Review: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman has a few different spots in my heart…the first is that he writes brilliantly and beautifully as so few can do. His style is both unique and refreshing. The second thing is the sound of his voice. It makes me near swoon. I could listen to him speak all day. I never get tired of it. Finally, he is one of the only writers that I actually enjoy a great deal of his short stories. I’m not a short story person really. However, I really do find myself enjoying some of his tales. I also love that he takes the time to explain where the stories come from. Sometimes those super short blurbs are more interesting than the actual story! They certainly almost always add to the story as well. If I had a complaint about the formatting of this novel it would only be I wish the blurbs came right before each story (or perhaps the end). Instead they are all in the start of the book so you have to go back and forth…or if you read the book from start to finish, you forget what little blurb inspired the story in the first place. Yes I know you can go flip back and forth…however, if you’re trying to listen to the audiobook (AGAIN! The second thing! HIS VOICE!!!) it’s not as easy to do.

Some of my all time favourite short stories can be found in this collection. I shall only mention one…”The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”. If you can find a copy or a recording of Neil reading it PLEASE DO!!! (it’s also on the An Evening with Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer cd, which is where I first heard it)

Finally Trigger Warnings…The term. I find it hard to express how I feel about trigger warnings and how silly it has sometimes became in social media. I’ve seen trigger warnings posted such as “dog”, “fat”, “diet”, really this list is endless. And no these were not instances of someone trying to be funny…these were honest to goodness trigger warnings….I’m no one to judge….however, I don’t believe we do ourselves or anyone else living in a censored world of padded rooms full of insulated words…

Again, I’m not a judge or an expert…and I’m not a writer, but my friend, Mr Gaiman is…I found his introduction was spot on for me. It’s exactly how I wish I could explain how I fell about “trigger warnings”…yeah, it might be a bit of an overkill, and you might not want to read it, but I am going to include it anyways…hahaha…if you decided to read it, I hope you’re lucky enough to be able to imagine Neil reading it (I pretty much do his voice inside my head ANYTIME I read one of his books now). Here it is…the introduction of the book:

There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

I first encountered the phrase Trigger Warning on the Internet, where it existed primarily to warn people of links to images or ideas that could upset them and trigger flashbacks or anxiety or terror, in order that the images or ideas could be filtered out of a feed, or that the person reading could be mentally prepared before encountering them.

I was fascinated when I learned that trigger warnings had crossed the divide from the internet to the world of things you could touch. Several colleges, it was announced, were considering putting trigger warnings on works of literature, art or film, to warn students of what was waiting for them, an idea that I found myself simultaneously warming to (of course you want to let people who may be distressed that this might distress them) while at the same time being deeply troubled by it: when I wrote Sandman and it was being published as a monthly comic, it had a warning on each issue, telling the world it was Suggested for Mature Readers, which I thought was wise. It told potential readers that this was not a children’s comic and it might contain images or ideas that could be troubling, and also suggests that if you are mature (whatever that happens to means) you are on your own. As for what they would find that might disturb them, or shake them, or make them think something they had never thought before, I felt that that was their own look out. We are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.

But so much of what we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: we need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.

We build the stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what they see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.

There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.

I wondered, reading about the college discussions, whether, one day, people would put a trigger warning on my fiction. I wondered whether or not they would be justified in doing it. And then I decided to do it first.

There are things in this book, as in life, that might upset you. There is death and pain in here, tears and discomfort, violence of all kinds, cruelty, even abuse. There is kindness, too, I hope, sometimes. Even a handful of happy endings. (Few stories end unhappily for all participants, after all.) And there’s more than that: I know a lady called Rocky who is upset by tentacles, and who genuinely needs warnings for things that have tentacles in them, especially tentacles with suckers, and who, confronted with an unexpected squid or octopus, will dive, shaking, behind the nearest sofa. There is an enormous tentacle somewhere in these pages.

Many of those stories end badly for at least one of the people in them. Consider yourself warned.

Until next time…
Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

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Review: Star Wars Little Golden Books

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So you may’ve heard about this movie that came out last Friday.  Not a big deal, really. Just a sequel to a little sci fi series…

Combine the epic saga that is Star Wars along with possibly the most nostalgic book medium of many of our childhoods and you get this.  The creators of Little Golden Books, those of The Poky  Little Puppy fame, have put together the perfect gift for Star Wars fans.

This little gem of a set condenses each of the six movies into one neat little golden-spined package.  Each story is accompanied by outstanding retro illustrations, and the scary scenes & violence have been nicely toned down as much as possible without losing the story.

These books will appeal to kids of all ages. Older readers will enjoy the memories from their childhood while at the same time adding another element to their no doubt very large Star Wars collection. And, as I’ve tested these on some very willing seven year olds, I can promise younger readers will devour them as just good books. Guaranteed to become favorites!

