My birthday was in November and I got a few gift cards to Barnes and Noble, which means I got a nice amount of new books! Now, I have zero self-control when it comes to book shopping. I wanted to try to only spend the gift cards but that didn’t happen. I just get absorbed into the shelves and find myself with a pile of books in my arms before too long. Here are the books I will be adding to my shelves.
Vicious – V.E. Schwab – This is the one I am currently reading. I have read V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series and loved it. I also loved This Savage Song. I’ve heard great things about her first book and I was eager to get my hands on it. I am about 3/4 of the way through it and I am loving it! I will have a review up once I finish it.
The Magicians – Lev Grossman – I know this series just became a tv series but I had heard about it in passing before that. This is just one that I see on recommendation lists periodically and I have always been slightly intrigued. I may start reading this after Christmas because it is part of a series and I need to stall my spending until after my bank account recovered from Christmas and if I like the first book in a series I have to continue with the series. I can’t just read the first book and then other books in between. I have to read what I can of a series all at once.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness– This concept of this one intrigued me. It is about all the other characters in the adventure stories that aren’t the “Chosen One.” It seems interesting and a fun read.
Ink and Bone – Rachel Caine – I have no idea where I first heard of this one but the story concept grabbed me right away. It is about a time when The Great Library of Alexandria is still around. It controls all knowledge and the owning of books is illegal (one of my nightmares). It is about a boy trying to take this organization down. I love the idea but it is another one that is part of a series so that may end up on the back of my reading list until after Christmas.
We Are the Ants – Shaun David Hutchinson – This is another one that I can’t quite remember where I heard about it. It is about a boy who is given the chance to either destroy the planet or save it. It is up to him to determine if the world and his life are worth saving. I thought it sounded like one that will make me think as I read it. I love books that make me question and put me in moral dilemmas so this should be an interesting read.
The View from the Cheap Seats – Selected Nonfiction – Neil Gaiman – This one my mom actually found while we were wandering around the bookstore. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors and this book has a number of his essays on a range of topics. This is the only nonfiction book I bought but I am hoping it gives me some inspiration or at least lets me learn more about one of my favorite authors.
Genius: The Game – Leopoldo Gout – This one I saw on the shelf and was instantly attracted to it. The cover pulled me in. It has a pretty simple summary, a number of geniuses are brought together to play a game that will have world wide effects. I like the idea of a mind game. Not sure what to expect from this one but I am excited to read it.
So these are some of my new books. Have you read any of these? If so what do you think of them? Have you bought any new books recently?
Thank you to Trisha over at Yellow, Green and Read All Over for tagging me in this challenge! Be sure to check her blog out!
The rules of the challenge :
- Thank the person who nominated you.
- Post a quote for 3 consecutive days (1 quote each day)
- Nominate 3 new bloggers each day
Deciding on my first quote wasn’t too difficult. This is a quote that I have loved for a long time. It is one that has been paraphrased different times by different people. My favorite iteration of it is Neil Gaiman’s version from Coraline.
“Fairy tales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.” – Neil Gaiman – from Coraline
The original quote comes from G.K. Chesterton, in Tremendous Trifles, Book XVII, The Red Angel (1909). Neil Gaiman posted a Tumblr blog post about the quote and a brief history of it and the different ways it has been changed over time. If you want to, check it out here, http://bit.ly/1NIkNAd
I love this quote because of what it says about reading and the power of stories. I wrote about this in a longer post before but I love the idea of stories that villains and problems can be overcome. We get so bogged down in what is going wrong around us. We stare up at our problems and worries and we wonder how in the world we can ever get around them and defeat them.
When you read, you are all of the characters. You follow the protagonist as they fight, fail and get back up again. As you read you learn from their mistakes. You stand beside them as they try again and again to defeat whatever is standing in their way. We learn from them.
