Reading Gaiman – Mel talks about Gender Portrayal

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neverwhere neil gaimanAround twice a year, I read one of Neil Gaiman’s works. Usually, I get them as a gift for Xmas and my birthday, because they have amazing artwork and it’s really worth it having them as hardcover or paperback.

One of the things I really like about Gaiman’s stories is the portrayal of gender and gender roles—or to be more precise the lack thereof. I have two kind of ambivalent thoughts concerning this. On the one hand, I think that gender doesn’t matter at all in the stories, because each character could be female or male or neither. Not only is there no focus on the characters’ gender, it’s more as if it wasn’t there, as if anything were possible.

For a moment, upon waking, he had no idea at all who he was. It was a tremendously liberating feeling, as if he were free to be whatever he wanted to be: he could be anyone at all – able to try on any identity; he could be a man or a woman, a rat or a bird, a monster or a god.

— Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

the sleeper and the spindle neil gaimanOn the other hand, Gaiman allows both women and men to be something more than society often still has in mind for us. Women get to be heroes, bodyguards, traitors, and men can be something else than heroes or antiheroes. They may cry, they may be losers or nobodies. But, and I want to stress that, so you don’t get the wrong impression here, all characters are written in a way that is liberating and empowering. Men aren’t made less so women can be more. In Gaiman’s stories we are equal. We have choices and opportunities.

There are choices, she thought, when she had sat long enough. There are always choices.
She made one.
[…]
They walked to the east, all four of them, away from the sunset and the lands they knew, and into the night.

— Neil Gaiman, The Sleeper and the Spindle

Reading Gaiman’s books makes me happy, because I can partake in something that is beyond what I know and what was infused in my thoughts over the years. It is liberating and empowering for me, because it shows me how I am or how I could be without the limitations that society and I myself put on me. That is to say, I highly recommend checking out his work. I’d daresay there is something for everyone.

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“Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman, born Neil Richard Gaiman, 10 November 1960) is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.” (Wikipedia)

Please have a look at his website to find out more about his biography…

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Top Ten Tuesday: Books to Read in the Dead of Night! (Creepy Halloween Edition)

top-ten-halloween-bannerAs always, this weekly meme is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish!
(header image from here)

I’m a HUGE WUSS, I’ll be the first to admit it. Reading a horror novel leaves me curled up in bed with the lights on, unable to sleep. But I love a good, creepy novel that sends chills down your spine!

Here are ten books to read to get you in the Halloween spirit!

1. House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski

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Probably one of the most terrifying books I’ve ever read. It’s a story within a story within a story (confused yet?) set in a house that’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. But this isn’t a TARDIS; there’s something more sinister and mysterious at work. And it uses typography to convey both motion and emotion (like in the image above).

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.

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2. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

More eerie than outright scary, this book comes complete with photos that vary between weird and nightmarish. The way the story is told means the mystery unfolds piece by piece, which I really love. I haven’t read the sequel yet, though!

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And it’s being turned into a movie by the King of Creepy himself, Tim Burton!

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3. Josh of the Damned series by Andrea Speed

Josh knew the night shift at the Quik-Mart would be full of freaks and geeks—and that was before the hell portal opened in the parking lot.

Definitely not creepy, but still really gloriously brilliant and absolutely hilarious! This is my kind of horror, where zombies shuffle into the gas station store to buy frozen burritos and werewolves are like mangy rats in the parking lot. You can read my five-star review of the series here!

speed(Buy from Riptide Publishing)

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4. Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

I thought about putting It on this list instead, because evil clowns are definitely horrifying, but I’ve never actually read it (because, seriously, evil clowns! Enough said). So this is the scariest Stephen King novel I’ve ever read, and I don’t think you can have a list of scary novels without having the King of Horror on your list. Plus, it has creeptastic vampires!

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5. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice

Speaking of vampires, this book gave me ALL OF THE NIGHTMARES when I first read it at age 13. The novel itself isn’t horrifying, but the entire plot with Claudia freaked me out. The idea of a doll-like little girl who basically goes insane? Yeah… *shivers*

Anne Rice wrote vampires before they sparkled, and Lestat will always be one of my favorites!

