions in order to elevate the European counterparts. We can do that on our own just by reading about how life is lived over there. These two books provide readers little windows through which we can peek into another country’s traditions and home life.

That's Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us In a French Kitchen: Tales and Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France

  • That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us by Erin Moore
  • In A French Kitchen: Tales & Traditions of Everyday Home Cooking in France by Susan Hermann Loomis

Just Started Reading
One is an ebook and the other is eaudio, yet both were chosen strictly for their pretty covers. Also, the print copies are all checked out and inundated with numerous holds at my library. So e-copies are all I have for now.

The Miniaturist  The Uninvited Guests

  • The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
  • The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones

Put Down & Forgot to Pick Back Up
Note to self: audiobooks by Neil Gaiman  only. Listening to his wonderfully dreamy voice read his dark stories is really the best way to experience Neil Gaiman books.

For the life of me, I can’t get myself to finish Bring Up the Bodies even through I am enjoying it. I have about 60 pages left, and I’m reading it at a pace of 5 pages a week. I’ve already reached the maximum number of renewals for my library copy too. I do plan on finishing it though. I’m too close to the end not to. I’m just not sure how eager I’ll be for book #3 in the trilogy.

Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances Bring Up the Bodies (Thomas Cromwell, #2)

  • Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  • Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
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The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Age: Adult
Source: Publisher
Publisher: William Morrow, 2013
ISBN: 9780062255655
181 pages
Find this book at your local library

When a middle-aged-man returns to his childhood home for a funeral, he takes an unexpected stroll down memory lane, remembering parts of his childhood from when he was 7-years-old and met Lettie Hempstock. Soon, history comes flooding back to him as he recollects sitting by the duck pond, or what she called her ocean.

Childhood memories are sometimes covered and obscured beneath the things that come later, like childhood toys forgotten at the bottom of a crammed adult closet, but they are never lost for good.

Neil Gaiman doesn’t write sequels, but the Ocean At the End of the Lane is like a distant cousin of The Graveyard Book and Coraline. Its a short novel, and I’m not quite sure if its meant for adults, kids or teens. It is written from the perspective of a 7-year-old, with innocent thoughts and fears, but much of the content is adult; frightening and surreal. This book, like the Graveyard Book, starts with a death. Like Coraline, the other mother, Ursula Monkton, is much more creepy and cruel.

This incredibly short book is more like a dream than a novel. Everything happens so quickly, so smoothly, but all the events and people seem incongruous somehow. As much as I loved and devoured this book, it is so easy to get lost in Neil Gaiman’s prose, hearing his voice narrate the book… I digress, fangirl that I am. As much as I enjoyed this book, I felt that one of the biggest faults was Lettie Hempstock’s nonchalance confidence with ridding the world of Ursula Monkton. It halted the suspense of the novel at times. Although Gaiman’s descriptions and eerie setting more than made up for that. Its not my favorite of his books, I think it could have been and should have been expanded, but it is a good read for a solitary, quiet evening.

1602 (Neil Gaiman) – Review

Marvel 16021602 by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert & Richard Isanove
Age: Adult
Genre: Sci-Fi/Graphic Novel/Comic Book complete volume set
Publisher: Marvel
ISBN: 9780785110736
Find this book at your local library
 
 

Comic book fans familiar with the Marvel superheroes (X-Men, Captain America, Spiderman etc) will appreciate this novel take on the series. All of these superheroes, among others, live in the same universe. In this 7 volume set, that world is set in the late Elizabethan era of 1602 during the Spanish Inquisition, the death of Queen Elizabeth and the transfer of the crown to King Charles of Scotland.

This book is full of history, mystery, and conspiracy. (I meant that to rhyme!). The illustrations are mesmerizing, and Neil Gaiman’s quick wit and brevity of dialogue keeps the pace of the book moving rapidly as plans unfurl and plots are foiled and villains and heroes are muddled with each other. There are a number of different storylines going on at the same time, but they all end up overlapping at some point. Although most of what I know about the X-Men & other superheroes come from the Saturday morning cartoons I used to watch as a kid, I got really into the world Gaiman created. It seemed somehow more natural for there to be mutants with superpowers at a time when the entire world was deeply mired in religion and miracles.

