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Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book was the most recent choice for my campus book group, and the group was overwhelming pleased with the read.  I, however, was more pleased with the listen.

Having recently attended a Gaiman reading in Chicago, I found some of his short stories to be fabulous when he read them.. even though I didn’t like them when I originally read them in print.  So, I downloaded a sample of this on my nook, but ultimately, I decided it’d be much better with his voice and rhythm.  I was right.

The story: When the man Jack sets out to murder an entire family, only the wandering toddler escapes.  He leaves the house, toddles down the hill and through the bars of the graveyard gate.  Happily, a ghostly couple adopt the child, name him Nobody, and he is raised in a cemetary with ghosts for friends, tutors, and guardians.  But why was the man Jack out to kill him anyway?  And why is he still looking for him?

The folks in my book group thought it might be a bit scary for its target audience, but I think they’re underestimating children.  I loved horror books as a child (so much that the school librarian worriedly called my mom, actually), and while this one has a couple of scary scenes, it isn’t really a horror, and it isn’t terribly graphic.

It was cute, well-written, and with Neil Gaiman’s voice, it was just a pleasure to listen to.  And while it was good, and I would recommend it (especially on audiobook), I think it had more potential.

There were so many half-explored ideas that left me wanting more.  The other world.. with the ghouls, what was that like?  How are ghoul gates created?  I want to know more about the night-gaunts.  And the danse macabre.  And the stuff with Jack (being vague to avoid spoilers).  And the Honor Guard.  And the Sleer.  And..

I wonder if there’s fanfic.  A coming sequel?  A book of short stories than Neil Gaiman will write, just for me, to answer all these questions?

Neil Gaiman has created a fascinating world of ideas.  A world that, if fully explored, could fill a Harry Potter length series.  And he shoved it into one short book.

And I want more.

Have you read The Graveyard Book?  Were you left feeling satisfied, or wanting?  Did you think it was too scary for kids?  Know of any good fanfic?  Comment, and let me know!

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Show Me 5 Saturday is a meme concept by That’s a Novel Idea.  It is now hosted by Jenners at Find Your Next Book Here.

1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week: The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo

2 Words that describe the book: fun, heartwarming

3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

  • The Dungeon – A maze underneath the castle devoid of light, full of rats.  It is rare that anyone emerges from the dungeon once they enter it.
  • Miggery Sow – A girl named for her father’s favorite pig, and now a pretty-much-orphan.  She longs to be a Princess, but no one ever asks her what she wants.
  • Gregory – The jailor.  He lives in the dungeon, keeping track of the inmates.  Even he doesn’t know all of the windings of the dungeon, and must have a rope tied to his ankle so he doesn’t get lost.  He knows all about the nature of rats.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it: 5 Stars or less for your rating?

  • I like that it’s so darn quoteable.  I found myself dog-earing pages with fantastic lines.  “Reader, you must know than an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform.” and “Desperaux marveled at his own bravery.  He admired his own defiance.  And then, reader, he fainted.”
  • I like that the author doesn’t shy away from words children might not know, but encourages her readers to learn them instead.  “At least Lester had the decency to weep at his act of perfidy.  Reader, do you know what ‘perfidy’ means?  I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here.  But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure.”
  • I liked the beginning and middle better than the end.  The ending was rather abrupt and anticlimactic.  But, being a children’s book, there probably wasn’t much else she could do with it.
  • I liked that the author used literary devices, encouraging children to think about the themes of light and dark, the symbolism of the red thread.  She also encouraged readers to celebrate their differences.  Also, she seems to celebrate words, and addresses the reader as ‘reader.’  I wonder if some children, reading this book, are called ‘reader’ for the first time, instilling a sense of bookish identity on them.  I rather like that thought.

5 stars or less for your rating? Three stars.  I didn’t like it as much as the last children’s book I read (of Roald Dahls), but it was a different sort of book and set out to accomplish different sorts of things, which I think it did wonderfully.  I don’t know that the story will stick with me, but I think it is a book that I would really encourage my child to read.