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6. The Whyborne & Griffin series, by Jordan L. Hawk

I’m recommending the entire series because I can’t pick out just one scene, or one book, that qualifies as “creepy”… instead, it’s the general vibe of the entire story! Whyborne and Griffin battle monsters, gods from the deep, and evil warlocks while trying to defend their town. Here’s our heroes’ first encounter with a monster, from Widdershins (Book One):

The beam of my lantern revealed a thing for which I had no words.

My mind flailed, trying and failing to make sense of what filled the doorway in front of me. It had four limbs, more or less, a shape which overall suggested some perversion of humanity. But its naked body was horribly misshapen, the limbs of uneven length, the joints distorted. Thick, coarse skin covered it for the most part, but certain protuberances sprouted scales, and something horribly like human teeth jutted out of an elbow.

Its head was worse, however. Thanks to Christine, I’d spent many an hour bent over the art of ancient Egypt and its animal-headed gods. Those gods had a strange nobility and completeness to them. This thing seemed a mockery of the ancient deities. Its misshapen skull retained traces of humanity, but was hideously flattened and distended into an unmistakably crocodilian form.

Beady eyes fixed on me: blue irises punctured by reptilian pupils. Its jaws opened, the gape huge and lined with savage teeth, and it let loose a howl like something from the lowest pit of Tartarus.

I couldn’t move, couldn’t scream, couldn’t do anything but stare. Had I been alone, it would surely have ripped me to shreds.

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7. Coraline, by Neil Gaiman

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Neil Gaiman is a master of creepy. What makes this even more horrifying is that it’s a childrens’ book. I was actually just talking about this with Vane at Books With Chemistry (go check out her review!), and about how this book is way creepier to read as an adult than it was when I was a teenager.

The incredibly talented Dave McKean did the illustrations for the book (I have SO MUCH of his art, he’s ridiculously good!), but the movie did a pretty amazing job!

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8. The PsyCop series, by Jordan Castillo Price

Once upon a time if you told doctors you heard voices, they’d diagnose you as schizophrenic, put you on heavy drugs, and lock you away in a cozy state institution to keep you from hurting yourself or others.

Nowadays they test you first to see if you’re psychic.

Victor Bayne is a psychic cop (hence PsyCop!) who sees dead people. And not just ghosts, either, but full-on, technicolor, graphically dead walking spirits. He teams up (both in the field and in bed) with a non-psychic named Jacob to solve murders by interviewing the dead spirits… when they’re willing to cooperate, that is.

You know there’s some Grade A level creepiness when even the psychic who sees dead people on a daily basis gets freaked out!

“Victor, back there in that basement, when the zombies were… were… moving around on those tables…. Twitching? And dead? You didn’t even blink.”

“This is nothing like those zombies.”

“No shit. Because this time, you’re scared—beyond scared. You’re terrified. And whatever’s got you scared? I don’t want any part of it.”

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9. The Gashlycrumb Tinies, by Edward Gorey

The most horrifying alphabet book ever written. This isn’t for teaching your toddlers their A, B, C’s…

gorey 1 gorey 2

Gorey’s art is eerie and, yes, gory. But look, it even rhymes! Adorable, right?!

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10. The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe

Everything he writes is brilliant and creepy, and he’s inspired dozens of mystery and horror novels. This is one of the opening paragraphs from The Tell-Tale Heart, one of my favorites:

It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture –a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees — very gradually –I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.

Poe was one creepy, creepy guy. Stories about burying people alive, about insanity, and about guilt… definitely the stuff of nightmares! Even his death is a creepy mystery!

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What are you reading this Halloween?

Top Ten Tuesday: Wishes from the Book Genie

genie-top-ten-headerAs always, this weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

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I’m walking down the road, and a lamp falls out of the sky. No, seriously, an honest-to-god lamp. Like, tarnished, gold, looks pretty old. No idea where it came from, but I’m just glad it didn’t hit me on the head.

And hey, beneath that tarnish it’s not all that ugly. Maybe if I just give it a good scrub with my sleeve, I can get a few bucks for it at the pawn shop. Let’s see now…

aladdin-genie-lamp-gif

What the heck is this? A genie? Wait a second, I know this story. I mean, I read a ton of books, surely you don’t think I’ve read some with genies in them? So alright then, Mr. Genie, I get a few wishes, right?