We watch as they rise to the top and they end in victory. And it gives us encouragement and hope that we can take up our own swords and defeat our own dragons. Book and stories are fantastic because they show us that nothing is impossible. Our heroes can be battered and broken but somehow and someway they are able to defeat whatever was standing in their way. Even when the ending is not a happy one, or one we wanted, we still learn lessons. Lessons we can then use to defeat our own dragons.
Time to nominate 3 other blogs. Share your favorite quotes over 3 days or if you have done it already or you are not interested, no worries, no need to do it.
1. Renee of A Bookish Delight
2. Brittneysahin of Brittneysahin
3. Eric Klingenberg of Eric’s Blog
One of my favorite things is to have a pile of books waiting for me in my apartment. I anticipate the adventures that I will go on when I am able to dive into their pages. There is a certain air of anticipation in the air when I have a pile of books that are waiting to be read. These are not the only books in my apartment that haven’t be read but they are the ones that I am most anxious to dive into right now.
The first book on my list is Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (A.K.A. J.K. Rowling). I have written about my love for J.K. Rowling
in previous posts. I have also written reviews for the previous two books in her Cormoran Strike series of novels. There was no question that I would be reading this right after it came out. This is probably the one I am most excited to read. While I am not a huge fan of detective novels, the way she dives into the the two main characters lives as well as giving us a intriguing mystery is just fantastic. The summary of this one makes it seem like the mystery here hits much closer to our characters, which means we will be diving deeper into them and learning more their lives which should be great. I am sure it will only take me a few days to finish this one and when I do I will defiantly be posting a review of it!.
The second book on my list is The Phantom TollBooth By Norton Jester. I haven’t read it in a long time. I generally try to read new books but sometimes I have to go back to old favorites to see how they have changed for me. I actually dreamt about this book for some reason and woke up with a very strong desire to read it. I actually had to buy it again because I am not entirely sure where my original copy ended up, (there is a good possibly it is buried in my mom’s teaching closet. It was easier to buy it again then try to dig it out). I am excited to read this one again and see how much different it is for me now that I am older. Many times our favorites books take on a whole new life when we read them with new eyes and minds shaped by age and experience. I am eager to see how this resonates with me now.
The third book on my list is The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman. Neil Gaiman is another one of my favorite authors. I have reviewed a number of his books. He is a master at looking at the world through intriquing and different eyes. I admire the way he writes and the directions his stories take. I actually saw him speak about a week ago. I have not read his graphic novel series but after hearing him talk I had a strong desire to find out what it was all about. I know it is loved and heard a number of people mentioning it during the talk. I’ve read the summary and love the concept and am eager to meet these unique characters in this story.
The fourth book on my list is Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I read and reviewed Horns by him and I really enjoyed that book. It was horror but not overly frightening. It was an interesting story about a man’s decent into the darker side of himself. I was hooked by it and wanted to give another one of his book’s a try. I’ve heard good things about Heart-Shaped Box, though I am a little weary of reading this one. That is only because I have heard it is scary and I am not that great with true dark horror. I tend to get scared easily but I still want to give this one a shot and see if maybe I can open the door to more horror stories for myself.
The sixth book on my list is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. This is just a classic book that I have never gotten around to reading. I was never assigned it in school and always had something else I wanted to read before this one. But I was in the bookstore getting something else and saw this on the shelf and decided it was time for me to read it. So I bought it. I do love the dystopian novel genre and I know this is a classic in that area. This is more of me catching up on a book that I have been putting off for too long.
The last book on my list right now is Burning Dawn by Gena Showalter. Showalter is my favorite author in the paranormal romance genre. It is a genre, that I guess, you could call my guilty pleasure. The Lord of the Underworld is my favorite series but this series is good as well. This is the third in The Angles of the Dark series. It is a series that is in the same universe as the Lord series and concerns the trials and tribulations of angels and their romances. These series give me my romance shot with a fun paranormal twist.