Show Me 5 Saturday is a meme hosted by That’s a Novel Idea.  You can find Mr. Linky if you’d like to post your own at Find Your Next Book Here. Original hostess is MIA.

Going Solo by Roald Dahl1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week Going Solo by Roald Dahl 2 Words that describe the book: adventurous, heartbreaking 3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

  • Africa – The first setting of the book is Africa.  Dahl is working here before/when World War II breaks out.  Dahl captivates the reader with description of the black mamba, giraffes, and all manner of wild things.
  • Mdisho – Roald Dahl’s “boy” when he was working in Africa.  This boy ironed Dahl’s shirts, polished his sword, and basically did whatever Dahl asked.  Dahl taught Mdisho how to read and write.  Mdisho has warrior’s blood running through him, and when he does something that could get him in great trouble, Dahl shows wisdom and compassion.
  • Greece – This is where Dahl spent the majority of his combat time in World War II.  Having been trained as a fighter pilot, he joins his squadron here.  To his dismay, he finds that he is only one of fifteen pilots allotted to protect the whole of Greece against hundreds or thousands of German planes.  His “adventures” here constitute the majority of the book.

4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it: 5 Stars or less for your rating?

  • I liked the format.  All the chapters were connected and chronological, but they could have almost have been read as stand-alone stories.  There were no cliff-hangers, so I could read a couple of chapters and put the book down without being tempted to peak at the beginning of the next.
  • I liked that it was more adult that Boy which came before it.  It was still in the junior section at the library, but I really feel like the subject matter is for more mature readers, even if the writing style is just as easy to read.  While there was high adventure, there was also war and death and weeks stuck in a hospital bed.
  • I love Dahl’s writing.  His stories, especially these, often make me hold me breath as the action plays out.  While he doesn’t spend a lot of time on wordy descriptions, he gives the correct details to allow you to see the setting.  Reading his work is a wonderful experience.
  • I liked that it was sort-of educations.  I got a little geography lesson, learned some Swahili words, learned a bit about the animals and cultures of the place he traveled.  Fabulous.

5 stars or less for your rating? 4.  It wasn’t one of the greatest books I’ve ever read, but it was certainly better than mediocre.  It was captivating, fun, heart-wrenching, and just generally Dahl-esque.  I recommend it heartily.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
  •  

    My teaser:

    “Its small triangular snake’s head was raised up in the air, and I could hear the soft rustling of the gravel as the body slid over the loose stones.  I have the whole nightmarish picture of that scene still before my eyes – the morning sunshine on the garden, the massive baobab tree in the background, Salimu in his old khaki shorts and shirt and bare feet standing brave and absolutely still with the upraised rake in his hands, and to one side the long black snake gliding over the gravel straight towards him with its small poisonous head held high and ready to strike.”

    From Going Solo by Roald Dahl.  When I originally read those lines, I was holding my breath the entire time.

    To play along with your own teaser, post your link or share you teaser in the comments over at Should Be Reading.  And share your links with me, too.  I’d love to read your teasers!

    If you peer over at my currently reading sidebar, you’ll see that I’ve got 5 books on the go.  This is an unusual number for me, but two are for class, one is an audiobook, one is for my book group, and finally, one is just because.

    Despite being unused to reading this many at once, I’m not having trouble juggling them.  What I am having trouble with is that 3 of them are books of short stories.

    Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace is a book I’m reading for my book group.  I’m about halfway through it, and have very mixed feelings about it.

    You ever hear your friends talking about this amazing person they know, who is soooo funny and witty that you’re sure you’ll hate them?  In fact, you’re determined to hate them.  But then you meet them, and they’re funny and witty and downright likeable.  That’s this book.  I’ve encountered so many Wallace “fanboys” that I was determined to dislike his work.  But, despite being almost taxing to read, it’s quite brilliant.  And I feel annoying.

