Bookish News

2019 Locus Award Winners and Other Bookish News

Missed this series? Don’t worry, I’ve got lots of bookish news to share this week!

-The 2019 Locus Award Winners have been announced! Click here to see the list.

9 New Books coming out in July.

Elizabeth Acevedo wins the Carnegie Medal, becomes the first writer of color to win the award. Acevedo is Dominican-American and won for her children’s book, The Poet X.

-Fresh off the rave reviews for Good Omens, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman stories are also set to become a TV series. Here are all the details.

Joy Harjo named Poet Laureate, becomes first Native American to hold the title.

-Something to look forward to in 2020: we’re getting a Hunger Games prequel novel. Check out the details here.

-And just for fun: what your favorite beach read says about you.

Bookish News, Literary News

Happy Release Day to War Storm and Other Bookish News

* War Storm by Victoria Aveyard is out today and I can’t wait to find out how the Red Queen series concludes! Check out the blurb for the book here.

* Parade Magazine has put together a list of “The Top 25 Hottest Books of Summer”. I’m most intrigued by A Study in Honor by Claire O’Dell and The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton (yes, THAT Bill Clinton!)

* See the six books on the 2018 Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist here.

* A little bit old, but author Celeste Ng recommends 27 books she loves here. I spy Exit West!

* Fancy a writer’s residency? Check out these eleven unusual options.

* Want to fall in love with a new author? Check out The Guardian’s list of fifty fresh voices in literature.

* The 2018 Hugo Award Finalists have been announced! You can find the list of honorees on Tor’s website.

* Authors Neil Gaiman and N.K. Jemisin talk comics and queer characters on Literary Hub

Looking For Alaska is being made into a Hulu TV show and author John Green took to Reddit to answer questions about the new project.

* Last, but not least, Buzzfeed has a list of 21 new books to read this spring.

Enjoying this new series? I’ll be back next week with the latest rumblings in the literary world!

 

Fiction

Neverwhere

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Under the streets of London there’s a place most people could never even dream of. A city of monsters and saints, murderers and angels, knights in armour and pale girls in black velvet. This is the city of the people who have fallen between the cracks.

Richard Mayhew, a young businessman, is going to find out more than enough about this other London. A single act of kindness catapults him out of his workday existence and into a world that is at once eerily familiar and utterly bizarre. And a strange destiny awaits him down here, beneath his native city: Neverwhere.

Neil Gaiman is the undisputed king of creepy, yet comedic dark fantasy and Neverwhere is no exception.

Richard Mayhew himself is a bit dull, but the book would lose something if Richard weren’t playing the straight man to the unfolding craziness of London Below and the people and creatures that live there. Richard serves as a proxy for our own feelings and makes Neverwhere so much the better for it. He is rounded out by Door, an unflappable girl with the power to open any door.

Neverwhere is even creepier than I remember American Gods or Anansi Boys being. Croup and Vandemar are two truly dark individuals and Gaiman seems to draw no lines when it comes to describing the full extent of their evilness.

I’ve had Neverwhere on my shelf for awhile and always thought it was a newer book, but I see it was actually published in the 90’s. Which makes the recent news that there will be a sequel to Neverwhere that much more interesting. The ending of the book and the mysteries unearthed in its pages make it seem that a sequel was inevitable. Yet twenty years have gone by and there is only the whisper of another book in the works. According to Goodreads, Gaiman is at work on The Seven Sisters, with no publication date set.

Author Events, Author Spotlight, Local San Diego, Uncategorized, Writing

An Evening With Neil Gaiman in Review

In an effort to become a better writer, I’ve been doing a lot of things lately that are kind of outside my comfort zone:

1. I joined a writer’s group. I’m still not sure why they like me, but I’ve spent enough time around horses to know not to look a gift horse in the mouth!

2. I went to a writer’s conference. Which I realized I still need to review on the blog. More on that later then.

3. I signed up to go to a second writing conference in May.

4. I got tickets to go see Neil Gaiman speak in San Diego.

The last one is notable because I bought a ticket without finding out if I knew anyone who wanted to go with me. At the time I was thinking I’d probably find someone to go with and we could carpool. Which did not happen. So I’m super proud of myself that I didn’t flake especially because I had to drive myself downtown to go.

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Anyway, back to the event. I really had no idea what to expect. It was billed as “An Evening With Neil Gaiman” which is all I really needed to know. What I didn’t expect was how many other people find Neil Gaiman as cool as I do.

Earlier that day I was explaining to someone how the event I was going to was at the San Diego Civic Center. To which they pointed out that it’s an enormous space for an author to book. I looked this up later – The San Diego Civic Center seats 2,967 people. While not every seat was filled, the majority were. And that is just so cool for an author to fill that many seats with booklovers and wordnerds. I’ve been to concerts and sporting events, but there is just something so uniquely magical about gathering a crowd of overly excited introverts together to talk about books.

