Sunday, October 02, 2011

Week in Review (35) and Short Story Sunday - Week 4

Random Thoughts

I am feeling like I am not getting anything accomplished lately. I was running things through my head today and there is so much I want to do and I am not sure how much I will actually accomplish. For the reading aspect of my thoughts, I would really like to get my reading numbers up a bit more. I was doing very well at keeping my bookshelves looking neat, but my reading slowed down lately and the overflow is getting noticeable. I noticed this when the cc (charming comedian aka 'the guy') was talking on the phone the other day and told the person he was talking to his workout bench has become a book storage area. This is sadly true. Another thing I need to do is find a better spot for those books. Then, I want to read more R.I.P. books in October because there are still many kicking around that I was hoping to get to sooner rather than later. It didn't really help I was engrossed in Dracula earlier and my e-reader battery died. Is it really bad that my e-reader is only a year old and I want a new one? I really hate that I can't just plug it into the wall; you need to have a computer handy and sometimes that doesn't really work out for me. I wish I had known that before I picked out the Reader I wanted.

Then, some other things that are happening in October are: Continue on with Fragile Things read-along, read The Lantern for a new read-along, read Interview with a Vampire with Suey (and anyone else that is interested), read Northanger Abbey for Jane Austen Week at Historical Tapestry (not to mention watch a couple Jane Austen screen adaptations), and participate in Dueling Monsters 2011. Those are just the things I can think of right now. Oh, I also want to read The Two Towers after successfully re-reading The Fellowship of the Ring in September. October can either be a really awesome month or a very over-whelming one.

Challenge News

I finished Storm Front which counts for Peril of the Group Read for R.I.P.

Weekly Reads

210. Fly by Night by Frances Hardinge (Completed September 25, 2011)
211. The Dresden Files - Volume 1: Storm Front by Jim Butcher (Completed September 29, 2011)
212. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (Completed September 29, 2011)

Only three books... I am never going to make my reading goals for the year.

Weekly Posts

New Additions


Little Princes by Conor Grennan
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Die For Me by Amy Plum
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Into the Heart of the Country by Pauline Holdstock

Nothing this week...

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson (Macmillan Children)
The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson (Macmillan Children)
Twilight Robbery by Frances Hardinge (Harper Collins Canada)
Through the Glass by Shannon Moroney (Random House Canada)
Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman (Penguin Canada)
Before the Poison by Peter Robinson (Random House Canada)
In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood (Random House Canada)


Short Story Sunday - Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman - Week 4
In the introduction to Neil Gaiman's short story collection -- a wildly diverse assortment of horror, sci-fi, dark fantasy, poetry, and speculative fiction -- he explains the book's title: "Stories, like people and butterflies and songbirds' eggs and human hearts and dreams, are fragile things, made up of nothing stronger or more lasting than twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation marks."
Noteworthy selections in this undeniably exceptional collection include the Hugo Award winning "A Study in Emerald," which deftly blends Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's late-19th-century England with gruesome Lovecraftian horror; the Locus Award winning "October in the Chair"; an homage to Ray Bradbury that features the months of the year personified; and "How to Talk to Girls at Parties," a tale featuring two oversexed teenagers from an all-boys school in South London who stumble into a party full of what they take to be hot chicks but are in reality alien tourists! Also included are a brilliant American Gods novella ("Monarch of the Glen") and "Strange Little Girls," a series of, well, strange very short stories that first appeared in a Tori Amos tour book.

Like his previous short story collection (1998's critically acclaimed Smoke and Mirrors), Gaiman's Fragile Things is anything but; this is a powerhouse compilation that proves once again that Gaiman is a true master of short fiction. It's fitting that he dedicates this collection to three short story icons -- Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, and Robert Sheckley.
This is week four of the Read-Along of Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman as part of the R.I.P. Challenge. I will say now that I enjoyed this group of stories more than the previous batch.

