Tag: gaiman

2015 Book #11: Trigger Warning

triggerwarningI’m usually not a short story reader unless it’s in The New Yorker (collections are so disjointed!), but I jumped on Trigger Warning after I had such a good time reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane in 2013. I love Neil Gaiman. I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of his novels, and I’ve liked every one (except Good Omens, the one he wrote with Terry Pratchett, who I also love). Gaiman seems to write exactly the stories I like to read (like Calvino, but so much easier to process).

Anyway. Here’s yet another list, this time of some of my favorite stories:

  • “The Case of Death and Honey” is about Sherlock Holmes and bees. It’s hard to say any more without releasing a massive spoiler. Holmes hears about the mysterious disappearance of an old man in China. The man lived on a hillside and had several beehives, selling honey to surrounding villages. Then rumors circulated about the appearance of a white man asking about bees…
  • “An Invocation of Incuriosity” might be my favorite. A man and his son live at the end of the world, and the sun has just died out. The father takes his son into a secret room in the house, and they suddenly appear in a city millions of years before, near the beginning of the world. The father is rich and has other sons by other women and tells his son-from-the-end-of-the-world that he has to pretend to be a servant. Turns out the father has been collecting stones and other objects from the end of the world to sell to the city folk. So good!
  • “Nothing O’Clock” is a Doctor Who story! Whaaaat, you say? If you’re a fan, you probably know that Gaiman has written several episodes over the years. This story is set during Matt Smith’s tenure, and he and Amelia have to deal with the Kin (who appeared in a few episodes with David Tennant and Martha). Timey Wimey stuff happens, and it ran through my head like a TV episode.
  • “Adventure Story” is really interesting. It’s about family secrets and what people really consider adventures.
  • “The Return of the Thin White Duke” is about a Duke who is really a god and who is bored with ruling, so he goes off on an adventure that doesn’t turn out anything like he expected.
  • “The Sleeper and the Spindle” is a blended retelling of a couple fairy tales (I’m sure you can guess one) with a really good twist.

And I’ll stop there, though I liked so many more. The weakest parts of the collection are the poems, but they’re all pretty short and lead to Much Better Things. Trigger Warning is definitely worth a read (or two or three).

Photo credit: orangejon

2013: The Year in Books

Here we are, at the end of 2013.  It’s time for my Grand Book List, which I skipped last year (as I skipped reading for the most part, but that’s a long story). I’ve read more this year than I have in the past several. It’s possibly the most I’ve ever read. I’m not quite sure how it happened since I have a job, and such. Palmer says reading is a waste of time and a way for unhappy people to forget that they’re unhappy, but I don’t think it is. I’ve had a good year, all told. There is, of course, the Elephant in the Room, which makes everything difficult, but I’ve been dealing with it long enough, now, that it’s not that big of a deal. Reading does help me forget about that, sometimes, which is both good and bad. But I digress. Here, by the way, is an excellent article from Slate about the psychological and moral benefits of reading. So there.

For the past three years, I’ve set a quota for myself: 50 books. I started because, at the end of 2010, I realized that I’d only read about twenty books, which seemed ridiculous. I thought that if I set a goal, I could get my reading back on track. And I did! I squeezed in at the wire, but I did, and I was very proud of myself. In 2012, I set the same goal, but I didn’t even get close. I blame the Elephant – I was sick, my vision was blurry, and I was exhausted. After July of 2012, my world stopped for a while. This January, I decided I could no longer use ye olde Elephant as an excuse, so I jumped in for another fifty. If you pay any attention to my blog, you’ll know that I easily surpassed that number this year. I’m not sure why or how, especially since so many of thee books I read were huge.

Which leads me to a title for 2013: The Year of Long Books. Until this year, I hardly read books over three or four hundred pages because I didn’t think I could get through them. Jumping into A Game of Thrones and getting hooked cured me of that, I think, and I think I’ve decided that I love long books the best because I can get more into them without feeling rushed. That’s not always easy to do with this quota, though.

So here’s my list. Yes, it’s long. I’ll use the same system I used for my 2010 and 2011 lists: Bold means I really liked it, and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough.

So there you have it. I read some pretty good books this year. But which one is the best? In 2010, the prize went to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, and in 2011, One Hundred Years of Solitude won. Last year, there was no winner, as, well, you know. Elephant. What could I possibly have chosen this year? Drumroll please…


Yep, Stoner. If you read this blog regularly, you probably saw it coming. Stoner is the best, most amazing novel I’ve read in years. It’s perfect on just about every level. I was crying and entirely speechless by the end of it. Oh, so good.

But Stoner wasn’t the only good novel I read this year, so I’m adding a couple of runners-up. I liked these novels almost as much, though they weren’t quite as mind-blowing as our winner.


