Book Review: Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman

  • By karen.jones
  • 14 Jul, 2017
Like most people, I suppose, when I see Neil Gaiman's name on a book, I have high expectations. And I'm rarely disappointed. Neil's latest is subtitled "Short Fictions and Disturbances." I'm not sure why "disturbances." Maybe putting poetry on the book cover keeps certain readers away. Then again, several of the pieces herein don't easily fall into either category of short fiction or poetry. I read this book in segments, with long breaks in between, and looking back on it now (it's been a month since I finished it), I don't have clear memories of many of the pieces within. The best story is the lengthy (compared to the rest) final story, "Black Dog," featuring Shadow from American Gods, and is one of several short fiction sequels Gaiman has written set in Shadow's world. Others that I really enjoyed include "'The Truth is a Cave in Black Mountains...'" (another longer story); "My Last Landlady" (one of the aforementioned poems, a nice, dark, horrific one); "Orange" (written solely as responses to an "investigator's" questionnaire, which develops the story slowly and mysteriously); "The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury" (a meditation on memory); and "'And Weep Like Alexander'" (funny). Many of the other pieces are less memorable - at least to me, looking back through the table of contents now. I know I came to a complete stop for several weeks when I got to "Nothing O'Clock," Gaiman's Doctor Who story. I'm not a fan and don't follow the series, so wasn't particularly interested in reading this one. In his introduction, Gaiman apologizes for this collection not being "the same sort of thing all the way through." On the contrary, I found this one of the strengths of the collection, its variety.

Chapter 2 Books Blog

By 7016508153 11 Sep, 2017
A few years ago, I read Blackburn by Bradley Denton, a pretty funny book about a serial killer. I liked that one a lot. Lunatics is very different. This book resembles, more than anything, a romantic comedy (certainly not my favorite genre). The story starts with Jack, a recent widower, who meets Lily (real name: Lilith), who is the goddess of the moon. She comes to Jack once a month (only during the full moon) and they engage in sex. Jack falls head over heels in love with her, and isn't bothered by the once-a-month contact or the fact that Lily has wings and bird-like feet. An intriguing fantasy concept. Much of the book revolves around Jack's circle of friends: a married couple, a committed couple, and a single mom who hops from relationship to relationship. Lily's presence causes their love (and sex) lives to careen wildly out of control. The book is funny and sexy, though at times, it's also sad and melancholic. It isn't anywhere near the quality of Blackburn, but it's a light, engaging, fun read.
By 7016508153 07 Sep, 2017
I'm one of the (many millions of) people who discovered Gillian Flynn through her novel Gone Girl, which I loved. I'd heard positive things about her previous two novels, and Sharp Objects did not disappoint. Once again, we have a narrator who, if not unreliable, definitely has a viewpoint and an agenda. And some issues. This is a disturbing look at a small town, several murders, and a bunch of creepy, unfriendly people - several of whom are the narrator's own family members. I liked most everything about this novel: the narration, the storyline, the disturbingly graphic murders, the characters, the sex. Actually, some of the sex was disturbing in itself, as was a lot of the drug use. Probably the element of both some of the sexual situations and drug use that was most disquieting was the age (13) of the characters involved. It's an unsettling novel, in the best possible way. The identity of the killer was obvious to me early on (this character is presented in such an unflattering and unlikable way), even though the author tries to lead the reader down another path that doesn't quite ring true. I've never quite understood the whole "cutting" phenomenon, although I've known at least one teenage girl who suffered from it. Flynn takes it to a whole other level here. Plenty of scenes in this novel might offend or bother some readers; I loved all of it.
By 7016508153 06 Sep, 2017
First of all, let me say that this book deserves a wider audience.

I got this book because it sounded interesting: a coming-of-age story featuring a father-son team who study people who throw cigarettes from cars. When the book arrived, it had the look and feel of a self-published effort, something which I generally try to avoid. It's published by Ecphora Press (which is misspelled as "Ephora" on the back cover - not a good sign* - which they corrected after I posted this review on Goodreads.com), but checking them out on the internet, it looks like Auto Flick is the only book they've published. So...essentially self-published. But unlike most self-published books, I found very few errors while reading (one use of "passed" instead of "past" if I remember right, and a few words at the ends of lines split incorrectly, but nothing too bad), which allowed me to concentrate on the story.

