Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Weekly List #3: Mood Boosting Books!

picture credit
Browsing around the library this week I picked up a leaflet featuring a list of ‘mood-boosting’ books and it got me thinking about how awesome reading is. Because obviously I never think about that otherwise.

According to research, reading helps to lower stress levels by 67%, which is kind of amazing considering that it requires absolutely no physical activity whatsoever. It also helps to reduce the risk of dementia by 35%. Obviously I’m aware that reading makes me personally feel better and calms me down, and I’ve been calling Little Women my personal antidepressant for years, but it’s really nice to see it recognised finally! You can also now get ‘Books on Prescription’, where you get your GP to prescribe you a book and then collect it from the local library. Amazing idea.

The Reading Agency have been putting together lists of mood boosting books since last year. As far as I can work out, they’re basically just recommended by readers, and the list at the moment is an interesting one. There’s a lot on it I’ve never read and a few I’ve never even heard of. Obviously as soon as I found it I was immediately tempted to go round the library collecting as many of them as they had at that moment, and was only prevented by the fact that Rhys was sitting at a computer looking at me disapprovingly :-p So anyway, here’s the list, your thoughts on it are welcomed, I’m still working mine out!

Bee Journal – Sean Borodale

Dart – Alice Oswald

The Enchanted April – Elizabeth von Armin

Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy – Neil Astley

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows (I have this on my shelf and have nearly picked it up so many times I’ve lost count...)

The Help – Kathryn Stockett (just yes. And the movie. Both are brilliant and super uplifting.)

I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith (this was my teenage happy book. I haven’t read it for years and can’t hugely remember the ins and outs of it but it’s survived all purges and still sits on my shelf, so it may be due a reread)

Miss Garnet’s Angel  - Salley Vickers

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day – Winifred Watson

A Month in the Country – J.L Carr

A Sea Change – Veronica Henry

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 – Sue Townsend

Soul Music – Terry Pratchett (or indeed anything he’s ever written.)

A Street Cat Named Bob – James Bowen

The Thread – Victoria Hislop

Thursdays in the Park  - Hilary Boyd

Too Much Happiness -  Alice Munro

Turned Out Nice Again – Richard Mabey

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce (I liked this. I can see why it’s on this list, but it wouldn’t necessarily be on mine... Watch this space)

Various Pets Alive and Dead – Marina Lewycka
There's a lot on here that I've never heard of, which is kind of great because what makes people happy differs so much depending on the person and it's always interesting to read something somebody said was uplifting and try to work out what it was about it that made them happy :-) There's also a list from 2012 which can be found here, and they're looking for suggestions for the next list, so if you have a book or books that never fail to make you feel better about things, you can tweet your suggestions using #moodboosting or email Join in, and literally help make the world a happier place!

Next week; my list of happy books!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

The Weekly List: A Levels Part 2

This is part two of my recommended reading for A levels. I forget where I found this now, but it's from a school in the UK and it's their 'wider reading for A Levels' list.

1.       Things Fall Apart – Chinua Achebe*

2.       Watership Down – Richard Adams

3.       Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

4.       Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

5.       House of Spirits – Isabel Allende

6.       London Fields – Martin Amis

7.       Anything by Isaac Assimov

8.       The Handmaid’s Tale*, Cat’s Eye, Alias Grace* – Margaret Atwood

9.       Anything by Jane Austen*

10.   Complicity – Iain Banks

11.   Anything by Pat Barker

12.   Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres

13.   Room at the Top – John Braine

14.   Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

15.   Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte*

16.   Hotel du Lac – Anita Brookner

17.   A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

18.   Possession – A.S Byatt

19.   Wise Children – Angela Carter

20.   Anything by Wilkie Collins

21.   The Heart of Darkness*, The Secret Agent – Joseph Conrad

22.   Anything by Charles Dickens
23. Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha - Roddy Doyle
      24.   The Millstone, The Garrick Year – Margaret Drabble

25.   Jamaica Inn, Rebecca* – Daphne du Maurier

26.   The Siege – Helen Dunmore
27. Anything by George Eliot
28.   As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner

29.   Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks*

30.   The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald*
Those in bold are books I've read, and those with stars by them also appeared on my list from last week. There are some on this list which, to be honest, I wouldn't personally recommend. I read Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha when I was in a book club in college and really hated it. And I don't get along at all well with George Eliot (except Silas Marner which I read when I was 15 and loved, weirdly) but aside from that it's an interesting list. There are a few (The Seige, The Garrick Year, Room at the Top) which I'd actually never heard of, so that's always interesting. Personally, I like my list better, but that might just be because it has, like, 60 books on it...