The setting itself was just as dramatic: a single podium on that massive stage. No signs, no backdrop, no video screen. The whole evening was blessedly free of pomp and circumstance. Just Neil and a microphone.

As could be expected, he did some reading of his work. Nothing I had actually read before so it was nice to experience it for the first time being read by the author. He read a story from his book Norse Mythology and he also read a short story about a genie.

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Apparently Neil had also been accepting questions prior to the event. I didn’t know about this, but it was okay. He had quite a stack of questions up there on the stage which he picked from. Some of the questions required longer answers, some just a few words.

Overall, I really liked how the evening was unscripted and fun. It ended up feeling like a very intimate event, despite the fact that perched high on the balcony I had to squint to see the tiny figure on the stage. My only real complaint was that 90 minutes was over much too soon.

If you get the chance to hear Neil Gaiman talk, I highly recommend! He’s as lovely and entertaining as all the Twitter posts have led you to believe.

Speaking of Twitter, this happened the next day:

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Life. Made.

 

 

 

Fiction, Short Stories, Uncategorized

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me by Kate Bernheimer

Michael Cunningham, Francine Prose, Aimee Bender, Kelly Link, Jim Shepard, and more than thirty other extraordinary writers celebrate fairy tales in this thrilling new volume. Inspire by everything from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen” and “The Little Match Girl” to Charles Perrault’s “Bluebeard” and “Cinderella” to the Brothers Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel” and “Rumpelstiltskin” to fairy tales by Goethe and Calvino and from China, Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Norway, and Mexico, here are stories that soar into boundless realms, filled with mischief and mystery and magic, and renewed by the lifeblood of invention. Although rooted in hundreds of years of tradition, they chart the imaginative frontiers of the twenty-first century as powerfully as they evoke our earliest encounters with literature.

Fairytales are always an interesting creature. Written by adults, for children, they almost can’t help, but be a little dark. And these retellings especially so.

I felt there was only one story in the entire collection that had a happy ending: “Psyche’s Dark Night” by Francesca Lia Block. I really enjoyed that story, but I would say it also probably had to do with the frame of mind I was in when I read it. I’ll be checking out some of her other work.

Overall, I enjoyed these stories, though I found some decidedly creepy.

Most of the authors were new to me, with the exception of Aimee Bender, Neil Gaiman, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Ilya Kaminsky.

Aimee Bender’s story, “The Color-Master” was my absolute favorite. But then, I’m kind of an Aimee Bender fangirl.

Sarah Bynum’s story made me feel all the feelings, in an uncomfortable way. I liked it, but I also found it unsettling.

It was interesting to see Neil Gaiman try a new format in “Orange”, through just the answers in a fictional Q&A.

Another notable story for me was “The Mermaid in the Tree” by Timothy Schaffert. Very good, very beautiful story. He’s definitely an author I want to check out further.

Other standouts were “Catskin” by Kelly Link and “A Day in the Life of Half of Rumplestiltskin” by Kevin Brockmeier.

At the end of each story, there is a section of commentary by the author. This is often a discussion of the original story, the inspiration, and/or additional info on the retelling. I really loved having these included, though some of the authors definitely used it as a place to launch off on a pretentious slog of literary theory.

Gregory Maguire’s introduction is definitely worth a read…also a fairytale unto itself.

I would definitely recommend this to people interested in fairytales or for people who like some of the authors in the collection. There are over forty stories in here, so there’s a lot to go through. A very nice collection.

Fiction, Sci-Fi, Short Stories

Fragile Things

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

A mysterious circus terrifies an audience for one extraordinary performance before disappearing into the night . .

Two teenage boys crash a party and meet the girls of their dreams—and nightmares . . .

In a Hugo Award–winning story, a great detective must solve a most unsettling royal murder in a strangely altered Victorian England . . .

These marvelous creations and more showcase the unparalleled invention and storytelling brilliance—and the terrifyingly dark and entertaining wit—of the incomparable Neil Gaiman. By turns delightful, disturbing, and diverting, Fragile Things is a gift of literary enchantment from one of the most original writers of our time.

This is a must-read for fans of Neil Gaiman. Probably not the best introduction to him though. This collection of short stories features works that are all enormously fun, darkly twisted, humorous, and thought-provoking. My favorite part of this reading experience was actually reading the introduction. In the introduction, Gaiman discusses a little bit about the making of the story and its publication and/or awards history.

Having previously read American Gods and Anansi Boys in pretty short succession, I was a little hesitant about diving into more Gaiman. But it happened that I was in a period of my life where the only time I had to read was right before bed and I had so much to do, I didn’t want to get engrossed into a novel and waste an hour of the little sleep I could get. Enter Fragile Things.

Reader be warned, many of these stories are ghost stories, monster stories, and alien stories. I am not a scary-story reader and I was able to read these at night. Though there were a few I don’t recommend ending your night on: “Closing Time”, “Feeders and Eaters”, “The Facts in the Case”, “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”.