Three things about this story should have bothered me: several characters occasionally quote lines from Moby Dick the way others quote Shakespeare. I've never read Moby Dick - it's probably the biggest glaring hole in my reading of the classics. Secondly, the main character works as a caddy at the local golf course, and there's some description of golf games. I don't play golf and don't really understand or care about the game. And lastly, the author frequently describes in detail the cars that the characters follow. And I don't know much or care about cars. But despite all this, I was never bored or annoyed by the story. The writing is just that good. In fact, the writing is very good. I found myself chuckling every few pages, especially in the early parts of the book, at a description, some dialogue, or a turn of phrase. I keep an ongoing list of quotations that gets added to periodically. This book generated at least five additions to that list. Here's just one example of a sentence that jumped out and amazed me: "Her smile captured and gave me the sun." I mean, wow, right?

The story is a lovely coming-of-age tale about a 16-year-old boy and his quirky father set during one summer, 1968. And when the book jumps ahead 34 years (!) for the final third of the novel, it does so at a very appropriate moment. It comes off as less jarring and more logical, even as the tone becomes more serious; an adult in 2002 has a decidedly different point-of-view about life than a teenager in 1968, but it was definitely the same character. I was very impressed with this novel, and it deserves to be picked up by a national publisher. It would also make a pretty damn cool movie.

