Review: Stardust

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StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me start by saying that Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been working my way through his catalog ever since I read American Gods a couple of years ago.

Although Stardust will not go down as my favorite of Gaiman’s works–that honor still probably goes to American Gods–I still enjoyed it thoroughly. Neil Gaiman has a way of telling stories that really appeals to me. He has a way of capturing magic and making it seem like the most natural thing.

He can also take well-used themes and retell them in unique and delightful ways. And that’s what Gaiman did with Stardust. Stardust is a fairytale complete with unlikely heroes, damsels in distress, and wicked witches, and, despite all that, it’s still a very charming story.


Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

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The Ocean at the End of the LaneBy Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s hard to put into words just how much I loved this novel. Neil Gaiman has an exceptional talent for writing what I like to think of as fairy tales for adults. He writes these stories that are so deeply imaginative and yet are so real, they just resonate with me like few other stories.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane was a simple, yet incredibly moving story. It was simply elegant storytelling. It took me back to my childhood and made me appreciate it in ways I never have before. It also made me insanely jealous of people that got to grow up in big, old houses on quite country lanes.

I listened to the audio of this novel and I have to believe that was the best way to experience it. Neil Gaiman is not only an amazing writer, but he really is a great narrator as well. I had hear him narrate The Graveyard Books so I knew what to expect, but I was still incredibly pleased with the result.

Honestly, this novel was just excellent. I would recommend it to anyone, not just science fiction or fantasy fans. Brilliant.

Book Review: Good Omens

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Good Omens Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ever since I read American Gods last year, I haven’t been able to get enough Neil Gaiman in my life. Seriously, I just love the way he writes. He seems to have this sense of whimsy, combined with a good deal of wit, that I’ve never encountered elsewhere.

So eventually, I made my way to Good Omens, partially due to the fact that I had read most of Gaiman’s solo novels, partially because it was a Sword and Laser pick, and partially because it was co-authored by Terry Pratchett, a novelist that I had heard a lot about, but hadn’t actually read.

Good Omens was a fun book, but it won’t go down as my favorite work from Gaiman. Still, it was pretty entertaining and certainly good enough that I’m interested in checking out more of Pratchett’s work.

I definitely enjoyed the amusing anecdotes and witty banter that were constants throughout the novel. I also found the portrayals of the two protagonists, Crowley and Aziraphale, both angels, to be interesting and well-executed.

I should also mention that, as I’ve been apt to do lately, I listened to the audio version of the book and Martin Jarvis’ narration was absolutely fantastic.

If you like Gaiman or Pratchett’s work, checking out Good Omen’s is a no-brainer. Even if you haven’t and you’re looking for some witty, lighthearted, and decidedly British fantasy, this one’s for you!

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2011 Reading Roundup, Part II

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As I mentioned in my previous post, 2011 was an awesome year for me when it came to reading. I read and listened to some really fantastic novels and I wanted to give them a little more credit than I was able to before.

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

One my favorite podcasts is the Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy-themed book club, and the hosts continuously lauded Abercrombie’s first fantasy trilogy. After such glowing praise, I had to check it out and, damn, I’m glad I did.

The First Law Trilogy is what they refer to “post modern fantasy,” which I guess means that it’s grittier, grimmer, and somehow more realistic than the high fantasy of J.R.R. Tolkien and his contemporaries. As it turns out, I loved that style. The characters were flawed, there was no clear line between good and evil, and the plot was an intricate weave of politics and gruesome warfare. Plus, it featured one of the most awesomely vicious characters I’ve ever come across: the Bloody Nine.

Now, this trilogy isn’t for the faint of heart. If you don’t like blood, this series isn’t for you, but, otherwise, it’s a great modern fantasy trilogy and I recommend it highly.

The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss

Believe it or not, I actually followed Pat’s blog for several months before I picked up The Name of the Wind and, in that time I learned something: Pat is an awesome dude and he writes a very honest and sometimes very humorous blog. So, going in, I had pretty high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. The Name of the Wind was amazing…I absolutely loved Kvothe’s adventures.

