As always, I needed a nice book of short stories to get me through the work day — I love that I can sit down, read one on my lunch break, and then movAs always, I needed a nice book of short stories to get me through the work day — I love that I can sit down, read one on my lunch break, and then move on with the rest of my day. As I’ve said before, the problem I have with short stories is that I don’t always like all of them, and it’s disappointing to spend my lunch reading something I didn’t very much enjoy. Fortunately, with Gaiman, I rarely have that problem, so when I saw this available on OverDrive, I jumped at the chance to check it out.
This collection is incredibly cohesive — the themes and tones of the stories balance each other nicely. It’s a delightfully weird collection that consistently surprised me with its twists and turns. “Troll Bridge” talks about the process of growing up and becoming an adult, and how what we value can change over time. “The Witch’s Headstone” is a lovely companion to The Graveyard Book, which I’ve also read. It shows the bravery and goodness of a small child, and how sometimes children can see through biases and do the right thing. “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” shows how difficult talking to girls can be — and how otherworldly the other sex seems when you’re a teenager and trying to figure out the dating thing.
Those are just a few of my favorite stories. I enjoyed all of them as a whole and recommend this if you’re fan of fantasy and Neil Gaiman.
I was interested in this book for two reasons. The first is that Andrew loves Andre the Giant, and I wanted to see if he'd like this book as well. TheI was interested in this book for two reasons. The first is that Andrew loves Andre the Giant, and I wanted to see if he'd like this book as well. The second is that I was intrigued about using a comic format for a biography, so I wanted to see how it would work.
Overall, I think that it's a success. This isn't an incredibly detailed account of Andre the Giant's life, but it covers the main information and gives enough facts and tidbits to make it an interesting read. Also, with the comic format, the story moves very quickly -- I think I finished this in a few hours. The illustration style lends itself well to how the author portrays Andre's life -- very simple and straightforward. I learned a few things I didn't know about Andre and I truly enjoyed getting to know about his life as a wrestler, since the only thing I actually had any previous information on was his work on The Princess Bride.
I found out about this series when browsing through books from BEA 2013 — where the sequel was being offered as an ARC. For the most part, I just can’I found out about this series when browsing through books from BEA 2013 — where the sequel was being offered as an ARC. For the most part, I just can’t read series out of order (knowingly, at least), so I left it alone and put this book on the to-read list. And yes, 3 years later, I’m just now reading it. Us bibliophiles have a problem with overly long to-read lists, yes?
I have to say that this one gets off to an incredibly slow start. It tries to be too creepy too fast, to the point where I really just didn’t understand what was going on in the first few chapters. Is it trying to be paranormal? Is it trying to be just average-run-of-the-mill creepy? No idea. I think that was the point, but I personally wasn’t into it. By the first 30 pages, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get through it, but I powered on, and it turned out to get better. Yay! It also doesn’t help that there seems to be a wide variety of genres used for this book, but by my judgment, it’s more alternate history/gothic than anything. (Especially steampunk — um, what?!) There are so many creep factors to it that it just feels dark the way only gothic books do. Anyway, once the book figures out what its story is supposed to be, it gets pretty good.
One of my favorite things is how the main character, Katharine grows. It happens a little too suddenly, I think, but it is nice to see. Her uncle seems to be on the spectrum of autism in a time when that wasn’t something that was diagnosed, and she recognizes that while he has some difficulties, he’s a really nice person who cares a lot about his friends and family. I think this is a good thing for a middle grade book to bring up, and it’s done beautifully — incredibly subtle, which I appreciated.
The book skims over some of the issues of factories and poverty during the era it’s supposed to take place — I don’t think it goes in depth enough to be used as a companion to any of those topics in the classroom, but it certainly can’t hurt as an outside reading-for-fun suggestion if students seem interested in the ideas.
Overall, this was a fine read. It interested me enough that I want to see if the sequel gets any better, but it’s not something I’d highly recommend people to read. If you happen by it and have some free time, it’s not terrible and it’s kind of quick. I think middle grade readers would kind of enjoy it, but it’s not super amazing. The sequel is now on my to-read list, so I’ll get back to you on how it develops! (Hopefully sooner than 3 years.)