Shameless Plug Time:
That is my current list of what I plan on reading over the next few weeks. Do you need something to add to your to-read pile? Why not check out my new short story collection, Is There More? under my penname Brittney Rz ? If you enjoy stories in the vein of Twilight Zone where reality is just a bit off,you will enjoy these stories. It is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and iBooks. This weekend (Friday-Sunday) the e-book will be on sale for only $0.99! So why not take a chance and check it out? If you do and enjoy it, a review would be much appreciated!
What is on your to-read list? Which is your favorite of the ones on my current list?
Neil Gaiman’s latest short story collection is titled, “Trigger Warning.” In the introduction he explains why he decided on this title. He starts the introduction by saying, “There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking rather about those images or words or idea that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming.” (Gaiman, xi). He goes on to talk about the idea of a trigger warning and the fact in some way or another we all have things that trigger us in some manner. Some are more sever then others but some smell, sound, image or word is going to bring up the past for us and is going to remind us of a moment in our lives. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad.
I enjoy Neil Gaiman’s stories because they explore the darker side of life. He states that he wonders that if in the future his books would be given some type of warning labels. His work can be dark and twisted and for some people I can see why they can be disturbing. He states he titled this set of stories “Trigger Warning,” in order to beat people to the punch. Yes, some of Neil Gaiman’s stories are hard to read and can make you squirm. Some of them are hard to understand and figure out what they are trying to tell you but in the end they are not only about the darker side of life. There is always some type of light to counteract the darkness as well. Just as there is in life.
Neil Gaiman’s stories give the reader a different way of looking at the world around them. He gives people the ability to safely explore the darker side of themselves or the world. He also creates stories where certain things seem like they may actually happen to us. This can be unsettling but also puts the reader on guard. Not everyone is going to warn you of certain disturbing aspects like Gaiman does here.
One of my favorite stories in this collection was “The Thing About Cassandra.” There is a young man who creates a fake girlfriend when he is young in order to fit in better. Years later people start telling him that they have seen this girl, that she is real. The man is confused and feeling like he is losing his mind for a time. He made her up yet people have seen her and she is upholding the story he created. He meets her still wondering what could be happening. The whole time the reader is wondering if this is just some freaky coincidence or if he somehow created her by creating such a detailed story about her life. In the end the reader is left wondering who is real, who is not and if it matters.
As with his other collection Gaiman provides an explanation for each of his stories and poems origins. He gives us a glimpse into where he gets his inspiration. These explanations may help to tone down the darker sides of some of the stories. The reader gets to learn that many of these stories didn’t come from a dark and twisted place. They grew out of curiosities and questions or simple prompts. I like these explanations. As a writer myself it is always interesting to me to see where people get ideas for stories. It can also show that just because a writer writes a bit darker stories or some things that make you uncomfortable does not mean they themselves are dark or intimidating. These explanations can help put a line between who the writer is as a living breathing person and his writings and imagination.
If you have read any of Gaiman’s other story collection and enjoyed at least one of the stories I highly recommend this collection as well. Yes, some of them are weird, odd or hard to comprehend. Some leave you hanging with no answers, forcing you to come up with conclusions yourself. But they are a fun adventure to go on and they may help you see the world around you just a bit differently.
Neil Gaiman has a somewhat dark and twisted way of looking at the world. He doesn’t write stories where it is easy to pick out the lesson or main idea. He doesn’t write stories where every reader is going to take the same thing away. This is one of the reasons I like his stories so much. He lets the reader interpret the story and decide what the characters decisions could ultimately mean. His collection of short stories “Smoke and Mirrors,” highlights this idea well.
As the title states the theme that runs through these stories is that reality can be and often is warped around us. What you see is not always what you get. The most obvious explanation is not generally the truth. His stories make you think twice about what you are reading. You begin to second guess everything you read and every character you meet. You wonder what their true motivation may be and if they are hiding something from the reader. His stories make you look deeper then the surface.
One of my favorite stories was “Murder Mysteries.” The story begins innocently enough with a man stuck in Los Angles when storms in England prevent him from flying home. There is little indication that anything bizarre is going to occur. But, as in many of Gaiman’s stories, there is this, “hold your breath,” waiting period. You are waiting for the moment when what you think is happening is going to be twisted around to reveal something out of the ordinary.
