Driving Around With The Dream King

I got all excited today about going to use the library for the first time today in 2008! After my last post, I had a few suggestions that I read something shorter to break the monotony of this chunkster that I’m in the middle of. Then I read this wonderful review of The Diaries of Adam and Eve by Mark Twain that Becky wrote, so I was going to go get it at my library. Then I started thinking of other stuff I wanted to check out 😉 Oh yes…this could just as much of a hindrance to my TBR shelf as the bookstore, but at least I’m not adding permanently to the TBR shelf. I was also going to check out Alice in Sunderland since I’ve been dying to read it since Nymeth’s review and I’ve been wanting to listen to Neil Gaiman’s American Gods on Audiobook for ages, so I was going to get that too! Well needless to say, I’m so disappointed with our library system here. We have 12 libraries in our parish…yes 12 libraries that I can use my card at!! Not a single one of them carries any of those three items…not even the Mark Twain book! I searched the online catalog and I called. No luck. It makes me so mad!

Well after that, I had a craving for American Gods on audiobook and I just happen to have a brand new shiny iPod that I treated myself to last weekend 😉 So I went to iTunes, and of course they don’t carry it. But I did find the author’s preffered, complete unabridged text of Neverwhere read by Neil Gaiman and bought it! It’s an audio book, so it’s fair game. It’s not taking up shelf room and I listen to it while I drive or walk, so it’s not cutting into other reading time :p I am in love with this thing so far and I’m only 2 chapters in! I’ve always loved Neverwhere. It’s my favorite of Gaiman’s after American Gods. I’ve never really been sold on audio books before, but now I see how they can work. To hear an author read their own work is truly an amazing experience. I didn’t want to get out of my car. It’s wonderful to hear the story exactly as Gaiman intended it, exactly as he saw the scenes and created the characters. And I could just listen to Gaiman’s voice for hours….as I will be because it’s nearly 13 hours long. Seriously, this man has a voice that is meant for reading things aloud and you can hear his passion for his work in his voice. It makes me appreciate his work that much more. Carl has been plugging this one for quite some time and I don’t know why it took me so long to buy it, but I’m so glad I did. I add my recommendation. Neverwhere is an incredibly unique, dark, eerie, quirky story and the audiobook adds a whole new dimension to it…and it’s great to revisit the story again.


A Post Of Things…

I was keeping this one under wraps for a few days because I didn’t know if it was really going to happen, but it looks like it will now. You’ve heard me rave about Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven books on my site before. If you haven’t read them yet, I can’t recommend enough that you go out and pick up copies of his first two books in the series. They’re written for children/young adults, but can certainly be enjoyed by readers of all ages. They’re a couple of my favorite young adult books to be written in a long time. It’s fantasy/fairy folk/mythical creature story telling adventure delight all told with a complete air of pure fun. Well about a month ago, I got an email from Brandon Mull’s publisher asking me if I would be interested in reviewing the third book which is due out on April 8th. It’s called Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague. Now it looks like not only am I going to get to review it, but I’m getting an interview with Brandon Mull! Needless to say, I’m thrilled. So I’m letting everyone know in case you have any questions you’d like to ask. The interview is going to focus mostly on the third book in the series, but if you have any questions for him (I already have a couple from Deslily) I’ll be more than happy to try to fit them in and see if I can get some answers 😉

I’m also back to trying to do a little bit of editing on my own book, A Sunset in Nowhere, that I wrote for NaNoWriMo and I’m really excited about it now! Why, you might ask? It’s become a collaboration with Megan! I want to do a Stardust type of thing with it…the Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess version of Stardust that is. Megan is an amazing artist and she’s done a comic in the past with a friend of ours as well as quite a few of her own creation. It’s one of the many things that first attracted me to her. So she has my book now (in it’s god-awful first draft) and she’s going to start drawing some scenes that will be interlaced throughout the book. I can’t wait to actually see some of my characters!! I have a few examples here of some of the pieces that she’s given me, but none of her characters. I wish I had them to show you! The first two are a series of “hand drawings” that she’s done for me…the first for our 1 year anniversary and the second for another anniversary. The third is a little Buddha that she drew me for Christmas this year. My photos don’t do any of these justice.