Next week, books to boost your mood!

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Holidays! (And Holiday Reading)

I’m going on holiday!! I’m fully aware that at the moment the blog is kind of a little bit full of ... ‘filler’ posts I guess, and that’s not going to change for at least the next couple of weeks I’m afraid. I will be continuing with the weekly list feature I started last week, purely because I love lists and it’s a great way to have loads of lists in one place, just in case I ever need inspiration on what to read/buy and have run out of ideas. Unlikely, I know, but I like to be prepared.

So anyway. I’ve been reading tons but not finishing anything for ages now. I don’t know what it is, but I guess I’m just feeling a little bit down round the edges at the moment (for no real reason, just a little bit of feeling unsettled what with impending going back to work part time and my first craft fair that I’m epically unprepared for and Benji’s first birthday in October as well as some other ongoing and perpetually rubbish family crap..) and I’m finding it difficult to really pay attention to books. I’m reading The Girl who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente. It’s the sequel to The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, which I read at exactly this time last year, while I was on holiday in our friends’ house in Devon, exactly as I’m going to be in a couple of days, so it feels fitting, and I’m loving it so far but even so I’m not settled in it. I’m not getting that thing where you just can’t wait to read at every possible available moment, even while walking around, or during like five minute coffee breaks and such. I haven’t had that for a while. I may need to re-read some Harry Potter to get me back in the mood for awesomeness.

There will be a few scheduled posts going up while I’m away, and hopefully the countryside will rejuvenate me and give me loads of time to read as we’re going away with my parents and sister so I should have some time to myself as well as lots of lovely time with my lovely boys J Maybe I’ll come back having written loads of reviews. Hopefully. I’ll have no internet access while we’re away, so I couldn’t post even if I wanted to, but I’m hoping once we’re back we’ll be able to sort out our home internet issues and get it back so I can get back into the blog. As I’ve said so many times in the past year, I miss it, and I’ve been crap at commenting and replying to comments lately so I just want those of you who comment to know that I read them and appreciate them and quite a lot of the time even write out replies on my silly touch keypad on my phone and then it refuses to let me post them, or my browser stops working or some such thing and I go and sulk in the corner instead. So. You are appreciated J
The most important thing- selection of the holiday books! I hadn't even thought about what to take until a couple of days ago, but it was actually easy. Here's what I picked:

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente is a library book that I happened upon by chance last time I was there, and coupled with The Fault in Our Stars compelled me to break my library ban.  The other night I was feeling a bit down and so I turned to ever faithful Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone for solace, so it's along for the ride in case the blues hit again. Then I'm in the middle of Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron which I'm reading slowly because it's a collection of articles and essays and it's funny and great, as Nora usually is, and finally Un Lun Dun by China Mieville which I got from Charlotte for the Ninja Book Swap and I cannot wait to start. I'm hoping I'll get the chance!

Speaking of the Ninja Book Swap, I’m super excited that I’ve been reading such great things about people’s experiences of it! I loved both sending and receiving presents every bit as much as I thought I would and I really want to do it again, soon! It was open to everyone from everywhere to send all kinds of lovely presents, and books both second hand and new and you can read about what various people got and sent here, here and here, and about my experiences of the swap are here. I seriously want to run it again and am looking to find out what interest levels would be for it, so let me know if it's something you'd want to be part of!

That’s about it, I think, so enjoy my posts full of lists while I’m gone, and I’ll see you all, renewed and full of reviews, at the end of the month! Happy July everybody!

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The Weekly List

When my sister was about to start A Levels (16, for the non-Brits reading this!), she asked me to write her a list of books she should read over the summer. To give an idea of time scale, she's now 19, so this was a list I made preblogging. I just found it last week and it got me thinking about book lists and what makes them good. Some of the titles on this list I haven't even read myself and looking at it now, I've really no idea why some of them were on here, but it made me wonder why I haven't turned my obsession with bookish lists into a feature on the blog before now. So here it is. This week, part 1, is the list I made for my sister, and next week I will publish a list of internet recommended reading for similar aged kids. This is how it will go; one week my list of certain subjects/genres, the second week an outside source (e.g 1001 books to read before you die, Guardian top 100 etc). I'm aware that this may not appeal to anyone but me, but if you're a similarly list loving person then I definitely welcome your input on things I've missed, things that you thought were awful and so on. It's all about the debate :-)

So here it is, Esther's A Level reading list, with the comments I wrote for her at the time:

  1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
  2. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
  3. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  4. Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  5. Paradise Lost - John Milton (and tell me if it's good, cos I've not read it )
  6. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
  7. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood (this book is genius - if you don't love it, I will have to disown you)
  8. Don Quixote - Cervantes (Dad has it - nick it)
  9. The Awakening – Kate Chopin
  10. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe
  11. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad (stick with it - its worth it!)
  12. A Passage to India - E.M Forster
  13. Howards End - E.M Forster
  14. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
  15. Brighton Rock - Graham Greene
  16. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
  17. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys (Do NOT watch the film)
  18. Beloved - Toni Morrison
  19. Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
  20. 1984 - George Orwell
  21. Animal Farm - George Orwell
  22. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier 
  23. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
  24. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
  25. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
  26. The Bloody Chamber - Angela Carter (I have it. Just bloody brilliant. Read it. Now)
  27. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
  28. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall- Anne Bronte
  29. T.S Eliot poetry - especially... The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock, Preludes, and The Wasteland but also Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats and others... he's a genius poet
  30. A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams (WATCH WATCH WATCH the film starring Marlon Brando (very often shirtless :D) and Vivien Leigh... pure brilliance)
  31. Hamlet - William Shakespeare (Film Recommendation - Kenneth Branagh.. don't bother with Mel Gibson...)
  32. Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare (Baz Luhrman, obv)
  33. The Tempest - William Shakespeare (Return to the Forbidden Planet :p)
  34. Othello - William Shakespeare (don't watch the film.. go see it at the Globe)
  35. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
  36. A Farewell to Arms - Ernest Hemingway
  37. All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Remarque
  38. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
  39. East of Eden - John Steinbeck
  40. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou
  41. The End of Mr Y - Scarlett Thomas (absolutely GENIUS writer)
  42. Our Tragic Universe - Scarlett Thomas
  43. The Hunchback of Notre- Dame - Victor Hugo
  44. The Awakening - Kate Chopin
  45. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
  46. The Odyssey - Homer (Dad has, but I'm reading atm so you can have it after :p)
  47. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
  48. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - R.L Stephenson
  49. Wild Swans - Jung Chang
  50. Quo Vadis? - Henryk Sienkiewicz
  51. Translations - Brian Friel
  52. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell
  53. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
  54. An Artist of the Floating World - Kazuo Ishiguro
  55. If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things - Jon McGregor
  56. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
  57. Disgrace - J.M. Coetzee
  58. True Notebooks - Mark Salzman
  59. One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest - Ken Kesey
  60. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
  61. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  62. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
  63. Doctor Zhivago - Boris Pasternak (due to Stalin, he wasn't allowed to leave Russia to get his NOBEL PRIZE FOR LITERATURE for Dr. Zhivago. This is one of the many reasons why we hate Stalin..)
  64. Poetry of W.H Auden
  65. The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner - Samuel Taylor Coleridge (Unhand me, grey beard loon!)
Looking at it now, this list could otherwise be entitled 'All the books I'd loved at this point plus the ones I wanted to read but was too scared/lazy to have got around to yet'. 

It's not necessarily the books I'd recommend now, but I know that she's read a fair few of them now on my recommendation, and loved a lot of them :-) 

What would you put on a list like this? What have I missed, and what shouldn't be on here? 

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The First (Annual?) Summer Ninja Book Swap

A while ago I posted about how Hanna and I were organising the first Summer Ninja Book Swap, so that people didn’t have to wait till Christmas for secret santa style awesomes. So, a few people signed up for it and we’ve been quietly organising away for the last few weeks. Yesterday was the deadline for sending things out, and every single person who signed up (even the one whose emails didn't get through to her till two days before the deadline!) managed to send their parcels on time!
Because the person who was sending my parcel was super organised and sent it early, I got it on Friday and it was amazing. 

There was going to be a super awesome picture here, which I took properly so it was nice and well lit and stuff, but our home internet is dead at the moment (it was the BT WiFi thing and it stopped working so we cancelled it and now it turns out that none of the other wireless options will work in our area, so it will be down for at least a month while we work out if getting a landline and broadband is a viable financial option for us) and all the internet I've tried to use today seems to be massively opposed to this picture :-( I cannot understand why, because it is awesome. Anyway! My  swapper was the lovely Charlotte from Lit Addicted Brit, and she sent me an amazing parcel with not one but two awesome books, a box of chocolates and a great, bookish card. The books I got were both ones I've been after for a while as well; Un Lun Dun by China Mieville, which I read an extract from in The Library Book and have wanted ever since, and The Outsider by Albert Camus, which has been on my list since A Levels but I've somehow never got around to! Those plus a box of yummy Thornton's chocolates equal a parcel made of awesome I think you'll agree! 

