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review 2016-01-17 19:10
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Coraline - Neil Gaiman

'Darker shadows slipped through the shadows at the edges of things.'


I listened to the audio of Coraline narrated by the fantastic Dawn French and once again I was blown away by a deeply absorbing children's horrorish tale.


Coraline, not Caroline as all the neighbours fail to comprehend is an intrepid explorer, a hobby that's generally down to being ignored by her parents. And top of the list of things to explore: the mysterious door in her home, the one that leads absolutely nowhere. Until, one day, it leads somewhere, somewhere magical, straight out of a kid’s nightmare.


'She had the feeling that the door was looking back at her, which she knew was silly, and knew on a deeper level was somehow true.'


A world of someone's making, exactly like her own, almost. A world of darkest danger, where she lost everything, lost her parents and with a little help managed to find them again. But until then she had to make do with the Other Mother, the one who wanted to love and keep her forever, as a possession.


'Coraline shivered. She preferred the other mother to have a location: if she were nowhere, then she could be anywhere. And, after all, it is always easier to be afraid of something you cannot see.'


The audio is a great way for a first introduction to this story, I also flicked through the 10th anniversary edition with some wonderfully dark illustrations by Chris Riddell. As I've stated previously I love Gaimans prose, the quote at the top is another good example of how his simple yet imaginative style just stands out in delightfully spellbinding fashion.


'She had a show of unconcernedness, but her fingers twitched and drummed and she licked her lips with her scarlet tongue.'


Enchanting, bewitching and simply charming, just about says it.

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review 2016-01-10 19:06
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances - Neil Gaiman

'I don’t understand parents. Honestly, I don’t think anybody ever does.'


Trigger Warning is a short story and poem collection by Neil Gaiman intent on finding those little pressure points that cause the most unease and arouse reflection, maybe even disturb you a mite.


There's some little gems here but first I'll explain why I like Gaimans wondrous prose and fascinating stories. He thoughtfully exploits the story twist and role reversal better than anyone but it's the little things that stick with me, shown perfectly in The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.


'I went to the shelf and the dictionary was gone, just a dictionary-sized hole in my shelf to show where my dictionary wasn’t.'  


Now that sentence probably wouldn't appear in most people's favourite quotes and to be fair it's easily passed and forgotten, but it stayed in the forefront of my mind as I listened to the audio. So much so that I spent 30 minutes desperately trying to find it in the kindle version. This perfectly shows the way Neil Gaiman thinks and writes, exploration of a mute fancy that no-one else would even consider wasting a second on, all in a sentence and that's why I love it.


Gaiman travels far and wide in this collection, from the last of the Time Lords to Sherlock Holmes and honey bees, from the fancifully dark fairy tale to Shadow from American Gods traveling through my home region of the Peak District encountering ghosts and murder.


The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains is a haunting tale of travel and treasure, family and murder, darkness, revenge and regret, desire of the soul. A true delight and I will certainly revisit the illustrated version of this story.


‘The Misty Isle is not as other places. And the mist that surrounds it is not like other mists.’


Nothing O'Clock sees the return of the Doctor and a foe worthy of terror, what can only be described as strangeness beyond belief starts with a person wearing an animal mask buying a house for cash. It soon becomes wholesale as property everywhere is being bought for cash by people wearing animal makes and they want one thing, for you to ask them the time.


Sherlock Holmes makes an appearance in The Case of Death and Honey as Mycroft breathes his last and case of research in a far off land into honey and a particular bee. The Sleeper and the Spindle is a delightful cross of fairy tales with Sleeping Beauty and Snow White and the seven dwarfs.


There's far too many stories and favourites to mention them all but safe to say I enjoyed this immensely, Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors and an incredibly talented guy. The absolute perfect medium to pull back that thin veil between worlds and explore the darkness beyond. A simply masterful story teller.


Just as captivating is Neil Gaiman himself talking about the stories and those little triggers, things that upset us, leave our heart beating overtime, shock, not gore but mind messing at its best.


'What we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: enter at your own risk.'

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review 2016-01-04 17:07
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
How the Marquis Got His Coat Back - Neil Gaiman

The Marquis de Carabas is recovering rather nicely from a terminally bad case of death and the one thing he really, really wants? Is his beautiful coat back.