The man takes a late night walk and ends up sharing a cigarette with a stranger. In payment for the cigarette the stranger offers to tell the man a story. He tells him a tale of angels, a murder and the set up of the pieces that will create the present day universe. It is a story that holds the protagonist captive as well as the reader. We want to know who killed the angel and why. We are astounded to find out how the whole thing was a set-up to place the pieces for Lucifer’s fall.
The end is the point where the reader is left to make an interpretation of their own. It ends with the man on a plane on his way home. He reads about a grisly triple murder, one that sounds like it involves the people he was with before he met the stranger. You are left wondering who the stranger was. Was he the angel from the story? Was he crazy? Did he do something to our main character in order to continue his job as a vengeance bringer? Or did he let him off the hook for any crime he may have committed? Gaiman doesn’t state out right what he wants the reader to take away from the story. You are left intrigued and curious. It is up to you to look beyond the smoke and decide what the story was meant to tell you. Gaiman allows his readers to instill a part of themselves in the tale and take away what they deem is important.
The other story I really liked was, “We Can Get That for You Wholesale.” It is yet another story that appears to start out innocent. A man finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him. He goes looking for a way to punish her and decides to see if he can find an assassin to do the job. He ends up finding a company via the yellow pages.
One of the best parts of Gaiman’s writing is the way he puts these seemingly outlandish pieces into his story. We should be surprised and questioning why someone would advertise being an assassin in the yellow pages. But our protagonist passes it off and accepts it easily and in turn we do the same. He doesn’t wonder about it over and over. He doesn’t question it. He accepts it and moves and so must we as readers.
What is great about this story is the way it escalates. At first the man just wants his ex-girlfriend and the man she cheated with dead. But the man he meets with from the company keeps offering him a better deal. If he has more and more people taken out it gets cheaper and cheaper for the man.
It is a bit of dark humor. We kind of laugh as the man starts making lists of people he hates. He forces reasons why he wouldn’t mind that they die; just so he can take advantage of the deal. The reason this works so well is because we all can relate to the idea, granted on a much lesser scale.
We all have heard of a deal and thought, “Well I can’t pass that up!” You are shopping online and if you add just one more item you get free shipping. Though many times that item is actually more expensive then the shipping itself would have been. We all are guilty of hearing a deal and wanting to make sure we don’t walk away from a fantastic bargain. No one wants to be that person who “lost,” money.
The idea here is to always look beyond the surface. The man doesn’t realize what he is doing. In the end he is the reason it would appear that this company is now going to take out the world. He allowed this to happen because he didn’t stop and try to see what was beyond the smoke screen of the fancy words and bargains. I loved this story because it was fun to read and it left you wondering at the end. It left you wondering if he had just questioned the whole thing once what could have happened.
This collection not only had short stories but some poems as well. There is a type of writing for everyone inside these pages. Gaiman also provided an explanation for where the inspiration for each story came from. I enjoyed this as well, it is always nice to see where some of these ideas spring from. As a reader I got immersed in each story. I read them wondering what may be beyond what I initially perceived and that made the stories fun and intriguing to read.
“The Graveyard Book,” by Neil Gaiman is the coming of age story for a young boy named Nobody Owns, Bod for short. It is the story of a young child who grows up in a fantastic world where the only boundaries are the outside world. He comes of age in a place where the impossible is possible. We, as readers, are taken along on his journey of learning life lessons as any child would; as well as learning that the world is not as black and white as we like to think it is.
Bod’s parents and younger sister are killed by a man named Jack. Bod is a baby and crawls his way out of the house and to a graveyard where the man isn’t able to hurt him. Bod is adopted by the inhabitants of the graveyard and he is given the protection that goes along with that. As long as he is there he is safe from the man Jack and his organization. Bod grows up in the graveyard learning life and scholarly lessons from those who were buried there. In the end the man Jack and his organization do come for Bod. Bod is able to defeat them using what he has learned through his upbringing in this strange place.