First, there’s Orlando, which is hilarious and fantastic and addictive. I want to read it again. After some reflection, it definitely wins my top spot in the list of Virginia Woolf‘s novels. I know that a Discworld novel, of all things, probably doesn’t fit in too well, but I absolutely adored Eric, and I can’t help myself. It’s definitely my favorite Discworld novel so far. There’s also The Ocean at the End of the Lane, which is no my favorite of Neil Gaiman‘s because it’s an overwhelming fairytale that I couldn’t quite have understood when I was a child. This one qualifies as mind-blowing, too. I’ll make myself stop there, though I’m having a hard time not adding more.

2013 was definitely a good reading year. So many books make for so many interesting experiences, most of them good. Next year, I’ll do the same, and it’ll be especially pleasant because my super-awesome husband made me a library out of what had been a storage-bedroom in our house. It’s beautiful, but I still need to clean up a bit and hang art before I post official photos. I’ll be spending lots of 2014 curled up in my papasan, feet propped up and reading. I can’t wait.

2013 Book #33: Anansi Boys

anansiRoughly halfway through every year, I get tired of reviewing every single book I read. That feeling is compounded by the fact that I’ve been reading so much lately. Which explains why I’ve waited so long to review a book I finished two weeks ago.

Anyway. Anansi Boys. Have I mentioned that I love Neil Gaiman? I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane as soon as I could get my hands on it, and I was enraptured. Such a story! I couldn’t wait long to read more, and Anansi Boys didn’t disappoint. It’s been so long since I’ve read most of the Gaiman books I have that I’m not quite sure how to place it. Definitely on top of Good Omens and (I think) American Gods, but below The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I’m not clear on where Stardust and Neverwhere fit in anymore. (I’ve been thinking about rereading Neverwhere because Palmer is currently listening to the audiobook, and things he says about it make me remember how much I liked it.)

Anansi boys is about the trickster god Anansi and his two sons, Fat Charlie and Spider. They’ve led entirely different lives, and meet for the first time since childhood when they’re in their late 20s and their father dies. Terrific mischief ensues, involving various murderous subplots and all the other old gods.

It’s funny and hard to put down. I read it continuously while I traveled to Michigan for a library conference. I was glued to it for the entire flight between Dallas and Detroit, only looking up long enough to take pictures like this:


And once I got to my hotel, I curled up with a glass of wine and my book, and finished it quickly.

It was also the end of my reading tear – I’d brought along Ken Kesey‘s second novel, Sometimes a Great Notion, which I had a feeling would be too long and ambitious for my attention span at the moment (which is funny since I’m reading A Storm of Swords right now), so my reading has slowed way down. Anansi Boys, though, I couldn’t stop reading. It reminded me how much I like Neil Gaiman and made me want to revisit his books that I’ve already read. Maybe I’ll even give Good Omens another chance.

2013 Book #29: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

oceanOh, God, I loved this book. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is definitely my favorite Neil Gaiman novel. (If you’re wondering what my least favorite is, it’s Good Omens, which is funny because Gaiman co-wrote it with another of my favorite authors, Terry Pratchett. But that’s another story.) My first Gaiman was Stardust, which I adored. This one has a lot in common with it, at least with the boundary between real and fantasy, but Gaiman often uses such a boundary. (I should note that it’s been several years since I’ve read Stardust, so my memory is hazy.)

Ocean is like a kids’ book that isn’t for kids. It’s a nostalgic fairy tale that makes you recall what you felt like so long ago, bringing back that hazy memory that you’re not sure was real. I have one of those: one night when I was five or six, just after my first great grandmother had died (the first family death of which I was conscious), I have a clear memory of her ghost floating above my bed. I was convinced for years that I had actually seen her, but the farther I get into adulthood, now that reality has a much stronger hold, I’m not sure anymore – and now I’m convinced it was a childhood hallucination of sorts. I also never told any adults about it, simply because there were things you didn’t tell adults since you knew they wouldn’t believe you, anyway. I identify with this kid.

So. The novel is about an (unnamed) adult who goes back to his hometown for a funeral. He dreads it, so he wanders back to his childhood home, and then, farther on, to the end of the lane, where he meets an old friend, and his childhood memories come alive. He is seven years old. An opal dealer steals his father’s car, drives it down to the end of the lane, and commits suicide in the back seat. The police calls the boy’s dad, and they both go. During the investigation, the boy meets Lettie Hempstock, an eleven-year-old girl who lives on a nearby farm (and who is really older than creation), and he follows her on an adventure to the fantastic – but accidentally brings it back with him, causing all sorts of trouble.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an intense, nostalgic look back at childhood, regret, and memory of what might or might not have happened. The world feels real, and so do the characters. It’s one of those books I didn’t want to leave, and once it was over, I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Ocean belongs next to The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly, another one I haven’t read in a long time but which has a similar premise and the same sort of dreamy, nostalgic atmosphere. I think I’ll be reading that one again, soon, and Ocean will be in my re-read pile along with it. Ocean is a beautiful novel, and I think Gaiman has outdone himself with this one.

Bonus: I was just tipped off to an entry in Nail Gaiman’s blog that mentions what became this novel:

I’m writing a story about Lettie Hempstock. Who may be distantly related to Daisy Hempstock in Stardust and Liza Hempstock in The Graveyard Book.




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