The only element that didn’t fit with the flow was the revelation of Captain America, and the how and why he is in 1602, before America was really America. It felt forced, kind of shoved in the book. The transitions to and from this story where not very clean. Other than that, it is a great read which I highly recommend.

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman) – Review

Fragile things : short fictions and wondersFragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders by Neil Gaiman
Age: Adult
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction
Format: Audio Book
Sound Library, 2006
Publisher: Harper Collins, 2006
9 discs: 10 hours, 47 minutes

Find this book at your local library

There’s really only 2 things of note about this book.

  1. Its written by Neil Gaiman
  2. Its read by Neil Gaiman

That’s really all you need to know to go out and pick up this book, in audio or text format. It’s no secret that I have a giant crush on Neil Gaiman and everything he’s written, produced or even glanced at. For the sake of propriety and consistency, I’ve also included what is probably a fairly biased review of the book below.

As noted in the title, Fragile Things is a collection of short stories and poems, most of which border on the edge of morbid, haunting, introspective and unsettling. The stories cover topics like life and death, perceptions and reality, heroes and villans, etc. The introduction of the book starts with Gaiman’s brief synopsis of each piece, explaining why and when it was written. He revisits Shadow from American Gods, wrote a short story for his daughter, and a few of the stories even overlap with certain characters. All of the stories have Gaiman’s trademark snarky sense of humor and his eloquent writing style, easily guiding the reader from horror to horror with a grace I have to yet to find in another author of similar genres.

This is another book that I actually own, the hardcopy is on my bookshelf. I picked up the audio because it’s narrated by Neil Gaiman. I could listen to him talk for hours. He has a very soothing, relaxed voice. His accents were on key for Fragile Things, and it was quite funny at times listening to him read certain sections. 

Feeders and Eaters was perhaps the most dreadful story of the bunch. I think I shuddered for about a minute in my car thinking about poor Mr. Thompson the cat. Hidden in the introduction is the short story The Mapmaker, which was also an amazing tale and I hope people don’t skip the introduction, otherwise they’ll miss this story altogether. There was also another story, October in the Chair, that works as a precursor to the Graveyard Book. In that story, each character is one of the 12 months, and each month has to produce a story to share with the other 11. October’s story being that of a young boy and a graveyard. Another favorite story was Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dead Desire, about a author who finds writing realistic fiction so dreadful, especially when his reality is so bizarre and surreal. I love his take on science fiction in that story.

The only complaint that I have about the audio book is that with most of Gaiman’s books, I have to often go back and reread paragraphs or sentences to really digest the meaning and the references. It’s not easy to do that with an audio book.  Some of the stories I did find a bit boring; The Problem of Susan being one  and I really couldn’t get into Harlequinn Romance. I found Bitter Grounds to be somewhat confusing and convoluted about zombies and Haitian girls and coffee concoctions.

Fans of Neil Gaiman will love this book, and I hope these short snippets of his work will help convert the rest of the population. If you ever get a chance to see Neil Gaiman at a library, or bookstore event, I highly recommend that you go.

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Noteworthy Links #17

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  • Piles of books were burned in the Colorado City, Az, the polygamous community that borders Utah. These books were meant for a new library, and instead found themselves turned to ash.
  • Three Cups of Fraud – Author Greg Mortensen is facing accusations of making up most of his highly acclaimed memoir, Three Cups of Tea. Watch the 60 minute segment with the author as he tries to defend himself against the allegations.
  • What could be the missing element of my life…the happiest and most wonderful book I ever stumbled upon… Bear With Me by John Pollack, the 1995 O. Henry Pun-off World Championship Winner.
  • My best friend since high school was one of my bridesmaids at my wedding this past weekend. She has always been a great support system for me, as well as my primary source for new and interesting authors to read. She is the one who introduced me to Neil Gaiman, and I felt it was only fitting that she read Neil Gaiman’s Wedding Poem during the ceremony. Here is a print of the poem that Mr. Gaiman wrote on the fly in the guest book of his friend’s wedding.