Many of the first chapters of the book are vignettes about Bod growing up and learning lessons about life. Bod learns that just because you dislike what an adult is telling you, find it boring and pointless does not mean it will not be useful later. He learns that by not listening to what he is told could end up with him in a life threatening situation. He also learns that while he may screw up and get himself into trouble those who care about him are always watching and will protect him if they can. In the end all these lessons he learned are what enable him to defeat the man who wants him dead and save not only himself but his home as well.
I think the theme and main idea of this book can be summed up by the relationship between Scarlett and Bod. When the two first meet they are both young and innocent. Scarlett believes that Bod is an imaginary friend and she barely questions what he does or says. At this age she accepts Bod and all the weird aspects of his life and home. Her and her family move and it is stated that “[…]she fled down the path back the way they had come, to her parents and the world.” (pg 60). She leaves a world where the impossible is possible and is thrown into a world where reality tells her that somethings just aren’t real and never can be.
When we meet Scarlett again she is a teenager and she has been in the world for a while. Like all children they believe that all things can happen until adults and the real world tell them otherwise. Scarlett is now skeptical and she is actually surprised that Bod is real and not imaginary. She is must less trusting. After the fight she goes through with Bod she becomes terrified of Bod. She is scared of all the things that she has seen and experienced. She can’t take it all in and in the end has to have her memory wiped. The real world has stepped in and put set limits and regulations on her. She knows what is real, what isn’t and she can’t fathom any of that changing. She can’t make the two worlds mesh together.
Bod on the other hand has grown up with all these fantastic elements as his reality. Talking to ghosts? Normal. Being able to Fade? Normal. Being able to go into a different realm through an old grave? Normal. For Bod all is normal and whenever he is presented with something new he take it in and examines it. He doesn’t run and hide. Which will serve him well when he does step into the rest of the world.
He asks his guardian, “How can you make her forget me?” (pg 289) after he watches Scarlett break down before him. His guardian tells him. “People want to forget the impossible. It makes their world safer,” (pg 289). This is one of the last lessons Bod has to learn in his home. He has to learn that sometimes the world can’t accept the fantastic and that to be safe people ignore what is troubling and weird. Bod has to realize that the world outside of his graveyard is much less trusting.
The book ends with Bod leaving his home and venturing out into the world. He is excited to see what is beyond the gates. He wants to explore and see what is out there. He has seen all he can inside of the graveyard and he knows that it is time for him to take on a new adventure. Whereas Scarlett was scared of the unknown Bod embraces it.
I enjoyed this book because of how well Gaiman combined reality with fantasy. He told a coming of age story unlike one we have seen before. As Bod leaves his home we, as readers, know that not only will he be able to take care of himself but he will be able to show the world some things as well. Sometimes our world needs these eccentric, seemingly odd people to open up the possibilities that surround us.
Shadow is a man who gets out of prison only to discover the life he had planned on is no longer remotely possible. He finds out his wife and best friend are dead. His entire life comes crumbling down and is in a pile at his feet. While he is traveling to attend his wife’s funeral, as well as to try to figure out what to do with his life now, he meets Mr. Wednesday. After agreeing to help Wednesday he is pulled into the preparations for a coming battle between the old world gods and the new world gods.
American Gods appealed to me because of the overall concept of the story. Any time anyone takes the idea of gods or mythology and gives it a modern twist I am instantly interested. Many of us know the stories of the gods well. We know the personalities they were supposed to have and we all have a similar pictures of who these gods were in the past. They are generally depicted as these intangible creatures. Yes, they interact with humans but they are never really on our level. They are all powerful while we are lowly humans that do their bidding because our lives are run by them and only them. Neil Gaiman takes these gods and humanizes them. We as reader cannot only relate to them but we begin to sympathize with them as well. As I read I felt sad for most of these once powerful beings.