Now, I actually timed this out pretty well and finished the first novel right as the second was published and as soon as I finished The Name of the Wind, I tore into Wise Man’s Fear. Rothfuss’s second novel was also very good, but, despite it’s massive acclaim, I actually liked the first novel a little better. Regardless, I cannot wait to see how the story ends! The Kingkiller Chronicles are highly recommended.

The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

I actually picked up the whole trilogy on for no other reasons that I had heard of the author and it was a great deal. As it turns out, it was a steal! Although it was the last book I read in 2011, I’m pretty sure The Way of Shadows was my fastest read of the year. I just could not put it down. I’m currently reading the third book in the trilogy now, but I would already recommend it highly to any fantasy reader.

Neil Gaiman

One of my reading goals of 2011 was to try out some new authors (I actually tried out many new authors), but I was especially eager to find out what the big deal was about Neil Gaiman. After reading The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere, a couple volumes of The Sandman, and, most importantly, American Gods, I think I understand. Neil Gaiman gets fantasy. His writing perfectly embodies that sense of awe and wonder that truly make a story a thing of magic.

The bottom line is this: I’m really glad I found Neil Gaiman this year. If you haven’t read his works, seriously, you need to get on that!

Well, I think that’s all I really wanted to say. I don’t know if 2012 can top 2011, but I’m up for the challenge.

Review: The Doll’s House

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The Doll's House (The Sandman, #2)The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I decided to pick up Volume II of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman graphic novel series at the library after enjoying the first volume. However, I didn’t think this one was quite as good as the first. The series is pretty dark and it sometimes goes a little darker than my tastes prefer. This volume featured serial killers in great detail and that just wasn’t really my thing.

Despite that, The Doll’s House probably included the most enjoyable individual issue so far. I’m having a hard time recalling what the issue was called, but it was basically this story of a guy that lived forever. I really liked that one. It was actually a pretty good, slightly uplifting story, with a touch of humor even.

I don’t really have a lot more to say here. Overall, the volume was pretty good, but it didn’t blow my mind. I suspect that I’ll continue reading the series (because I’ve heard it really gets awesome), but I’m not in any rush to grab the next volume right now.

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Review: Preludes and Nocturnes

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Preludes and Nocturnes (The Sandman, #1)Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After enjoying The Graveyard Book, I wanted more Neil Gaiman. I was also eager to increase my dose of graphic novels after falling in lesbian with Scott Pilgrim awhile back. The Sandman was the logical next step.

While I didn’t enjoy The Sandman Volume I: Preludes and Nocturnes as well as The Graveyard Book or Scott Pilgrim, I did still enjoy it. The story was bizarre and a bit twisted at times, but it captured me to a degree and turned out to be pretty good in the end. If nothing else, it left me intrigued enough to pick up Volume II at the local library.

One gripe that I sometimes have with graphic novels is the artwork. When I was a bit younger, I loved illustration and was none too shabby with a pencil by the end of high school, so I am sometimes rather critical of the penciling and colors. With The Sandman, I sometimes felt like the artwork was not in sync with the story. The artwork was often bright and somewhat absurd, while the plot was dark and twisted. However, it either grew on me or it got better with each issue, because it didn’t bother me as much by the end.

Overall, this wasn’t my favorite read of the year, but it was still a fascinating concept and has since lead me to pick up Volume II: The Doll’s House.

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Review: The Graveyard Book

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The Graveyard BookThe Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to listen to The Graveyard Book for two reasons: 1) I had heard a lot of great things about Neil Gaiman over the years, but I had never read anything by him and I wanted to rectify that; and 2) I was really sick of listening to the radio in the morning on the commute to the office.

The Graveyard Book is not Gaiman’s most well-known work, but the local library did have the audio CDs in stock and that made it the winner. Nevertheless, I don’t regret my choice at all. I thought the novel was brilliant! It really was a great story that was a lot of fun.

In particular, I found the characters to be very well-written, especially Bod and Silas. I also thought that the concept of a child growing up in a graveyard was very interesting. There are a lot of strange and exciting adventures that one could have in that setting and I found those portrayed in the novel to be very crafty and whimsical.

Despite that, I wouldn’t give the novel 5 stars, It was fun and enjoyable, but I wouldn’t put it among my favorites. It was, however, more than good enough to inspire me to read more works by Neil Gaiman.

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