This for you, for both of you,

a small poem of happiness
filled with small glories and little triumphs
a fragile, short cheerful song
filled with hope and all sorts of futures

Because at weddings we imagine the future
Because it’s all about “what happened next?”
all the work and negotiation and building and talk
that makes even the tiniest happily ever after
something to be proud of for a wee forever

This is a small thought for both of you
like a feather or a prayer,
a wish of trust and love and hope
and fine brave hearts and true.

Like a tower, or a house made all of bones and dreams
and tomorrows and tomorrows and tomorrows

The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch – Review

The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch is a stand alone Neil Gaiman comic about a man remembering a childhood summer with his grandparents in England. Sent away for the summer because his mother was about to give birth, the narrator spent a majority of his summer engulfed in the violent tale of malicious Punch and poor Judy.

The story of Punch and Judy is really violent. The story traces back to the 1660’s originally from Italy making its way to England in the 18th century.  A script for Punch and Judy was written by John Payne Collier in 1828 under the title “the Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Punch and Judy.” In the story Punch happily kills their baby, kills Judy, kills the police, the judge and the devil that come after him for his crimes. In true Neil Gaiman style, there is an air of mystery, and paranormal in the story. The images are not traditional cartoon comic book style. They are instead a combination of photographs and drawn images, dark and dreary that cast a melancholy shadow over the story.

http://frankiely.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/punch-baby-and-judy.jpg

Although I’m a bigger fan of Neil Gaiman’s prose, this one is a really good introduction into the dark shadows of his mind.

The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch
by Neil Gaiman
Harper Collins,
ISBN 1563892464

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Find this book at your local library

Coraline – movie review

Has anyone else seen the movie Coraline yet? Was it not the most awesome 3-D movie??

I read that book quite a few years ago, but didn’t really how creepy the whole concept really was until I saw the movie Sunday night. The movie, was fantastic, first off. The 3-D animation, the storyline, graphics. Everything was so visually appealing and well put together. I really want to go see it again. Neil Gaiman has a magic touch, I swear. The man can do no wrong (well, except maybe Stardust. That book was a little to girly for my taste). But everything else of his is pure wonder, psyche and  adventure.

This is really a movie that must be seen in the theaters. Don’t wait for the DVD!!!

To see what theaters in your area are showing the 3D verison, do a Google Search for Coraline 3D and your Zip Code. If you put only Coraline and your Zip Code, you get only the 2D versions, and that’s just not acceptable. =p

Is Neil Gaiman your cup of cup of novelty coffee?

My three favorite things: Neil Gaiman, coffee and funny article headings. Why two “cup of”s I wonder? Extra emphasis perhaps. Here is a fun article by the Guardian Books Blog reviewing a fun bookshop/coffee store with novelty coffees.

Is Neil Gaiman your cup of cup of novelty coffee?

Ahdaf Soueif pours tea while visiting a house in the West Bank

One image or two? … Ahdaf Soueif pours steaming hot glasses of Amos Oz while visiting a house in the West Bank. Photograph: Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images

Gaiman is less sensible compared to Pamuk” – it could only be a fragment from the age of the internet. But this isn’t a shard of incisive literary criticism, it’s a restaurant review, or something like it.

It’s a post from Tita Larasati about a trip she took last week to the Reading Lights bookshop and coffee corner in (appropriately enough) West Java. According to the picture she’s uploaded of the cafe menu, the Neil Gaiman is an “ice black coffee, fresh milk, peanut butter, hazelnut syrup, cinnamon & cold froth”, while Orhan Pamuk is a “hot cappuccino with a special mix of kapulaga” (cardamon to you and I).

