From the Bottom Shelf

Bottom Shelf Reviews: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Notes from Bottom Shelf

I am kind of ashamed that this  book has sat on my shelf long enough that it qualifies as a Bottom Shelf review. I bought it the day it came out with every intention of reading it immediately, yet somehow a year has passed and I’m just now getting it read. Even more sad, the last book I reviewed under this category was also a Neil Gaiman book that took me much longer than it should have to read.

Trigger WarningTitle: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: February 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover
Rating 4 stars

In this new anthology, Neil Gaiman pierces the veil of reality to reveal the enigmatic, shadowy world that lies beneath. Trigger Warning includes previously published pieces of short fiction–stories, verse, and a very special Doctor Who story that was written for the fiftieth anniversary of the beloved series in 2013–as well “Black Dog,” a new tale that revisits the world of American Gods, exclusive to this collection. …

A sophisticated writer whose creative genius is unparalleled, Gaiman entrances with his literary alchemy, transporting us deep into the realm of imagination, where the fantastical becomes real and the everyday incandescent. Full of wonder and terror, surprises and amusements, Trigger Warning is a treasury of delights that engage the mind, stir the heart, and shake the soul from one of the most unique and popular literary artists of our day. (Goodreads)

I always struggle to review short story collections, since it’s multiple different stories instead of one cohesive narrative to critique, but I will do my best. I always enjoy Gaiman’s short story collections. As much as I love his novels, sometimes I think I almost enjoy his short stories more.

This collection had a wide variety of stories, most published before but it also included a brand new American Gods short story about what happens when Shadow heads to the UK after what happened in America.

This is a terrific collection of short stories, and I would say it may be my favorite except for the fact that it’s been a while since I read his first two collections, so I can’t be sure. However there were a lot of stories in this one that I loved – “Nothing O’clock” (a Doctor Who story), “Adventure Story,” “The Sleeper and the Spindle” (a Sleeping Beauty/Snow White mashup and retelling) and many others. I can’t really list them all here. I loved almost every story for one reason or another. Some where funny, some where dark, some creepy, and others charming. Gaiman has a wide range in his storytelling ability and it is wonderfully showcased in this collection.

Bottom Shelf Reviews: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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Notes from Bottom Shelf

The Graveyard Book has been on my TBR shelf since before it was published. I had an ARC for the book for several months before the book came out, and even started it, but for some reason never finished it. Then I went ahead and still bought a hard copy of the book when it was on sale one day, started reading it again, and again set it down in favor of something else. I have no idea what books could have distracted me from one of my favorite authors, but somehow they did. So The Graveyard Book languished on my shelves for years until I finally picked it up last week and read it. I figured this was the perfect time of year for it, and I also needed a good title for this month’s “Notes from the Bottom Shelf.”

graveyard-book-coverTitle: The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Rating 4 stars

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family… (Goodreads)

I’m sure most of my readers already know, but I am a big fan of Neil Gaiman. I’ve read almost everything he’s written and have enjoyed ever single word. The Graveyard Book is no different. I love the almost whimsical nature of his storytelling, that just on the border of being really creepy (but stays on the safe side, because this is a children’s book after all). The eclectic collection of characters he has put together – nearly all ghosts – are each fascinating an interesting, as are all his characters.

I really liked the structure of the novel; instead of jumping forward to Bod as a teenager, we were given little vignettes of his life as he grew up in the graveyard. Each chapter was a nearly complete short story, so that you could just read one at a time if you wished, and not necessarily read the book from beginning to end. Sure, you get more out of the book as a whole, but you could easily just go back and read your favorite chapter over and over again if you wished without having to read the entire book.

I did not read Gaiman as a child, so I have no idea the impact his writing may have on children, but I love how independent and adventurous his characters in children’s books are. They’re also responsible, and caring and really well-developed. Instead of writing like he’s writing for children, he writes and speaks to them like they are his equal, which is a great way to write a novel for young readers. At the same time, the stories are even interesting for adults to read as well.

I also really enjoyed David McKean’s illustrations for the novel. McKean and Gaiman make a great team and that was definitely evident in this work. If you’re a Gaiman fan and haven’t picked this one up yet, I highly recommend it.