~Thalia

Buy It Now:STAR WARS LITTLE GOLDEN BOOKS

 

 

Review: Slade House by David Mitchell

24499258Anyone that knows me already knows I am not a huge fan of short stories…However, there have been a few stories in anthologies that I have read that have helped me find some new (to me) authors that I want to read more of. This novel isn’t part of an anthology, however, it was interesting enough and entertaining enough to make me add Mitchell to a list of authors that I want to read more of. I did love the different characters that each told a new chapter in this book. I loved the concept of Slade House. The only real complaint I can make is that I wanted more. I wanted the full meal deal and not just the fast food shortened version I received. It was also more than a little bit creepy. A perfect late autumn read. Even better if it’s on a cold night whilst a storm is brewing outside…that way you have a valid excuse to hide under some warm covers…

I can’t wait to read another (longer) work of David Mitchell so I can read it, review it and share my thoughts of with fellow readers….

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by Netgallery for an honest review

Buy it now Slade House by David Mitchell

Review: August, October by Andrés Barba

25074166It’s hard to write a review for a book that you cared nothing about. As with all books I read, I went into this one with high hopes. Having read the description I found myself intrigued with how the author would handle this story. At the end of the day, I wasn’t happy. Nothing about it made me comfortable. The fact that the main character goes back at the end to seek some sort of….I don’t even know….Forgiveness? Justification? Admission? Redemption? Repentance? Again….I don’t even know….the fact that he goes back in the end…and the way it was handled…it just somehow made it even worse in my eyes. Doesn’t matter if the girl saw no wrong in what he did….it WAS wrong….it doesn’t matter if he physically had intercourse with her or not….it WAS wrong…the fact that she was mentally challenged? That made it even MORE wrong (if that’s even possible).

I don’t want to bash this author. I don’t even want to make this an issue over rape vs ???? what could I possible insert here to replace what happened in *anyone’s* mind? I….okay….I’m just flummoxed as to anything to say about this book…I always try to stress to people who I believe a negative review from me or anyone else shouldn’t really detour someone from giving a book a try…that it might just be me that didn’t connect with the book….I often go away from a book that I didn’t enjoy and know just the right person that might love the book….with this one, I’m just hard pressed to find anyone that would enjoy it. I don’t like saying that…

After still pondering how I could write a review with at least one redeeming thought the day after, I can only come up with this…

When Tomas’ aunt is dying she makes it very clear that she has come to the end of her life and is very disappointed that she is quite *ordinary*. This theme is often seen throughout the novel. As Tomas reflects on how he viewed his parents and how he sees them the night as they sleep…again, no longer larger than life, but ordinary…

I am left with this thought….There are much worse things in life than to be *ordinary*. Tomas and his *friends* are a perfect example of this. Perhaps Tomas plays along to the tough crowd hoping to avoid this *ordinariness* that he is so afraid of becoming….but in the process he loses all hope for ordinariness, let alone greatness….

Until next time…

Urania xx

ARC provided by Edelweiss for an honest review

Buy it now August, October by Andrés Barba

Review: Cocktails in Chelsea by Nikki Moore



If you like chick lit, this is a perfect lunchtime read. One hour of fun-filled romantic tension, with relatable main characters and a setting that holds your interest. The alpha male has personality, tenderness, and toughness. Sofia’s efforts to impress provide some laughs, and her eventual return to “herself” warms the heart. 

Cocktails in Chelsea grabbed me right out of reality for a while, ordering cocktails in a posh bar, and falling in like at first sight with a guy who’s much more than the bartender. 

-calliope

Only 99¢!!!

Buy COCKTAILS IN CHELSEA

Review: Eleven Kinds of Loneliness by Richard Yates.

114475I’m not a fan of short stories. Not a fan at all. I generally think that they can always include more, and I’m never satisfied with the outcome. I held this opinion upon opening up the first pages of Eleven Kinds of Loneliness, but was soon proved that this collection would defy my firmly held stances on the genre of short stories.
This collection by Richard Yates (perhaps most famous for his debut novel Revolutionary Road) contains 11 stories that each deal with the theme of loneliness and the different ways in which it manifests. Yates is an author that really understands the intricacies of human nature. He has the ability to write a story in which the circumstances you may never have experienced in your life, but somehow, you completely understand where the character is coming from, and you can actually feel what they are feeling. In a lesser author’s hand, these stories could easily be turned into sentimental sob stories that possess a real “I’m a victim” type attitude. However, Yates understands that no one is perfect, and that human emotion is raw and gritty.
The only other author that I can think of that even comes to close to representing the complexities of human behaviour, is Jody Picoult. Imagine Picoult’s style of realism, but take away the occasional romance and sentimentality, and you have Yates. The controversial elements of Picoult’s stories are also present in the stories of Yates. However, Yates was writing in the 1960’s, not 2013 where we have the benefit of contemporary psychological analysis and the freedom to write what we want. This is why the reader can really connect with Yates’ stories; the true definition of a timeless author.
If you really like stories that reflect real life, stories that you can connect to, and you don’t mind being depressed for the next few hours, then give Yates a go. If you are looking for escapism and feel good stories, then Yates is most definitely for you! ~ Pegasus.

You can buy this collection here (along with his famous debut novel): Revolutionary Road, The Easter Parade, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness (Everyman’s Library (Cloth))