    Roald Dahl’s Going Solo is the book that I’m reading “just because.”  I read Boy, set just before this one, for my ravelry book group last month, and enjoyed it.  The stories were a nice change of pace from my normal reading, and I found myself quite relaxed when I picked up his book.  Consequently, I picked up the next one at the library.  I’ve only read the first two stories, but so far I’m actually liking it more than Boy.  I was holding my breath by the end of the second story (about a black mamba).

    Finally, Dubliners by James Joyce.  I may or may not finish this.  Honestly, I’ve barely even started it.  I’ve got to read four of the stories for my literature class, and I felt I might as well read the rest while I’m at it, but I’ll probably get lazy.  I’ve only read one of the stories so far, and it was enjoyable.

    The problem, like I said, is that all 3 of these books are made up of short stories.  I hardly ever read short story collections, because I find it difficult to finish them.  

    I have a reading quirk.

    Whenever I finish a novel, I can’t read anything else for the rest of the day.  It’s like.. a moment of silence for the book I’ve finished.  I give it the rest of the day to “settle in” out of respect or something.

    This tendancy tries to take over as I’m reading short stories as well, so that I want to let each story settle in for the rest of the day before moving to the next.  It’s most often unncessary, and usually just means that I never finish the book.

    Obviously, Dubliners and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men have deadlines.  So I’m attempting to curb my impulse to put the book down after each story.  Is it working?  Yes-ish.  Will I finish in time?  I hope so.

    Over at A Striped Armchair, I read an entry: Why I Love Being a Book Blogger.  It made me want to give it a go (admittedly, again).

    I’m no good at introductions, and they’re typically boring anyway, so I’m going to jump right in with a meme.  Show Me Five Saturday is a meme hosted by That’s a Novel Idea.  I enjoy reading Jenner’s every week over at Find Your Next Book Here.  This last link is where you can find Mr. Linky if you’d like to post your own.  Original hostess is MIA.

    (I just linked 3 blogs that I’ve not commented on more than once.  I should lurk less.)

    With no furthur ado, Show Me 5 Saturday.

    1 Book you read and/or reviewed this week

    The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

    2 Words that describe the book: simply magical

    3 Settings where it took place or characters you met:

    • Mary Lennox – a petulant little girl, born in India and forgotten by her parents.  After a cholera outbreak, she moves to England to live with her uncle.  In England, she is educated by the wind, a robin, an animal charmer, a jump-rope, and a hypochondriac.
    • Ben Weatherstaff – a grumpy old gardener who introduces Mary to the robin.  At times unapproachable, he’s really a softie at heart.
    • A robin – at times baffled by the doings of the children, he still assures his mate that they’re harmless.

    4 Things you liked and/or disliked about it:

    • Yorkshire dialect.  I loved it.  This is a children’s book, but the author didn’t dumb down the dialect for her readers.  I wonder how many kids went around trying to talk Yorkshire after reading this. 🙂
    • The scene from the robin’s perspective.  It was delightful to hear the robin and his mate chatter back and forth, trying to figure out what those silly kids were up to.  “But then she said indulgently that humans were always more clumsy and slow than Eggs and most of them never seemed really to learn to fly at all. You never met them in the air or on tree-tops.”  I cracked up.
    • I loved the descriptions of the spring.  I felt like I read this at just the right time, as plants are unfurling their leaves around me every day, my own seedlings are shooting up, and my mint is going feral.  I remember that the visual experience of the garden was one of my favorite things about the movie as a child, and the same descriptions were adored as an adult.
    • Sheep!  There was a sheep in it.  Anything with a suckling sheep gets extra points.

    5 Stars or less for your rating? 5, absolutely.  And I don’t give those out lightly.  I was enchanted with the movie over a decade ago, and I was just as enchanted with the book.  I found myself clapping my hands together in delight, and laughing wildly with the children.  I sent Mister ecstatic text messages: “She was standing in the secret garden!”  I loved it.

    In honor of the book, I present my own neighborhood robin.  It isn’t the same species as the English Robin described in the book, but the American Robin is a welcome spring sight here.