Book Review: M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman

m is for magic by neil gaiman.jpgTitle: M is for Magic
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: HarperCollins
Hardcover: 260 pages
Source: Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Stories to delight, enchant, and surprise you.
Bestselling author and master storyteller Neil Gaiman here presents a breathtaking collection of tales that may chill or amuse readers – but always embrace the unexpected. Collection includes:
“The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds,”
“Troll Bridge,”
“Don’t Ask Jack,”
“How to Sell the Ponti Bridge,”
“October in the Chair,”
“Chivalry,”
“The Price,”
“How to Talk to Girls at Parties,”
“Sunbird,”
“The Witch’s Headstone,”
“Instructions”

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

As always, I needed a nice book of short stories to get me through the work day — I love that I can sit down, read one on my lunch break, and then move on with the rest of my day. As I’ve said before, the problem I have with short stories is that I don’t always like all of them, and it’s disappointing to spend my lunch reading something I didn’t very much enjoy. Fortunately, with Gaiman, I rarely have that problem, so when I saw this available on OverDrive, I jumped at the chance to check it out.

This collection is incredibly cohesive — the themes and tones of the stories balance each other nicely. It’s a delightfully weird collection that consistently surprised me with its twists and turns. “Troll Bridge” talks about the process of growing up and becoming an adult, and how what we value can change over time. “The Witch’s Headstone” is a lovely companion to The Graveyard Book, which I’ve also read. It shows the bravery and goodness of a small child, and how sometimes children can see through biases and do the right thing. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” shows how difficult talking to girls can be — and how otherworldly the other sex seems when you’re a teenager and trying to figure out the dating thing.

Those are just a few of my favorite stories. I enjoyed all of them as a whole and recommend this if you’re fan of fantasy and Neil Gaiman.

 

Book Review: Trigger Warning – Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

Trigger-WarningTitle: Trigger Warning – Short Fictions and Disturbances
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: William Morrow
Hardcover: 310 pages
Source: Purchased
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Multiple award winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman returns to dazzle, captivate, haunt, and entertain with this third collection of short fiction following Smoke and Mirrors and Fragile Things–which includes a never-before published American Gods story, “Black Dog,” written exclusively for this volume.

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.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

This was bought for me by my wonderful fiancé when I accidentally left my Kindle charging on the floor of our apartment instead of taking it with me on my flight to California for Thanksgiving. This was actually the perfect book to have with me on vacation, since I could sit down just for a little bit in between festivities, completely finish a story and have some satisfaction from reading, and then continue with celebrating.

Overall, I tend to be wary of getting collections of short stories. For me, they’re too often hit-and-miss to be worthwhile, but this is a Gaiman book, so I decided to give it a try. (Also, Andrew loves short stories, so this would have been a worth-it purchase anyway.) I would say that I thoroughly enjoyed about 85% of the stories, mostly enjoyed 10% and the other 5% was a varying mix of meh or not-my-thing. For me, that makes this collection absolutely worth a purchase and most definitely worth the time spent reading it.

Unfortunately, these are also hard to review, because there’s no way I’m going to go into detail about every single story. I will say that this title holds true. Every single story had some element to it that creeped me out or hit a nerve at least once — many did so more than once.

I was especially happy to see a Doctor Who and a Sherlock Holmes story thrown in here. The Sherlock Holmes story was definitely one of my favorites in this collection. “Adventure Story” was by far my favorite of this book, so I recommend taking a look at that one as well. I’m waiting for Andrew to get some free time to read it so that I can relive the experience of the stories by talking about it with him, but for now, I’ll have to settle for talking about through this and others’ reviews. ;P

Book Review: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

good omensTitle: Good Omens
Author: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Publisher: HarperTorch
Paperback: 430 pages
Source: Purchased/Chicago OverDrive
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

When Andrew found out that I enjoyed Gaiman, yet hadn’t read Good Omens, we went out that week to buy a copy so that I could remedy the situation. It was, he said, a book that I had to read, no matter what. To his credit, I can’t think of a single thing that I disliked about this book. I honestly, thoroughly enjoyed it from the first page to the last. It’s insightful, thoughtful, and purely, simply funny.

One of my favorite parts (among many) was how Pratchett and Gaiman were able to capture the life and mind of an eleven-year-old boy. The scenes with Adam and his friends playing “Spanish Inquisition” or some similar silly thing were perfect. The kid’s comments about the whole situation and their thoughts about how they should “properly” perform an inquisition were on point for how children that age would think about it. I loved these moments.

Another one of my absolute favorite things is how good and evil are portrayed. I think that the authors really thought about their story, what they wanted to say, and how they wanted to portray it to their audience. The friendship between Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon is beautifully done. The fight between them, after all, isn’t personal, but purely an issue of circumstance — one happens to be from heaven and one from hell. They have similar opinions about Earth, use similar methods to get followers and have similar contacts within the mortal world.

Reading so many books, it’s hard for me to stay interested in all the same stereotypical plot and character development, so it’s rare that I find a book where there was something that just didn’t click with me. I have no complaints about this one. Not only is it entertaining all the way through, but it actually says something about the way we perceive good and evil and gives us another way to think about it. Andrew, of course, was right. This is a book worth reading. I highly recommend.

Favorite Quotes:

“Aziraphale. The Enemy, of course. But an enemy for six thousand years now, which made him a sort of friend.”

“Hell wasn’t a major reservoir of evil, any more than Heaven, in Crowley’s opinion, was a fountain of goodness; they were just sides in the great cosmic chess game. Where you found the real McCoy, the real grace and the real heart-stopping evil, was right inside the human mind.”

“Most books on witchcraft will tell you that witches work naked. This is because most books on witchcraft are written by men.”