Wait, ten wishes? I get ten wishes? Oh man. *rubs hands together* Alright, Genie, let’s get to wishin’!

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1. I wish for… more good book-to-screen adaptations! I love seeing my favorite stories come to life, and there are some very promising upcoming adaptations, like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians (SyFy, early 2016) and Neil Gaiman’s American Gods (2016).

magicians-syfy

2. Dear Genie, please bring me… The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. NOW! Please?

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3. And while you’re at #2, Genie… can I have the sequel to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo? Pretty please?

4. Genie, I wish… for more ace and trans romance novels. There are so few of them out there, and I would love some new ones! I just saw that L.A. Witt is writing an asexual romance, though!

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5. I wish, I wish, to… win a shopping spree in a bookstore. Seriously, gimme a blank check and a few hours in a bookstore, and I will be the happiest person in the world. Or, hey, maybe a lotto win? SO I CAN BUY MORE BOOKS, OF COURSE!

6. Wishing upon a magic lantern for… a few of my Dream Author Teams to collaborate on books?

7. I wish that… American book covers weren’t so ugly compared to overseas book covers. Yeah, this comes out of left field, but it’s SO TRUE! I mean, just look at the US vs UK cover for Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (published in the US as Midnight Riot for some ungodly reason):

aaronovitch-rivers-midnight-covers

8. I wish, oh great Genie, for… eBooks that aren’t ridiculously over-priced. Why would I pay $15 for an eBook when the hardcover is only $17? (Yes, Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith, I’m looking at you!)

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9. I wish that… authors were treated with the same level of awe and fame as football players. I mean, one of these professions transports you to another world, and the other involves a bunch of sweaty dudes in spandex throwing balls around. (Also, let’s throw teachers in with the authors on this wish, if you don’t mind!)

10. For my last wish, Genie… I wish you were free! Oh, wait, you already are? Well, okay then, I wish for the simple pleasure of a good book, warm blankets, tasty snacks, and the sound of rain on my window.

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Top Ten Tuesday: My Dream Author Teams!

top-ten-tuesday-textAs always, this weekly meme is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Batman has his Robin, and the Avengers work better together than apart. Since authors are basically superheroes in my mind, it makes sense for them to team up for a book (or two), right? I mean, you have Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett combining literary forces to write Good Omens, and John Green and David Levithan co-wrote Will Grayson, Will Grayson. In fact, a quick glance at my bookshelf shows a handful of co-written novels, including Illuminae (which I just reviewed yesterday).

Since co-writing novels seems to be “the thing” to do these days, here are five teams of authors that I’d love to see team up!

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1. Maggie Stiefvater and John Green

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Obviously they have a healthy rivalry on the race track, but Stiefvater and Green also have the young adult world wrapped around their little fingers. Apart, the authors of The Raven Cycle quartet and The Fault in Our Stars (respectively) are wildly popular. Together? Well, I’m pretty sure there would be a shortage of tissues world-wide, to say the very least!

I want a book with Stiefvater’s magical realism and Green’s crushing realism. I want a book with emotions that will feel like a punch in the chest, characters that are witty and sarcastic, and a thread of fantasy twisting down the center. If their powers combined, the YA genre wouldn’t know what hit it!

2. Anne Rice and Stephen King

king rice

Yes, it’s obvious. But they’re two of the biggest names in horror. And I’m not talking the new horror, that’s sole purpose is to freak you out with sudden revelations and gruesome images. Rice and King are masters at the slow-build horror, the creeping chill that runs its icy fingers up your spine late at night.

King has plenty of experience dabbling in the paranormal horror genre, so I’d love to see a book from the two of them with mythical creatures. Like, Supernatural if it were actually scary!

3. Garrett Leigh and Heidi Cullinan

leigh cullinan

In the M/M romance genre, there are no authors that I trust more than Leigh and Cullinan when it comes to writing beautiful, realistic characters. Leigh’s Misfits is at the top of my recommendations list, and Cullinan’s Love Lessons series is RITA nominated and achingly perfect.