These stories, while enjoyable, are also pretty dark and twisted. Which is why I don’t recommend them to a Neil Gaiman newbie. Cut your teeth on one of the other books, get a taste for his style, and then check out Fragile Things. I don’t read a lot of short story collections (I usually prefer novels), so I can’t say how this stacks up against others. But Fragile Things is full of solid, award-winning stories. There are a few Hugo award-winning stories in here.

In addition to the stories, there are smatterings of poetry. Gaiman’s poetry is lyrical and accessible, not at all the incomprehensible mush that emerges from experimental poetry classes. (I should know, I like that incomprehensible mush). His poetry is more reminiscent of the oral tradition style poetry, rhythmic and easy to follow.

I should mention how much of a delight Fragile Things is for the consummate reader. Gaiman is constantly showing off his well-rounded knowledge of literary history, but not in a snobbish way. He touches everything from Sherlock Holmes to Beowulf to The Chronicles of Narniato The 1001 Nights to Aladdin to Goldilocks and the Three Bears to The Matrix, rounding it all off with an American Gods novella, set two years after the end of the events in that book.

Fragile Things is a literary feast.

Fiction, Personal, Plays, Top Ten Tuesday, Writing

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Blog Posts That Give the Best Picture of You

This week’s TTT covers ten blog posts (on your blog!) that give the best picture of you as a reader and/or a person. As always, TTT is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

I feel a little awkward with this one, as I’m writing a big ‘ol braggo post (but that is kind of sort of what blogging is, yes?)

1. My Extended About Me. Kind of an obvious choice.

2. This is a super recent post, but I think this short story is really representative of my writing.

3. On the same note, I wrote a short play two years ago and performed it at an open mic with my friend. I don’t do vlogs or anything or the sort, so this is your one and only (for the moment) chance to see me live. Haha.

4. And again, a little bit of flash fiction I threw up on the blog.

5. Favorite Book: Shadow of the Wind

6. Favorite Book: Hyperion

7. Favorite Book: Plainsong

8. Favorite Book: The Fault in Our Stars

9. Favorite Book (This and the afore-mentioned only represent a small portion of the things I love dearly): The Lover’s Dictionary

10. Most amazing motivational speech ever, by Neil Gaiman.

Fiction, Reviews

American Gods

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Released from prison, Shadow finds his world turned upside down. His wife has been killed; a mysterious stranger offers him a job. But Mr. Wednesday, who knows more about Shadow than is possible, warns that a storm is coming — a battle for the very soul of America . . . and they are in its direct path.

My first Neil Gaiman novel! Hurrah! If you haven’t already, check out this stupendously awesome address! So for months, I’d been hearing about Neil Gaiman from my friends (yes, I know he’s prolific and I know he’s been around, but apparently I’ve been living under a rock. Sue me.) Next up, my list includes Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and Fragile Things. Neil Gaiman also wrote Stardust, which just happens to have been turned into one of my favorite films (again, I realized this recently. Basically made me even more excited for my first Neil Gaiman experience). If you’ve never seen it, go watch it. It’s amazing. Seriously. Watch the whole thing.

I’m always impressed by people who have such an interest in and a command of mythology. It’s so vast that anyone who chooses to undertake projects that deal with it directly gets my vote. I find it interesting myself, but I confused/mixed-up too easily. At least for formal learning. I tend to learn more and more by default the older I get.

What I enjoyed most about this novel was how Gaiman played with reader conceptions. Some things that happen in the novel are very expected. But instead of seeming trite and cliched, they work. It’s almost as if, by giving the reader some givens, Gaiman can go further and do more with this crazy universe he’s creating. And as you read, in no place do you catch the tell-tale signs of a lazy author. Everything is methodical and thought-through. There are places where one sentence contains an unexpected detail that connects back elsewhere in the novel, without ever being directly dealt with. That probably didn’t make sense. But if you’ve read or when you readAmerican Gods, you’ll see what I mean.

One friend told me that one thing that bothered her about this novel was that Shadow isn’t really a character you can relate to or connect with. But I came away thinking that’s okay. I don’t think you’re supposed to connect with Shadow. It’s not really a book about Shadow. It’s a book about mythology and the intersection of old and new. It’s also about the clash of the rustic and the rural with the industrial and the city. In this way, I don’t think it matters whether we relate to Shadow or not. He’s there so that the story can exist, but he’s not the base of the story. If that makes sense. Shadow tends to go along with most things without really putting up much resistance. On the one hand, I see why, and on the other hand, I don’t. I think it’s this tendency in Shadow that makes him hard to relate to. People are kind of ornery and stubborn by nature. Shadow is extremely compliant. But, after all, he’s called Shadow. The general definition of a shadow is:

-A dark figure or image cast on the ground or some surface by a body intercepting light.

And that is Shadow, to the utmost extent. He’s somewhere between a person and a non-person, somewhere between death and life, always in between, trailing, on the margins.

You see what I mean about Gaiman being a careful writer?