Tag Archives: short stories

The Absolute Sandman Vol. 1 by Neil Gaiman

absolutesandman1Artwork by Dave McKean, Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Chris Bachalo, Michael Zulli, Kelley Jones, Charles Vess, Colleen Doran, and more.

I decided to use a large cover image here because this hardcover, full-color, glossy heavy pages tome absolutely deserves this “in your face” treatment.

I read the first twenty installments (24 pages each) of Gaiman’s game changing graphic novel series (from 1989 to 1991) in sequence and absolutely loved every page and moment of it! Dark, haunting, gruesome, poetic, enigmatic and yet lucid all at the same time, wrapped in such a handsome package.

Even if so much within is extremely disturbing, Gaiman’s stories and the art and layout design make reading this volume a blissful experience.

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Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances

triggerwarning by Neil Gaiman

This is typical Gaiman: disturbing and unsettling little scenes, interesting observations of human natures, everything floating in between waking and dreaming. My favorite are the longer tales, “The Truth Is A Cave in the Black Mountains,” “The Sleeper and the Spindle,” and “The Black Dog.” The first two are folk/fairy tale reimagined, while the last one is an American Gods’ short with Shadow’s adventures continuing. Another small dosage to hold us over for the sequel to American Gods? Calendar of Tales with its many weird crowd sourced tales is also highly enjoyable. Oh, I can’t wait to actually WATCH a special episode (of the 11th doctor and Amy Pond) made based on “Nothing O’Clock.”

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A Matter of Souls

matterofsouls

Author: Denise Patrick Lewis

Genre(s): Short Stories, Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction

Basic Content Information: Eight short stories, African American experiences from various periods (voting, slavery, owning a business, current conflicts, etc.)  Some are about families and others are romances — showing the struggles and triumphs (and failures) without reservation.

Edition: Netgalley

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

Publisher: Carolrhoda/Lerner

(I’m only recording the bare bone facts about the Young Adult Fiction titles I read in 2014 — Serving on the Best Fiction for Young Adults committee means that I need to be quite cautious in expressing opinions on social media.  The safest way is to not express specific reactions publicly. But I’d like to keep reporting the titles I encounter throughout the year. You can always follow the link to Goodreads to see other readers’ reviews.)

Click here for: Goodreads summary and other people’s reviews.

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Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

squirrelby David Sedaris, read by the author

Finished listening to Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk… here are my thoughts: I was really smitten with this audio production and the stories at the beginning — Sedaris is definitely hugely talented and oh so so very clever. And the excellent reader/actors (David Sedaris, Dylan Baker, Elaine Stritch and Sian Phillips!) definitely enhance the listening experience. However, half way through, I realized that Sedaris’ life view is just too bleak and his humor too mean-spirited for me at this time of my life. I almost cringed at the thought of listening to the next grotesque and undoubtedly bleak tale… … but I went on and finished the book — and enjoyed The Grieving Owl (toward the very end of the book). Looking back, that might have been the only story that I could say that I truly enjoyed (about 95% of the tale… the ending wasn’t pretty and I didn’t much love it). I almost wish that I had not encountered some of the denizens in this story collection or witnessed that much ignorance, vanity, pride, and all kinds of unattractive human traits, even when the author’s intention is to belittle and make fun of these traits. Now, I cannot unread or un-know these stories. Shucks!

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Smoke and Mirror

smokeandmirrors
by Neil Gaiman – read by Neil Gaiman

This is a short stories collection from 1998.  As I love Fragile Things and especially love how Gaiman reads his own tales — he is quite a voice actor, changing his tones, inflections, accents — all dexterously and effortlessly and all quite fitting the characters, the advantage of having the author (who is a good storyteller) reading the stories.

I did not love all the tales — not even most of them.  Of the 31 tales and verses, I think I only really enjoyed about a dozen or so.  Something felt lacking — quite a few seem to be character sketches or exercises in painting imageries and building atmosphere, for something bigger and more complete — but not deep or polished themselves.  I often enjoy Gaiman’s somewhat dark or even brutal (and honest, perhaps?) depictions of sexual acts in his writing for adults.  But, I found myself slightly appalled by certain gratuitous passages, shaking my head, gently whispering in my mind, “Neil, you did not have to resort to this — the story itself is strong and intriguing enough…”  — but, of course, many of these stories were meant to be slightly pornographic (light erotica) — I just didn’t quite prepare myself for so many of them being this way.  Now I’ve listened to it once, I’ll be able to go back and pick out the tales that I want to listen to over and over again (like quite a few of those in Fragile Things) and also figure out why some of the stories did not work for me the first time.  (They might grow on me upon repeat listening.)

 

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Tales from Brothers Grimm and Sisters Weird

talesfrombrothersgrimmby Vivian Vande Velde

The short fractured fairy tales in this collection are lightly inventive, and I found the retelling of Hansel and Gratel truly successful: Vande Velde turns the traditionally sympathetic siblings into cold-blooded, calculating murderers.  The few fairy tale poems seem to be merely fillers.

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Midwinterblood

mindwinterblood15794941by Marcus Sedgwick

I put up two covers for this book because I found it so strikingly obvious that the UK edition and the US edition attempt to appeal to different readers.  The UK edition has the back of a man in robe holding a gleaming dagger while we are stared at by a beautifully young woman with mysterious patterns overlaying her skin.  Even the type choices are different (not to say that in the UK Sedgwick’s name is the selling point while in the U.S. he has to be “explained” as a Printz honor recipient.

The two design of the title are even different where the UK version Midwinterblood is one word but the US edition the title reads Midwinter Blood.

I have to confess that I was not all that impressed or emotionally invested at the beginning of the book.  It’s that darn high expectations syndrome again: high and enthusiastic praise and push from Monica and the publisher.  Both of them compared the book to other titles I loved — and especially titles that have what I consider “beautiful” writings (such as Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch.)  When I didn’t see the sparkling prose that I was expecting, my eagerness dwindled.  And, the US ARC proclaims that there are Seven Stories of Love and Passion which I interpreted as each story would be an incredibly passionate romance  (again, in the vein of Lips Touch.) Perhaps it’s my close-mindedness, but perhaps this description is indeed misleading.  And from hindsight, I could see how each tale IS a story of passionate love, just not all romantic love.

I am so glad that I stayed with the book.  As it is really clever and original.  The seven stories going back in time, each interconnected in some way, and each containing some unsettling elements (which I adore in short stories,) piece together a whole picture that is powerful and affecting.  Sedgwick even granted my wish by bringing us all back to the first tale, the first characters, and giving us closure.

I’m still left with a couple of questions, though: 1. Are we to interpret the characters ask speaking a Scandinavian language and that everyone of them is from the same linguistic cluster (the Journalist, the Archeologist, and Airman, specifically)  They all seem to have no problem communicating with each other, no matter the time periods and whether the encounter is within the community or with outsiders; and 2. I want to know more about the Orchids and their origins and powers and perhaps stories of greed and desire because of their special qualities.

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