And it was truly beautiful, remarkable and completely unique, unusual pockets, some of which even he couldn't find every time he looked, magnificent sleeves, an imposing collar and made of leather the colour of a wet street at midnight. More importantly than all that, it had style and it made him the man he was, the Marquis de Carabas.


'The Marquis de Carabas liked being who he was, and when he took risks he liked them to be calculated risks, and he was someone who double-and triple-checked his calculations.'


The world building is phenomenally good, it's one of the many ingredients that go into making Neverwhere a place that feels just too real for words, a definite, dark imagery, full of magical things, slightly warped people and intrigue, lots of intrigue.


'The paths of London Below are not the paths of London Above: they rely to no little extent on things like belief and opinion and tradition as much as they rely upon the realities of maps.'


It's a joy to revisit London below, a dangerous journey indeed for the Marquis where he encounters a grievance that has festered for a long long time, the terrifying Shepherd's of Shepherd's Bush and even more fascinating, a member of his family. How the Marquis got his Coat Back is a quite fantastic Neverwhere short story, wonderfully written and filled with a charming prose that is simply enchanting.

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review 2016-01-03 19:00
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

"Things to do. People to damage"


The audio of Neverwhere narrated by Neil himself was one of my last books of the year but definitely ranks up there as one of my favourites of the year if not all-time.


As a narrator Neil Gaiman is something quite special, the different characters are easily distinguishable and I was left hanging on every word by an truly accomplished story-teller and perfect teller of stories.


I won't go into the plot detail, the books nearly 20 years old and its all been done a million times before but I am kicking myself for not having read this a hell of a lot sooner.


All the characters of London underneath and London overneath in this Neverwhere adventure are distinctly charismatic, magical and captivating. The two characters that for me stole every scene right from their entrance were the terrifyingly funny Mr Croup (the brains and the words) and Mr Vandemar (the blunt brutal one), could it really be anybody else.


“There are four simple ways for the observant to tell Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar apart: first, Mr. Vandemar is two and a half heads taller than Mr. Croup; second, Mr. Croup has eyes of a faded china blue, while Mr. Vandemar's eyes are brown; third, while Mr. Vandemar fashioned the rings he wears on his right hand out of the skulls of four ravens, Mr. Croup has no obvious jewelery; fourth, Mr. Croup likes words, while Mr. Vandemar is always hungry. Also, they look nothing at all alike.” 


Gaiman makes the city below completely believable to the point where you can picture it in your head, he makes you care for the characters and I was fully invested in the story, the world, everything. The city underneath is that little bit darker, that little bit dirtier matched by the people who live there, there's magical elements, wondrous creatures and a real life Angel, a fantastically grim urban fantasy setting. It's pretty much prefect.


“Now me,” said Mr. Vandemar.
“What number am I thinking of?” 
“I beg your pardon?” 
“What number am I thinking of?” repeated Mr. Vandemar. “It’s between one and a lot,” he added, helpfully.” 


It was cleverly done with Richard, and everyone above forgetting who he was after coming into contact with those from beneath, forcing him to seek Door out and the start of a wonderful adventure. Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar are worthy of more stories, I'd love to read more of them, wickedly entertaining characters, as was the Marquis.


'A rustle in the tunnel darkness; Mr. Vandemar's knife was in his hand, and then it was no longer in his hand, and it was quivering gently almost thirty feet away. He walked over to his knife and picked it up by the hilt. There was a gray rat impaled on the blade, its mouth opening and closing impotently as the life fled. He crushed its skull between finger and thumb.'

Apologies I could go quoting crazy here, enough with Croup & Vandermar. And Neverwhere is now a firm favourite.
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review 2016-01-01 20:29
Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman
Fortunately, the Milk - Neil Gaiman,Skottie Young

Well I'm forty and some loose change years of age and I never, ever thought I'd be reading children's books again. I can't even remember reading them when I was a kid but Neil Gaimans 'are but aren't reeeeaaaally' children's books are an absolute delight, so much so, that I've bought all of them. There's gentle murmurs and mutters of darkness within and Gaiman is a master wordsmith that wraps you up in his stories, and its impossible to get out until the very end.


Fortunately, the Milk sees Father return slightly late from the shop with the vital life saving breakfast cereal milk and armed with legendary excuses of alien worlds and time travel. A thoroughly entertaining guilty pleasure that's kinda hidden from everyone who matters.

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