Thursday, 23 July 2015

The goodness of Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is something of a treasure to libraries, and not just because of the incredible books he writes. He is a strong advocate for fiction and reading which is very evident in his recent lecture 'Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming' 
It is no wonder with quotes like "Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one" that Mr Gaiman is beloved by librarians the world over :)  

The following are my top 5 Neil Gaiman recommendations. This was a pretty difficult list to narrow down, but these are my personal favourites - I'd love to hear which are yours!

Number 5
I'm going to cheat a little and link both The Sandman comic series and the various Death comic mini-series together, as they are after all connected. The Sandman comics were amongst the first I read when I was getting back into the whole comic scene in the mid 90's, and it is easy to see why they are considered classics in the genre.
The series centres around Morpheus, also known as Dream from The Endless, and he and his siblings Death, Destiny, Destruction, Desire, Delirum and Despair take us on a series of unbelievable exploits. The series has a very mythological feel to it, as do many of Mr Gaiman's works. I'll always have a soft spot for Death, who is always so much fun to cosplay, and the deluxe edition of her tales are well worth checking out.

Number 4
Mr Gaiman is a very diverse author and writes for ALL ages. He has many titles for kids under his belt, from the super cute Chu series of picture books to the rather spooky Coraline (I still look at buttons and shudder). But my favourite of these is the wonderful Fortunately, the milk.
Mum is away and Dad is in charge, and he's forgotten the milk for breakfast! Luckily he has some rather marvellous adventures getting it. Such a fun story to share with the littles (or not so littlies) in your life.

Number 3
From the very creepy beginning of The graveyard book where a small toddler manages to survive his entire family being murdered by a mysterious assassin, I was hooked. Bod (Nobody) Owens ends up being raised by the spooks at the nearby graveyard, a crazy assortment of characters. This was one book that stayed with me long after I finished it, in the very best way possible. I'm not sure how you can be creepy but heart-warming at the same time, but this book somehow manages it.

Number 2
Unbeknownst to me, I already owned a Neil Gaiman book long before I was even a fan. Another of my all time favourite authors is Terry Pratchett, and I own many of his books, including Good Omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter, a witch, which a little later down the track I realised was a collaboration with that same comic guy I really liked :)
In this fantasy comedy about the impending end of the world, Aziraphale the angel, and Crowley the demon are on a mission to find the (rather nice) 11 year old Antichrist and avert Armageddon.

And in my top spot - Number 1
Stardust is probably the only book I own in any format I can get it. I have the exact hard copy as pictured above. I have the stunning 4 part graphic novel set, beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. I have the DVD of the movie adaptation (the book is better, lets face it, it usually is - but the movie is pretty lovely). To me this has the same magical timeless quality of The Princess Bride.
Tristran Thorn sees a falling star, and sets out to retrieve it in order to win the heart of his supposed one true love. He is not the only one questing to retrieve the star, and a fantastical adventure ensues. This book makes it not only on my top five Gaiman list, but also on my overall top five book list!

So those are my personal favourites, and I have missed so many wonderful titles I also loved off this list - the novels American gods (hopefully soon to be a TV series) The ocean at the end of the lane and Neverwhere, the stunningly beautiful The sleeper and the spindle (he retells the classics like no one else), his recent short story collection Trigger warning: short fictions and disturbances....I could seriously go on! Thanks Mr Gaiman for letting us share in your daydreams, they are indeed a magical (and sometimes very spooky) place :)

Monday, 13 July 2015

Don’t Forget the Motor City

A lot of the movie Only Lovers Left Alive, takes place in Detroit. And I had never realised a city in ruin could look so beautiful. Some of my favourite scenes involve the two central characters, long-term lover vampires Adam (Tom Hiddleston) and Eve, (Tilda Swinton) driving around Detroit’s empty streets at night. Past vacant lots of long grass, two story homes where families haven’t lived in for years and magnificent buildings in ruins.

At a New York Film Festival press conference, the movie’s director Jim Jarmusch, talked about how he was drawn to Detroit’s “post-industrial visual feeling” and described what had happened to Detroit as “sad” and ‘tragic”.  Detroit made and lost a fortune with the auto industry and was weakened by racial conflict and crime. The city is now bankrupt and near abandoned.

But Detroit was once known as “the Paris of the West” and the grand buildings stand as testament to Detroit’s moneyed past. During one of Adam’s and Eve’s night time drives they visit the Michigan Theatre. Adam shows Eve around and tells her (and us the audience) about the theatre’s past. It was built in the 1920s for “huge sums of money”. And “built ironically on the exact same site Henry Ford built his very first prototype.” The huge theatre seated 4000 people and hosted concerts and “even movies”. Now, further irony, the theatre has become a carpark. Nobody seems to know what to do with such a vast space. While Adam is talking, the camera slowly moves across the ornately decorated ceiling, crumbling but still beautiful. The scene ends with the two actors standing back to back looking up at the ceiling, dwarfed by the sheer size of the place.

For me, this is the best Detroit-by-night scenes. It’s striking, atmospheric and I think it sums up Detroit’s past and present.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Crossing off my Reading Challenge! Part One (and a half)

As everyone might remember, in April I posted my Reading Challenge for ya'll to see. I've since made progress (as one should hope, seeing as we're halfway through the year now - scary!) and here it is - Update One-and-a-Half (having already shown my undying love for cat warriors in my 'first' update).

Alright! What have I read so far?

A book published this year - First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen (Published January 20th, 2015)

As we already know from a previous post before I thought to make my challenge public, First Frost is by my very favourite adult fiction author, Sarah Addison Allen.
The Waverly family is plodding along nicely, until suddenly everyone loses spirit. The first frost is coming, and everyone is uneasy. Claire doesn't know if her magic is working - or if she even had any to start with, and Bay, her niece, is trying to make her way through high school after her powers make a huge mess of her reputation with the one person who matters.

I cannot possibly explain how much I love her books, but just take my word for it. Apparently, they're similar in style to Diana Wynne Jones (says a well-read friend) which I haven't read (yet) so if you're a fan of hers, these books might be for you. When I finally could get my mitts on this latest one from SAA, I read it in one go - not hard, as this ones quite a bit shorter than her others - and loved it, as I expected.

A book with a number in the title - Th1rteen R3asons Why by Jay Asher

Thirteen Reasons Why is about a teenage girl who, before committing suicide, records 13 'reasons' of why she came to the conclusion to do so, and then sends them to the people 'responsible' for her death. The main character, Clay, receives them one morning in the mail, and slowly listens to why the girl he thought he was possibly in love with killed herself.

It's a morbid read that does well in showing how suicide and depression is still taboo and 'ignored' - despite how common it is and sheds some light on why that can't happen anymore. In that way, I respect it. I just didn't think it was for me - not because of content/themes, but because the main guy, Clay, got on my nerves a little.

A book with non-human characters - Black Wings by Christina Henry

Maddy is an Agent - someone who leads the dead to the after-life. She's also broke and in need of a flat-mate to help pay her rent. Enter Gabriel, a hunky guy who just happens to know about her past and her mother's death, and who inadvertently brings a whole bunch of demons knocking on Maddy's door. She has to fight or die, and with Gabe's help, she finds she is much more than just an Agent.

A paranormal/fantasy romance. Angels, demons, 'Agents', titan-like beings that like to mess stuff up. A fun read that was easy to get through, but not for if you're wanting some serious thinking to go on - so it's like most of the books I read, haha.