Now I have a problem with novelty coffee at the best of times, quite apart from the suggestion of stirring peanut butter into any kind of fluid which is clearly not “sensible” at all. But the fact that the Pamuk – cappuccino? cardamon? – seems just wrong to me raised the question of what kind of coffee, or indeed, what kind of foodstuff would be just right.

I’ve got Pamuk down as a rigorous formalist, firmly rooted in Middle Eastern culture, but engaging with it using all the tools provided by Borges, Calvino and Joyce. So how about a nicely laid out plate of zaletti? Or maybe that’s a little too literal. How about a bar of Kendal mint cake?

All of which got me thinking. Samuel Beckett might well suggest a glass of eau de vie, or Herman Melville a bowl of Boston baked beans, but what about Shakespeare? What about Proust? (And nobody say “madeleines”.)

Maybe some authors could only be captured by a dish and accompaniments, or even a whole meal. What would you say to Salman Rushdie as an eat-all-you-can buffet in an upmarket Indian restaurant? Or Honoré de Balzac as a grand aioli? But I’m sure you literary Heston Blumenthals can do a whole heap better. Over to you.

Graveyard Book Winner!

First, I want to thank everyone who entered this contest, it was my most popular giveaway to date. Its always great seeing the wide range of fans for an author like Neil Gaiman having media is nearly every format available. If he comes out with a music-cd next, I don’t think I’ll be surprised. =)

The Winner of the Graveyard Book goes to

Josette of Books Love Me!

https://i2.wp.com/everafterstore.com/media/ss_size1/trinket-box-cupcake-congratulations-EL7197.jpg

The Graveyard Book – Review

Fans of Rudard Kipling’s Jungle Book and Harry Potter will find many similarities between these three titles. The Jungle Book, along with Neil Gaiman watching his son bike through a graveyard was the primary inspiration for this moody and dark children’s book about an orphaned boy being raised by a most peculiar crowd.

First line: There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.

Review:

Starting out similar to Harry Potter, the story begins with a family being murdered in the dead of night by a man Jack. The only survivor of the killings was a young toddler who had managed to crawl out of his crib and sneak out the door and into the cemetery across the street. Through some form of luck, the ghosts residing of the buried dead in the graveyard took in this boy, and defended him from the killer. Like the Jungle Book, Bod, is raised with ghosts and learns how to live and act among the ghosts as they do. The story progresses though 8 chapters. In each chapter Bod Owens, short of Nobody, is older by two years. He has a not so typical childhood in the graveyard, learning to read and write from ghosts, and eventually learning about his past.

The book is full of mystery and suspense, but is also sprinkled with witty and unexpected humor. The main characters are Bod, and his guardian Silas, a brooding man who is neither living nor dead, but can easily walk between both worlds. I often forgot it was a children’s book, there being many words I had to stop and look up in the dictionary, as well as a number of references to literary characters throughout the ages. That is all a part of Neil Gaiman’s charm in his written work. He does extensive research when writing, and it yet it seeps out in his work very casually, as if he just knows everything about everything and can make it funny through some kind of pun. My complaint is that the characters seemed a little stale and unchanging, but then, how much can you expect a ghost to change? Maybe they were set to stay the same to reflect the changes in Bod over the years?

I still place Coraline as my favorite children’s book of Neil Gaiman, and am utterly undecided in terms of which novel to adore. Neverwhere was the first creation of his that I read. I read American Gods for the majority of a 10 hour drive up from Las Vegas and Anansi Boys had me laughing constantly as I read on the train to work.

For anyone interested in buying this book, apparently it does not want to stay on the bookshelves of the big chain bookstores (its either sold out, or filed away somewhere offbeat) Amazon has marked-down the cost of the book on their website.

FINAL GRADE: A

If you haven’t already, please check out my giveaway post for a copy of The Graveyard Book, and the recap for a night with Neil Gaiman, stop 6 of his 9 city book tour.

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book from Amazon

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The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
HarperCollins, 2008
0060530928
320 pages