And finally, I had to go download “Oh, you pretty thing” by David Bowie today and put it on my iPod because I couldn’t stop singing it after I got my copy of Coraline in the mail from Subterranean Press! It’s by far the most beautiful edition I’ve ever bought from Subterranean. I’m just blown away by it. The new McKean art is gorgeous, the Irish puppet production photos are incredible and it’s signed by Gaiman and McKean 😀 And I got a really early copy…number 174 of 1000. There are still some copies left for sale on the website…go get it!!!

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

What’s left to say about Neil Gaiman? There won’t be any surprises here. Fragile Things is another masterpiece by the master of modern fantasy. For those who don’t know, Fragile Things is another collection of Neil Gaiman’s short fiction and poetry. This is my second journey into his short stories this year. My first was with his book, Smoke and Mirrors which I adored. In fact, I’d place Smoke and Mirrors higher on my list of favorite Gaiman books than Fragile Things. This isn’t to say that the stories in Fragile Things weren’t superb, I just enjoyed the ones in Smoke and Mirrors even more.

But this review is focusing on Fragile Things! Once again, he starts off the book with a wonderful introduction in which he gives some background on each one of the stories and poems in the book which I think is so cool. It adds a special little touch to each story to know why it was written or the inspiration for it…”lagniappe” as we call it in New Orleans. For Smoke and Mirrors I gave detailed descriptions for each story that I enjoyed, and I’m not going to do that for this one, because this review would be ridiculously long. But I really did enjoy every story in this book! Not all of them were favorites, but each one was an enjoyable read.

Gaiman’s main gift is that his stories are so unique. They aren’t something that you’ve heard before. Even his retelling of classic tales become brand new. He’s a writer who can have the month of October tell a story, can personify an albums worth of Tori Amos songs, can perfectly describe the atmosphere of New Orleans on a muggy night, can create a beautiful poem that you want stenciled onto your walls, tell countless stories that all haunt and remain vivid, and best of all they’re all packaged neatly into one beautiful book with a novella at the end that revisits Shadow from my favorite novel of his, American Gods.

I don’t do well with short stories usually, but Gaiman makes anything work. I just love reading his short stories and hope that we have more collections to see from him in the future…though of course some more novels would be nice too. I’m anxiously awaiting the Graveyard Book now! So guess what…this actually concludes the RIP challenge for me! Well, it concludes my official reads. I signed up for 6 official reads, so I’m done my obligation. Now, I’m reading just for fun and will continue to read nothing but bonus RIP reads for the rest of the month of October!

Stardust, Short Story Sunday, And A Sad Article

I finally made it out to see Stardust tonight and I was so pleased with it! I can’t wait for the DVD release of this movie now and I came home wanting to dive right back into the novel for the second time this year. The movie started out a bit rocky for me. It took me a little while to get out of critic mode. My main complaints were with the beginning of the movie in that it was too rushed, the every 9 years fair didn’t exist (it was instead just a part of “Stormhold”), and all of Faerie became known as simply Stormhold…but I can overlook that with how wonderful the rest of the movie was done. Sure there were some other parts that weren’t exactly like the book, but what movie is?

The casting was absolutely wonderful! Claire Daines as Yvaine was a perfect fit. She played the part wonderfully and I think they did a terrific job with translating her character onto the screen. Michelle Pfeifer deserves a nomination for her portrayal as Lamia. She did such an amazing job and I so looked forward to her screen time. Her final battle was superb. Charlie Cox as Trist(r)an was another great casting decision. This guy did such a great job with the part. Perfectly done. And Deniro…I was so leary about what they were doing with Captain Shakespeare, but it was….well, fabulous.

The ending, which I won’t talk about, was totally different from the book…well not totally, but yes totally, you’ll just have to see for yourself. But it worked for the movie version. I wish that they would have filmed the book ending as well to put on the DVD, but Neil has already said on his blog that they did not 😦

All in all, I was very pleased with the movie, the special effects were amazing, the acting was top notch, and the story…well it’s Gaiman! Entertainment at it’s best. I loved it. For fans of the book, as hard as it is, go into it realizing that no book is going to translate perfectly to the screen…some changes are going to have to be made for the wider audience and for times sake. Just pretend that Peter Jackson didn’t do such a good job with Lord of the Rings :p

Next topic: I‘ve decided that I’m still adding stuff to the RIP Challenge! I’m also going to take up the additional peril of Short Story Sunday. For this peril, I’m going to be imbibing in the Wizards collection, which contains 18 stories by some amazing authors. This will work out nicely with 2 stories per Sunday, so I think I’m going to start that this Sunday! And it begins with the first chapter of Neil Gaiman’s forthcoming The Graveyard Book!

