Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman (1 November — 7 November)

I have to admit that I wasn’t actually planning to read another Neil Gaiman for a while. I mean, I liked the books of his that I’d read, but I wasn’t super-excited about them… whatever, you know? But then I got roped into (not really, it was kind of exciting!) being in a podcast all about Neil Gaiman, and even though I say like ten words in it, it was fun. And before we started, Beth was going on and on about Anansi Boys and how great it is and how the audiobook is the most greatest thing ever and I was like, okay. I guess I could check it out.

And… I’m still not that excited. Again, it was a good book, like his others, and it was completely different from his other books that I’ve read, and it was interesting, but I’m just not that excited about having read it. I’m not sure why.¹

Anyway. In this story we find ourselves following along in the life of Fat Charlie Nancy, who, despite all attempts to remove that first word from his name, cannot get rid of the nickname that his father gave him as a kid. His dad’s just got a way with words like that. But then Fat Charlie’s dad dies! Oh no! Fat Charlie goes back to his childhood home in Florida (from his adulthood home in London) to pay his respects and his told by his old and possibly a bit batty neighbor that he has a brother. And that if he wants to meet up with this dude what went away so long ago that Fat Charlie can’t remember, he should just talk to a spider. No big deal. Also, Fat Charlie’s dad was a god. The god Anansi, in particular.

Fat Charlie, not really believing any of this, nonetheless tells a spider to go find his brother. The spider does, the brother (who conveniently calls himself Spider) shows up all demigod-like, havoc is wreaked, Fat Charlie tries to get him to go away, adventures ensue!

It was a good time, for sure, and once the adventures started happening, I was hooked. I also liked all of the references to the Caribbean god stories, though they got a bit heavy-handed in the end (like all such stories do, I suppose). I think part of my problem with the book is that there’s a person in it who dies and comes back as a ghost, and after the disappointment that was Her Fearful Symmetry I was just not amused. Ah, well. I will say that if I could have a house inside my spare room, that’d be just brilliant. Can we work on that?

¹ An aside — Neil Gaiman is kind of like the Johnny Depp of novel-writing, isn’t he? It’s like, in general, everything he writes is pretty good and totally worth reading, just like almost everything Depp acts in (with some very notable exceptions) is pretty good and totally worth seeing. Clearly the two of them should get together. [A quick search of the internets tells me that this almost happened; maybe the universe is preventing it somehow?]

Rating: 7/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2005)

See also:
things mean a lot
Rhinoa’s Ramblings

Pass me yours, if you’ve got ’em.

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman (26 June — 27 June)

This story opens with a rather gruesome scenario — a man called Jack is killing all of the members of a family. But when he gets to the infant son’s room, no one is there. The boy, an intrepid explorer, had woken up during the commotion, gotten bored, and simply walked out of the house. He wanders into a graveyard with Jack following, but with some help from the ghosts inhabiting the graveyard, the boy is kept safe. He is raised by the Owenses and given the name of Nobody, because that’s who he looks like. Nobody but himself. He learns a lot of things from the graveyard and its ghosts, and eventually (of course) ends up fighting the man Jack and his cronies.

The Graveyard Book was a cute little book (that gave me more sunburn!), but I didn’t like it as much as I guess I thought I would. A lot of things just sort of happen without much explanation, starting from the very beginning. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had I known who Jack was and why he wanted to kill Bod from the start; as it was it seemed more like an afterthought. I did like the very realistic Scarlett Amber Perkins, especially at the end, but I didn’t understand why she or her mother was okay with Scarlett hanging out with Mr. Frost. Things like that. Ah, well.

Rating: 7/10

Coraline, by Neil Gaiman (12 February)

Like you haven’t heard about this book already, what with the movie being out and all. The movie is actually the reason I picked up the book, much like Stardust before it, but this time I’d definitely say I prefer the book to the movie. And I rather liked the movie.

Coraline Jones is your average kid: curious, adventurous, and mostly ignored by her parents. On a rainy day when she’d like to be outside but is told to stay inside, her father suggests she get out of his hair and explore their new house. One of the things she finds is a bricked-off door separating her flat from another in the same house. A couple days later, bored and curious, Coraline unlocks the door to find not a wall of bricks, but a hallway that leads right back to her flat. Well, her other flat. In this flat she finds her other mother, who’d really like to be her only mother and also sew buttons into Coraline’s eyes.

Et cetera. It’s a short book, just go read it already!

Why I like the book better: It’s a short book. The movie, at 100 minutes or so, was much longer than it needed to be, and filled that space with extra characters (what useful purpose did Wybie serve?) and and way too much build-up to the button problem, at the expense of its solution. The movie is still cute, though I wish I had seen it in 3-D!

Rating: 8/10
(Countdown Challenge: 2002, Support Your Local Library Challenge)

Stardust, by Neil Gaiman (27 December — 28 December)

Ah, a nice quick read to cleanse the mind. I borrowed the movie version of Stardust from the library maybe a month or two ago and loved it, so I obviously had to go out and get the book, which had to be better.

It wasn’t. But it wasn’t worse, either. Just different and equally awesome.

Stardust, the book, is a wonderful fairy tale. Tristran Thorn, who lives in the English town of Wall and doesn’t know that he is the product of a liaison between his father and a woman who lives on the other side of the wall, in Faerie (apparently because he can’t do math), falls in love with a Wall girl called Victoria and promises to bring Victoria the shooting star they’ve just sighted. He goes on a journey into Faerie and finds the star, which happens to look rather like a beautiful and ticked-off woman, and sets to bringing her back to his town. Unbeknownst to him, there are several other people looking for the star as well, for their own nefarious purposes, making his trip a bit more difficult.

Although I liked the theatrics of the movie quite a bit (who doesn’t like Robert DeNiro in a dress, eh?), I also appreciated the simplicity of Gaiman’s novel. Things happen, they’re taken care of, good wins out over evil without having to try terribly hard.

Rating: 8/10

p.s. This was my first foray into Gaiman. What should be my second?