If these authors paired up to write a novel, I hope it would be as poignant and heart-breaking as everything else they’ve written, with characters who leap off the pages and romances that are as close to perfect as any I’ve ever read.

4. Anna Zabo and A.J. Rose

zabo rose

Two of the most amazing BDSM authors in the M/M genre, Zabo and Rose are both on my to-re-read list. Zabo wrote Takeover and Just Business (one of my favorite books of the year so far!), about the power dynamics in the boardroom and the bedroom. Rose wrote the Power Exchange trilogy, about a cop investigating a series of BDSM-related murders who finds himself attracted to the lifestyle.

If these two authors paired up, I would be camping out to buy their books. They both write excellent, realistic BDSM romances. The power exchanges are gorgeous, the characters are interesting, and the books themselves are a blast to read over and over!

5. Neil Gaiman and Anyone

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Is this cheating? Meh, I don’t care! Neil Gaiman is a phenomenal and incredibly versatile author. He writes short stories that make you laugh, children’s books that inspire, and novels that have you gasping for breath. While most of his previous collaborations are with artists (particularly Dave McKean, who is brilliant!), he’s teamed up with a few authors in the past.

Gaiman has a really unique voice, and I think that could be combined with several authors with amazing results. Imagine him writing a historical magic novel with Susanna Clarke or Zen Cho, or an urban fantasy with Maggie Stiefvater? I’d even love to see a collaboration between him and his wife, Amanda Palmer. YES PLEASE!


Who are your dream team authors?

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Sick in Bed Books

I came down with an awful cold over the weekend, and have finally been sent home by the doctor. Since I’m out of work for the next couple of days, I’m pulling out my favorite comfort reads. These are the books that I read over and over, that always make me feel better.

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Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, about a society that exists underneath London. I’m actually listening to the BBC production right now, with the voices of James McAvoy and Natalie Dormer (girl crush sigh).

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I’m constantly amazed by how amazing The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern is. I’ve read this book probably a dozen times, and every time it’s as good a read as the very first time I opened it. Magic and circuses and gorgeous characters, it’s perfection in book form!

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Such a classic. Harry Potter literally changed my life, and I still have my first copy of The Sorcerer’s Stone (with pages falling out, water stains, and a few pen marks from where my youngest sister got ahold of it). Hmmm… I could really go for a Pepper-Up Potion right now! (PS, I’m a Hufflepuff. No shame!)

So now I’m going to curl up in bed with my tissues, Kindle, and heating pad. But I’d love to hear what other people’s favorite comfort reads are! What do you (re-)read when you’re feeling down or sick?

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Read the Most Books From

Top Ten Tuesday Simpsons

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This seems like a really fun meme, so here goes!

Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for hosting this meme. Today’s list is Top Ten Authors I’ve Read the Most Books From. If we’re going based solely on numbers, the Animorphs or Boxcar Children books from my youth probably win (58 and more than 100, respectively). But in terms of books from my current bookshelf, here are my top ten:

Neil Gaiman Simpsons

Neil Gaiman (14): Author of urban fantasy/magical realism novels for adults and children.

Abigail Roux (14): M/M romance author best known for the Cut & Run series.

Anne Rice (14): Horror author whose been writing vampire novels since before you were born.

Harry Potter Simpsons

J.K. Rowling (12): Not just the Harry Potter author, but also writes delightful crime mysteries!

Lord of the Rings Simpsons

JRR Tolkien (11, plus several academic works for my degree): Fantasy, Middle- and Old-English poetry

Jasper Fforde (8): Alternate-universe surrealism/humor, absolutely brilliant!

Shakespeare Simpsons

Shakespeare (8 + sonnets): Should be mandatory reading for everyone.

Roald Dahl (7): The best children’s novels ever written, in my opinion.

Narnia Simpsons

C.S. Lewis (7, plus several academic works for my degree): Narnia, of course!

Jane Austen (6, but that’s her entire bibliography!): Classic, gorgeous romance novels.

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There are a lot of authors who I really love, but they simply haven’t written more than three or four books, so this was actually a very difficult list to make. But I was watching The Simpsons while writing this post, hence the theme. Any of these authors that you’ve read?

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