One of my favorites parts of this story was how it was explained why these old gods are fading and why they need to take part in this battle. When all the immigrants who made this country came over they brought their gods with them. It was their connection to where they had come from. They brought them because they gave them comfort and helped them feel like they weren’t just floating along in the universe.
That first initial generation held onto their beliefs very strongly. They tried to honor them and also tried to pass their stories on to the next generation. But this was no easy task. They become surrounded by a number of new cultures and beliefs and all the gods begin having to compete with each other for followers.
Throughout the novel we get those small looks at these people who brought their gods to this world. We also get a glimpse of what the gods were like when they were initially brought over. We see how much life changes for them and get to watch as they all struggle to somehow make their old ways coincide with the new world ways. These small vignettes give us a better look at what Mr. Wednesday tries to constantly explain to Shadow.
America is a nation of a number of cultures, all with their own beliefs, rituals and traditions. When they all combine it becomes a struggle to survive and a struggle to find a way to define themselves. Mr. Wednesday tells Shadow that, “This is the only country in the world….that worries about what it is,” (pg 105). It is extremely difficult to find a way to define yourself when you have so many different view points living in one area. In the old world they are defined because it has been that way for so long.
Gaiman gives us a glimpse into how religion really works in this novel. A true religion thrives off of having a number of people worshipping at its alters. The old gods need hundreds of prayers and sacrifices. But when you have a bombardment of ideas and beliefs it becomes almost impossible to prescribe to one idea and one idea only.
There is a great passage on pages 348-349 (in my tenth anniversary copy that is) where the character Sam (a hitchhiker) tells Shadows what exactly she believes in. It is a mess. Her beliefs are constantly contradicting themselves over and over again. “I believe in a woman’s right to choose, a baby’s right to live, while life is sacred there is nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system,” (pg 349). This whole passage illustrates perfectly what these old gods are now facing. Even the new ones aren’t able to live as long as their counterparts have before. People have too many choices nowadays and choosing one belief system or thought process is extremely difficult, if not impossible. In the old times there were strict rules and rituals. Life revolved around making sure that you made it until the next day and didn’t catch some deadly disease or end up on the wrong side of the law. Those people were given a very small amount of choices because they had little time left to them.
Our world today is much more hectic and we live much longer. We have time on our hands to actually look at the world around us and question everything. The old world did not question like we question today. Gaiman wrote this ten years ago and the theme is even stronger today. Wednesday wants to rally all the old gods together to fight the new because he doesn’t want to fade away. He doesn’t want to be forgotten but being forgotten and replaced is inevitable.
Neil Gaiman shows us how indistinguishable the old gods are from the people we see on the street everyday. Yes, some of them still possess some power but not anything truly significant. Many still believe in the life they used to live and the principals they live by. But now they had to adapt and have to live side by side with normal human beings. Gaiman creates these very vivid and breathing people who just want to survive. I love how he makes them so tangible to the reader. These gods (some I knew, some I did not know) are no longer those larger than life people who control the world. They are now at our level. We possess the power now. Humans decide if these once all powerful beings live or die. This is a unique take on a concept we really don’t give much thought to nowadays.
I have heard that this is one book that either people loved or hated. I happen to be in the loved category. Yes, the end seemed at first kind of anticlimactic but after I thought about it, it made sense to me. I felt like it ended exactly how this situation should have ended. There was a bit of a drag tying up a few loose ends but I still ended up satisfied.
As I have stated in reviews before I love developed characters that have extreme depth and this book gave me that beautifully. We see Shadow shift from a man who is just floating along because he has no idea what else to do, to a man who actually opens his eyes to the world around him and begins seeing it as it is. Shadow begins living for himself and only himself. I love how much depth these gods had. They aren’t just one dimensional beings that are set fully on only one thing, such as war or love. Those aspects just amplify who they already are. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants a new way to think about America and religion as well as anyone who loves a story with well written living and breathing characters.