And finally, I wanted to point everyone to this very disappointing article on CNN’s website that you may have seen floating around on other people’s blogs. It’s an article about the reading habits of Americans. According to the article, “One in four Americans read no books last year”. I couldn’t believe that! That’s so sad. The whole article is sad really. I sort of surround myself in this little book blogging bubble where everyone reads and forget how small of a chunk of the population we really are. It’s unfortunate that more of us don’t read. The “typical reader” of America….the person who actually does read, still only reads 4 books a year. Which I’m not complaining about, that’s still wonderful! But it’s so sad how unpopular reading has become. So I really, honestly want to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone out there who does sponsor these reading challenges, or works as a librarian, or works in a bookstore, or writes, or reads, or recommends a book to a friend. It’s important to keep books out there and to keep those minds working!

OK, I’m off my high horse :p

Smoke And Mirrors by Neil Gaiman

Stories are, in one way or another, mirrors. We use them to explain to ourselves how the world works or how it doesn’t work. Like mirrors, stories prepare us for the day to come. They distract us from the things in the darkness.”

Smoke and Mirrors is Neil Gaiman’s first collection of short stories, or as he subtitles the book: Short Fictions and Illusions. This book was perfect! It was just the book that I’ve been waiting for after the reading slump that I’ve been in. I knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed with Neil Gaiman, but I was even more pleased with these than I thought I would be.

As I read through these stories, I found myself continually amazed by the scope of Neil Gaiman’s work. The man has an endless array of the most unique, far-fetched, bizarre, fully entertaining, haunting, and genius ideas and he writes them all so well. Put in the wrong hands, some of these story ideas could turn out really awful, but Gaiman makes them true literature (I’d love to hear what our Once Upon a Time basher blogger friend has to say about that sentence!). I have no doubt that Gaiman will live on as one of the great fantasy/horror writers of our time…he’s already secured the title for himself in my book and in many others’.

Smoke and Mirrors starts off with a wonderful introduction that includes one of my favorite stories in the book “The Wedding Present“. He then goes on to give a little history behind each short story in the collection which I absolutely loved. One very cool thing that I noticed from the intro is that 3 of the stories in this collection are based on sculptures by Lisa Snellings-Clark. He also mentions a sculpture of hers that he has sitting on his mantelpiece that he “suspects is a novel”….I’d be curious to know if that will see the light of day.

I enjoyed nearly every story in this collection, and counting “The Wedding Present“, you get 31 stories in this book! Some of my favorites were:

Chivalry: about a woman who buys the Holy Grail at a thrift store

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories: about a man who flies to L.A. to meet with Hollywood execs who are interested in a screenplay he has written. While there, he meets a very interesting janitor who holds age old secrets of the hotel he is staying at.

Troll Bridge: a young boy runs into a troll under a bridge and makes a deal that his life will be spared until the next time he crosses.

Changes: A man invents a cure for cancer that also changes the gender of the person who uses the drug…the drug soon gains a street value.

Shoggoth’s Old Peculiar: A tourist happens upon an English pub and meets a couple of strangers who buy him a couple of drinks….a strange night ensues.

Looking for the Girl: A man spends the better part of his life looking for a girl that continually pops up in Penthouse as a nineteen year old model.

Bay Wolf: Modern take on an ancient epic.

We Can Get Them For You Wholesale: I really liked this one. A man decides to put a hit out on one person and decides that he can’t pass up a bargain….

One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock: Another favorite, this one was nostalgic…about a few young boys at school, their favorite author and the problems of life.

Foreign Parts: Alien STDs…

When We Went to See the End of the World: Written by an “11 1/4 year old”, a tale of a young girl who goes with her parents for a drive to the end of the world. Very sad at times…deals with issues of abuse.

Babycakes: Very disturbing, but meaningful story about animal cruelty.