I don't know how everybody else (especially Hanna, who did all the matching up!) would feel about it, but I think this is something definitely worth repeating at least on an annual, if not more frequently (Halloween swap anyone?) basis. And yes, that's me volunteering to organise it again :-) 

In other news, I had to break my partial library ban today because they had The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente and as I read the first one this time last year and have had to be forcibly restrained from buying this several times I thought I couldn't not borrow it, really. And they also had The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and I'm on a bit of a John Green kick at the moment. So it was unavoidable, really. 

If things are a little quiet around here for a few weeks, I apologise. It will be due to the aforementioned lack of internet, and also because we're going on holiday to Devon for a couple of weeks. I promise to be back to regularly scheduled programming soon though! I'm also planning a kind of feature with bookish lists that I've got the first few posts on the go for, so if you're a list person, watch this space... 

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Half Way Checkpoint!

I seriously can’t believe we’re half way through 2013 already! This year has been totally mad and gone by so ridiculously quickly, considering ‘all’ I’ve done is be at home with a baby. I know before I start that I’ve not done a lot of the things I said I wanted to do and not read a lot of the stuff I wanted to read. I will not feel bad about it. Before we start, here’s a list of things I have done in 2013:
·         Brought up a gorgeous baby boy who is turning into a proper little person in front of my eyes and now ‘reads’ his That’s Not My...series of books by himself!
·         Started a business (so far mostly theoretical) selling my handmade things. If you know a small person and want something bookish for them, check out my Fairytales in a Bag! I love them J
·         Signed up for my first craft fair, which is in just over a month and I’m quite scared.
·         Met Hanna and Laura! This is a major win for me and my social anxiety and also just for the awesomeness of internet people. They rule.
·         Negotiated my part-time return to work in September, specifics of which are still pending. Watch this space.
·         Cancelled my TV licence, and therefore freed up approximately 8 hours of the day I used to spend watching Jeremy Kyle and The Real Housewives series to do useful, productive things.
·         Made a lot of jams and chutneys (lemon curd, rhubarb & orange jam, strawberry jam, tomato chutney...
Challenge-wise, I signed up for seven challenges in 2013. Here’s what they are and what my progress is so far:
1.       The Telling Tales Challenge – My own challenge of all things fairytale related. I’m not doing at all badly on this one. So far I’ve read Fables Volumes 8,9 and 10 by Bill Willingham, and Naming Monsters by Hannah Eaton for the Troll Under the Bridge category, and watched Mirror Mirror and read Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and watched Beastly and read the novel for the Queen of the Silver Screen category. I also watched Alice in Wonderland (the Johnny Depp version, obviously) the other day, so I just need to read Through the Looking Glass  and that’ll be another one ticked off! I really like this challenge, I think I’m going to keep running it for ages. 6/10
2.       The TBR Pile Challenge – Hosted by Adam of Roof Beam Reader, I am failing dismally at this challenge. So far I’ve read nothing, but that said, Eternals is currently sat on a chair next to me and I could probably read it in about an hour, so that could be rectified by the end of today, and may have to be!
3.        Translation Challenge – Hosted by Ellie at Curiosity Killed the Bookworm, this is the challenge I was probably most excited about and also have yet to read a single thing for. I started The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, but I got distracted. This is part of the reason why I’m on a library ban at the moment!
4.       Young Adult Reading Challenge – I’ve actually read two for this – Looking for Alaska by John Green and The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I don’t think I reviewed either of them but I loved them both.  I watched the film of Perks first and I seriously loved both film and book and have been recommending them left right and centre, even to Emma Watson haters, because she is excellent in the film! Looking for Alaska just helped to further reaffirm my growing John Green love (as a side note, everybody I talk to seems to obsess about John Green, even people who read no YA ever love him.)
5.       Graphic Novel Challenge – As usual, this is the one I’m doing the best with. By my count (for some reason I’ve totally failed at keeping any kind of list that’s representative of what I’ve actually ended up reading) I’ve read six which is exactly where I should be J A few (Maus, the three Fables I’ve read) are among my favourites of the year, so well done Graphic Novel Challenge!
6.       The Wishlist Challenge – I’ve read two books for this (The Library Book, and The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer) and got two more out of the library but had to return them before I could read them. Hopefully I’ll do better in the next 6 months!
7.       The Essay Reading Challenge – I’m currently reading Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron for this. Also The Library Book counts, so I’m definitely going to complete this challenge.Hooray!
I think I’m actually doing better than I was this time last year, and hopefully over the summer I’ll do a lot of reading my own books which will be good J
Now, my list of goals for this year. I’m only going to write about the ones I haven’t totally failed at, for the rest, you can just assume...
·         Book Buying Ban – My goal was to beat 3 months without buying books. I HAVE DONE THIS!! It’s been six months and I will stress that I haven’t bought any books for myself. I have bought quite a few for Benji and also a couple which relate to selling crafts and so don’t count as they are for business purposes. Either way, I’m extremely proud of myself.
·         Go the whole year without buying anything from Amazon (except if I win/am given gift certificates) – Doing well with this one as well, with the exception of Laura’s birthday (basically I left it too late to wrap the stuff myself, wanted an option to send giftwrapped which The Book Depository don’t have (??!) so gave in to Amazon, then totally missed the box to tick for giftwrapping thus rendering my whole argument entirely pointless. Never mind.)
·         Get over my aversion to YA – I’m doing well with this as well. Although I’ve not read a huge amount still, I spend a fair amount of time browsing the ‘teenage’ section in the library and I just started Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter which is interesting. Also I still have Paper Towns by John Green sitting on a shelf staring at me with big sad eyes, begging me to read it..
·         Read more non-fiction – I’ve read 9 so far, and last year I read 14 so I think I’ll do it easily! I keep picking stuff up from the library which looks interesting, got a lot of Nora for my birthday and also I WANT MORE JESSICA VALENTI!
So that’s that. June is done, and I’m not doing too badly at all for a person who’s trying to raise a baby, not die buried under piles of laundry, meet new people, do new things, make sure said baby is properly sociable (thanks, Baby bounce and Rhyme time at the library!), see family and friends, run a small business, keep up with two blogs, a facebook page and not make my husband feel totally neglected J I would be doing nowhere near as well if he didn’t do more than half of everything, he is awesome. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