As I said at the start, this book deserves a wider audience. As my small part to try and make that happen, I've brought in a couple extra copies of the book to the store, and they're available now.
By 7016508153 19 Aug, 2017
A well-written thriller. Some of the early parts of the novel seem to move rather slowly as we get a lot of the domestic lives of the characters. However, this really serves to establish the characters and set up the contrast to what happens to them later on. Some of the domestic stuff hit a little too close to home for me (Zoe is a single mom with adult children who live with her, as does her new boyfriend Simon) that it made me uncomfortable. The book is written in alternating chapters, with Zoe's in first person and present tense, while the other chapters center around policewoman/detective Kelly Swift, and those chapters are written in third person and past tense. Normally, those type of switches would bother me, as they tend to take me out of the story, but here, somehow, it worked (or at least didn't bother me too much). Swift's chapters are essentially a police procedural, while Zoe's are a more intimate look at the crime/mystery situation (all of this emphasized by the difference in viewpoint and tense). Set in London, the book has a strong British feel to it - Zoe and her family take the Tube to work; there's an intense level of surveillance (cameras everywhere); while arresting a suspect, the police use a variation of what we in the U.S. know as Miranda rights. The biggest mystery is who is the mastermind behind a criminal enterprise in the book that affects Zoe and her family. Approaching the end of the novel, there were 4 or 5 different characters who might have been the guilty party, and I didn't really have a clue as to who it was. And it turned out to be someone completely different, but in a way that made sense given what we'd seen and learned earlier. This is good writing.
By 7016508153 08 Aug, 2017
Picked this up (volume 1 in an ongoing series) awhile ago, but just got around to reading it this week. The painted artwork by Dustin Nguyen is beautiful. At first it seems a little "sketchy" for a hard sci-fi concept/story, but it fits very well. Lemire's story is set in the far future, when planet-sized mechanical beings called Harvesters appear and attack the planets of the United Galactic Council. Anti-robot sentiment spreads across the galaxy and most robots, whatever their design and function, are destroyed. The story begins years later when a young "boy robot" named Tim-21, a companion robot for a young boy, awakens to find his "family" gone and his world all but destroyed. Tim-21 seems to have some type of connection to the Harvesters, and the race is on to either protect or destroy him, to find out what that connection might be before the Harvesters return. I got more and more involved and intrigued by this story as it went on. There are a lot of interesting concepts here, and Lemire does a good job of creating and presenting this universe to the reader. As an example, Tim-21 has a strange dream involving many of the destroyed robots in some type of afterlife, apparently. But robots don't dream, right? A lot of questions go unanswered and plotlines are set up for further volumes (I believe three volumes have been released thus far). Definitely a series I'd like to read more of.
By 7016508153 02 Aug, 2017
Last night just before bedtime, I accidentally deleted some updates (mostly on Xcel spreadsheets) from my laptop. Basically, I lost about the last 10 days worth of information - sales info, bookkeeping, plus week-ending and month-ending info/stats. So I spent about three hours today re-entering info -- fortunately, with my POS system, my receipts (for supplies, postage, etc.), my bank's online accounts, and some notes I'd handwritten, I was able to figure out how to re-enter pretty much everything. I still have one major spreadsheet to go through, but I think my notes will help me out there. It just makes me realize how dependent we are on our computers, and how easy it is to lose stuff - especially if you make a simple, stupid mistake like I did. 
By karen.jones 14 Jul, 2017
This is the follow-up to Riggs' first novel, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. A continuation of the first book in the series. In this one, the peculiar children (who, by this point, the reader should know and understand) are on the run from their former safe home (a time loop), and trying to rescue/save their beloved Miss Peregrine, who is trapped in her bird form. And that's the structure of the book, as the children go from one place to another, one adventure to the next, with not always a lot of continuity between them. Like the first book, the story here revolves around a bunch of old and odd photographs that depict characters and settings that the author incorporates into his story. Sometimes they make sense, but oftentimes I felt as though Riggs was just throwing something into the story to fit with the photos he'd chosen. It's like a creative writing exercise run amok. Occasionally, things are a bit too convenient. (The kids come across, and are kidnapped by, a group of gypsies, who just happen to understand peculiardom and end up helping.) Still, the story can be fun and adventurous, though it does seem a bit darker and more horrific than what I remember from the first novel. And like the first novel, it just kind of ends without any wrap up, leaving the reader in place for the next volume. I mostly liked it; there's just not much depth here.
By karen.jones 14 Jul, 2017
Edward Bunker lived a life of crime from a young age through middle age. I reviewed his memoir, Education of a Felon, awhile back. He knows whereof he speaks in this novel of a trio of ex-cons back on the street getting back into the life. Most of the crime fiction I've read (admittedly a fairly small sampling) deals more with those trying to stop or solve the crimes. This book simply follows the criminals on a series of (let's call them) "capers." There's very little grey area here; this is a very dark, authentic look at those on the underside of society. Well-written (although the author's voice and opinions occasionally come through in the voice of his characters), grim, and violent, Bunker's novel never let me down. I particularly liked the ending **Spoiler Alert** where the surviving members of the trio are taken down through mistaken identity on a matter totally unrelated to their previous (rather serious) crimes. I know several of Bunker's books have been the basis of films; this would make a good one.
By karen.jones 14 Jul, 2017
THE PAGE 45 PROJECT. When I first opened the store, several times I had someone ask me, “Have you read all the books in the store?” I haven’t heard that question in awhile; maybe because I have so many more books, maybe because people just aren’t being smart-alecks, I don’t know. Anyway, I haven’t read all the books, of course, but some time ago (I won’t say how long this has been going on), I started The Page 45 Project. Basically, it works like this: every now and then, I’ll pick up a book and read page 45. Since it’s me, I’ve been doing this in a pretty organized way. I started on the shelf along the back wall, though I started on the right hand side, with books by authors whose names began with D, and worked by way back. Yesterday, I finished all the books along the back wall. I’ll now move back to where I started and move forward through the alphabet. I’ve been kind of amazed at how much I can glean from reading just one full page of a book. Especially if there are multiple books by the same writer, I can gain a pretty good sense of that author’s style. Why page 45, you ask? There’s actually a reason behind that, but it’s another whole story…
By karen.jones 14 Jul, 2017
Kang's book deals with the aftermath of a violent student uprising and massacre in Gwangju, South Korea, in 1980. The book is split into six sections (plus an epilogue by "the writer"), each told from the viewpoint of a different character. Some of these are in first person, some in third, and at least one is, distressingly, in second person - an unusual and tricky p.o.v. which seldom, if ever, works effectively. Since the book begins that way, it kind of turned me off to start with. In other sections, told in first person, the narrator/character is directly addressing someone (referred to as "professor," if memory serves), though this is never explained or followed up on. Although the writing for the most part is quite lovely (due at least in part to translator Deborah Smith), I really had trouble making connections between some of the sections - some are quite obvious, others less so. And I admit to getting a bit confused between characters as to who was who and how they related to one another. I've seen some very positive reviews of this novel, but I just couldn't connect with it.
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