Murder Mysteries: The investigation of a fallen angel’s death

Snow, Glass, Apples: Another absolute favorite, Neil’s much darker telling of Snow White. The kiddies won’t like this one 😉

OK, so I should’ve just given a summarization of all of them :p This was such a great collection and I can’t wait to read Fragile Things now! I’m very excited to have another collection of his short stories waiting for me. I just can’t believe I waited this long to get to this one. If you’re looking for a book for the RIP challenge in September (right around the corner) this is a definite winner.

Tiny Revelations and Being Bad!

The results from Carl’s Tiny Stories contest are in and the stories are all amazing. I have to give a big round of applause to everyone who participated in this one. I really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories and the amount of effort put into these really shows. They were all top notch. Many were very touching and all of them were quite powerful. Elaine’s (Quixotic) amazing story Father took home the top award, and rightfully so. Very touching, haunting, and something I can relate to. Great job 😉

For those not in the know, the contest was to write a story that was exactly 100 words and you could not repeat the same word twice! Very challenging. If you haven’t tried it already, you really should. It was quite fun. My story was titled Jaden’s Nakaya. Jaden was to be the main character of my NaNoWriMo story and Nakaya was the world in which it was set, but that idea has been laid aside for now and a new one has taken it’s place…but I’ll revisit them later. Here’s my story:

His eyes shifted to an egg shell white – pupil and iris removed. Jaden was tranced.

He re-appeared where childhood ended. That dark memory when imagination could no longer play the savior.

It had worked until then.

Couldn’t face pain…always running…

Wicked thoughts awoken Nakaya, my bright world…I’m safe here, free. There are others – some like me, winged creatures, sparkling nymphs, things of water who create mystical sounds…All stolen away.


…It’s time to grow up…

…Gotta be the big boy…

Kaya’s gone forever…innocence lost.

I have a choice in this.

Beauty reclaimed.

The End! I’ll pursue his story and go much further in depth in the future. It’s so hard to tell a story in 100 words. I know what I’m saying in this story, but I don’t know if anyone else would! I wanted to capture the imagination as a place of escape and how we often lose that or feel that we have to lose that as we grow older…how we’re sometimes forced by “real life” to lose our imaginations…but I also feel that to an extent we have a choice…we can choose to use creativity as a means of expression and a means of escape and release…

OK, so enough with the heavy stuff…on with the being bad! I spent a lot of money on books and I only bought 2 of them! Both are pre-orders. Subterranean Press had to go and announce 2 really incredible books. The first is their new edition of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline with an all new cover by Dave McKean. The book will also be signed and numbered, though they haven’t specified if it will be signed by Gaiman and McKean or just Gaiman. It will also include a few new illustrations by Dave McKean and will have several full color photos of Coraline puppets from an Irish Puppet production of the book! If you preorder the novel, you are entered in a drawing to win one of three Coraline dolls made by puppeteer Mary Robinette Kowal! The other 2 dolls are going to Gaiman and McKean. How frickin’ cool is that!

The second book that I bought is Lye Street by Alan Campbell. This book sounds amazing. It’s a prequel to a book called Scar Night that is available now that has gotten wonderful reviews and has been compared to Neil Gaiman and Charles Dickens. I’ll be picking up that one soon. Lye Street won’t be released until January 2008, so I have plenty time to read Scar Night first. The main reason I ordered Lye Street (aside from the fact that it sounds cool) is that Dave McKean did an incredible wrap around cover for it! I love it. That one’s only $25 for a signed hardcover which really isn’t bad for a Subterranean Press edition.

Alright…that’s all I got!

More Stardust Stuff To Fill Requests!

After the post last night, a couple of people wanted to see what some of the interior art of Stardust looked like. I’m hoping that Mr. Vess and Mr. Gaiman wouldn’t mind me showing it here as hopefully it will lead to more buyers 😉 I found most of these by doing a quick Google search rather than taking photos of the book (I don’t have a scanner). So here they are:

This one is one of the new pictures included in the back of the book and is one of my favorites. It is Yvaine (the star) singing with her sisters:Next up is another of my favorites because it’s Tori Amos! Gaiman and Vess wanted to put Tori into the story, so she became a red tree…and here she is:This one is the print that I was talking about that I bought off of eBay that I want to get framed. It was also the cover of issue 3 of the initial release of the Stardust graphic novels:And here are just a couple more examples of images from the book. All together there are over 100 paintings and sketches. Really beautiful and diverse work. I hope that anyone who has the chance to pick it up cherishes it and enjoys it.