July Telling Tales Link Up

We're more than half way through the year and I'm still really enjoying my challenge :-) I read two books for it last month, although only reviewed one, and I need to get on with reading Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll as I watched Alice in Wonderland the other day!

As always, the master list is here if you'd like some inspiration. Sign up is here, happy reading!

Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

A groundbreaking work from a master, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is told with a rare understanding of all that makes us human, and shows the power of stories to reveal and shelter us from the darkness inside and out. It is a stirring, terrifying, and elegiac fable as delicate as a butterfly's wing and as menacing as a knife in the dark
From Goodreads.
The thing I love most about reading Neil Gaiman is how the magic is so close. His books are never set in different worlds, they’re never far away, they’re always almost right where you are, and that makes the magic seem so much more possible. Neverwhere is set in London below- literally a London below London. American Gods is just America, with differences. Even in Coraline her other life is just through a door and down a passage. Everything is immediate, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane is no different. The majority of the magickeyness of the novel takes place pretty much at the end of the nameless narrator’s garden.
After reading it, I’ve gone on a bit of a Gaiman binge, because quite frankly nothing else will do. Except maybe The Night Circus...I’ve been looking forward to The Ocean at the End of the Lane for pretty much a year, and I’m so glad that it lived up to my expectations. Even as I’m writing this I know I’ll have to go back and read it again, and to be honest I’ll probably write another post about it after I’ve done that because this is going to just glance over the surface and be so much less than it requires and deserves.
Simply put, it’s a beautiful, unnerving, magical novel. It has a child protagonist but is definitely not for children (although to my mind there’s very little Gaiman that is for children, really. Not young ones, anyway), and it also seems very personal to Gaiman. When I was reading it I kept wondering if it was autobiographical (apparently it’s based on the landscape of his childhood, but isn’t biographical in terms of events and suchlike) because it feels so intense. I didn’t just read this novel; I immersed myself in it. I’ve been thinking about it for days since I finished it and I know that once I finish this post I won’t be happy with it. There will be so much more that I wish I’d said but while I’m writing it I can’t find any of those words. Which is why there will be a second part to the discussion at some point.
There’s not a lot I can say about it without being spoilery, because all the stuff I felt the strongest about, which unsettled me the most or that I loved the most revolves around major plot points, and more than anything I think you should go out and read this book. Some people have disliked it, and you can feel free to do so, I just feel very strongly that you should read it first. And if you’re already a fan of Neil Gaiman then you should definitely read it. In fact, why haven’t you read it already? It took me two days, and that was only because the baby was teething or I would’ve been quicker. It’s awesome and thrilling and totally inspiring and I’ll be recommending it to everybody from now until forever.
And thanks to Andi from Estella’s Revenge I read this post by Neil’s wife, Amanda Palmer, and it made me cry, so you should probably read that too.