Bottom Shelf Reviews: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Notes from Bottom Shelf

Earlier this month I wrote about my new plan to try to finally work my way through my extensive To Be Read pile, or at least try to curb my spending so that it stops growing faster than I can read through it. I’m not sure how well I’ve been sticking to this plan, as last week I purchased four new (well, technically two new and two used) books – only two of which I plan on reading immediately. Used bookstores are my downfall. If I can buy a book for less than $5 it’s really hard to resist! I’m going to have to try harder from now on.

However, I did manage to accomplish at least one goal: I have read one of the novels that’s been sitting in that pile for over a year. (Of course, finishing that novel led me to buying the next two books in the series – two of the books mentioned above – so I’m not really sure how helpful it was to finally get this book read, but at least I can cross one off my TBR list!) I have been seeing so much about the Grisha Trilogy lately that I decided this was an appropriate place to start.

Shadow and BoneTitle: Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3.75 stars

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart. (Goodreads)

I picked this up in a bargain section of a bookstore one day last year and never actually read it. At the time I had never even heard of the book, but it looked interesting. Then, once I started reading more blogs and following Top Ten Tuesdays, I started hearing more and more about this series and decided it was time to finally read it.

I am in favor of any YA novels that shy away from traditional “anglo culture.” What I mean is, a lot of YA novels take place in America, or in some fantasy world that seems to be based on an Anglo country. There is definitely a lack of diversity in YA novels, which is why I love books like this. It was interesting reading about a world that is based more on Russian culture than American or British or something in between. Even if I hadn’t liked the story itself, I would have still appreciated that. However, I did really enjoy it.

This novel tends to follow a lot of the general YA tropes – at least where the romance is concerned – but I was still able to enjoy the story, and I really liked Alina and Mal. I’m hoping the rest of the novels don’t follow too closely to those stereotypes, but we’ll see. I like the magic system set up in this story, but sometimes get tired of the “chosen one” storyline. I’ll have to see how that plays out in the rest of the novels as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book enough that I had to go out and buy the next two books in the series so I can read them all together. I’m hoping it doesn’t fall too far into the same YA traps that most novels do, but for now I liked this book and am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Introducing Notes from the Bottom Shelf

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Notes from Bottom Shelf

As I’m sure most of you have already surmised, I am a HUGE book nerd. Along with that, I am also a huge hoarder of books. I can’t resist a good deal, so if I find a book I think I might want to read at a reasonable price I’ll buy it. I also have a really bad habit of just buying books that sound interesting, whether or not I’ll be able to read them any time soon. As you can probably imagine, this has led to a rather large number of books occupying my TBR shelf next to my bed – so large in fact that there are actually multiple stacks of books there as well; my TBR pile has long since outgrown the actual shelf.

Recently I looked through some of my books on and around that shelf and discovered there that there are a lot of really interesting books that I’ve been wanting to read forever, I just haven’t gotten around to it as other books get in the way. Therefore, I’ve created a new blog feature to try to accommodate these books that I would really like to read.

Each month I am going to attempt to read at least one book that’s been sitting in that TBR pile. Hopefully, in time, I will be able to cut the pile down to a more manageable size (or at the very least, maybe the number I read can catch up to the number I buy). This feature will be aptly titled “Notes From the Bottom Shelf” as I slowly try to work my way through those books. I’m not sure if I’ll do full length reviews of each one, or mini-reviews, since these are all books that have been around for several years (at least). It’ll depend on my thoughts and feelings on the books as I read through them.

I’ll also be making an attempt to curb my book purchases in the future, so I can focus on ARCs and books I already own, but that is definitely something that is easier said than done (as any bibliophile knows). Starting this month I am going to try very hard to only purchase a book if it meets one of two criteria: 1) I will be reading it right away (and not simply adding it to my pile) or 2) It is a book that was selected for my book club to read. If I can stick to this plan, then perhaps the exponential growth of my TBR pile will slow to a more manageable pace. (At least until library sale season hits.)

I am also going to start making attempts to borrow books from our local library instead of just outright buying them. I honestly can’t remember the last time I took a book out of the library just to read – usually I only use them for research purposes. However, my budget is becoming tighter as my piles of unread books grow, so I think maybe taking books out of the library will help solve two problems. It’ll save me some money and stop me from adding books to my piles. Even though I haven’t used libraries often, I am a big believer in the necessity for local libraries, so this will also be showing them support.

So there’s my plan. Hopefully I can stick to it long enough to at least make it a habit, and hopefully you’ll see my first real “Notes From the Bottom Shelf” post in a couple weeks.