Stories Read This Week:
'Good Boys Deserve Favours'
'The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch'
'Strange Little Girls'
'Harlequin Valentine'

'Good Boys Deserve Favours'
I actually went to talk about this story long ago because it was mentioned in the Introduction all ready and I got confused. This story was inspired by a piece of art by Lisa Snelling. If you want to see the piece itself Carl has posted a picture on his blog post for this week. I really enjoy Lisa Snelling's art and I do agree that Neil Gaiman and her go hand-in-hand. She has many pieces that were inspired by him and he apparently gets inspired by her art. The story itself was about another type of art, though. The art of music. This is the story of a little boy who plays the double bass as part of the school music program. It is said that if he takes care of the bass; the bass will take care of him. One day some visitors to the school ask him to play something for them and it is like something else takes over. I always have wished I had wonderful music abilities, but I lack the discipline. I could relate to this story because it echoes my own wishes when I was younger. The story is not entirely memorable, but still enjoyable.

'The Facts in the Case of the Departure of Miss Finch'
This is a circus story. I am finding that I really enjoy books that centre around circuses lately. This meant that when the characters in this book visit the circus, I got excited. The stories in this book are often someone after the fact telling the reader the events that happened. I think this would translate well to the audio book. I am really going to have reread this collection through audio at some point. This story also follows this idea. Miss Finch is an interesting character. You can tell from the very beginning that circuses are not really her thing, but it is she that gets chosen as part of an act. As a result she gets one thing she desires and that leads to an interesting story and obviously her disappearance. I enjoyed this story and am impressed by the inspiration for it and how it came out about. It is also connected to a picture which Carl has posted in his blog post as well. I think this will be one of my favourite stories from the collection.

'Strange Little Girls'
I am going to be very honest... I had no idea what this was trying to accomplish when I actually read it. I had to go back and read the Introduction to be reminded that it is meant to accompany the Tori Amos CD of the same name. I have never even heard that CD before, so I am afraid I was not entirely sure what to think. I honestly really need to listen to Tori Amos. I know so many people that love her and unless I have happened to hear something without knowing it, I am not entirely sure I have heard anything by her before.

'Harlequin Valentine'
This story was just plain strange. I am also not sure exactly what I made of this one, either. I think part of my problem is that the only time I have ever really had any experience with Harlequin is in Batman; and I didn't really pay much attention to her. I also imagine other than her spunk and energy, she is not exactly what Gaiman is working with in this story. This was actually included in a collection based on a roller coaster by Lisa Snelling. The writers included were each asked to write a story about the characters she included in the piece of work. Neil Gaiman is asked to talk about the Harlequin who takes the tickets. This story is creative, don't get me wrong, but I am thinking it didn't impress me as much as it could have.


  1. I would be totally overwhelmed by your reading schedule! Good luck and I hope you can make October awesome.

    Happy Birthday for Monday!

  2. I normally go back to the intro and reread it before I write down my thoughts but I completely forgot to do so with Strange Little Girls. Makes much more sense in context!

  3. Your plans for October look as dauntingly optimistic as mine do. I need October to last about twice as long as it will so that I can work in the stories and films that I want to experience this month. LOL!

    I know just what you mean about lacking discipline when it comes to musical instruments. I played the guitar for a brief period of time in my early teens and now of course I wish I had practiced and stuck with it as I think I would really enjoy being able to sit and play, but even as an adult I lack the motivation to pick it back up. As a kid I often longed to have something "take over" me so that I could suddenly play some instrument amazingly. That probably says something about me, and if I think about it too much I might not like what it says, ha!

    Love what you had to say about Miss Finch. It wasn't until just now that I realized that another reason I can identify with Miss Finch and feel some kindness towards her is that I always seem to get picked to go up on stage at events and I hate doing so. Once I get up there I am a good sport and have fun, but I never, ever actually want to do it.

    I'm a big fan of circuses in stories of all kinds. There is something both magical and creepy about them that I delight in.

    I'd be surprised if Strange Little Girls sparked a love of Tori Amos in you, and yet I do know people who really like it. Little Earthquakes is the album that even today makes me want to shout her brilliance from the rooftops. She is incredible in concert.

    Sorry you didn't like Harlequin Valentine much. I'm not sure why the story works so well for me, but it does. If you can track down any images of Snellings' Dark Caravan online I think you would enjoy them. Probably wouldn't change your feelings about the story, but in and of itself this larger work of Lisa's is amazing! It contains all kinds of moving parts and is wonderfully creative.

  4. Anonymous1:36 PM

    "Your plans for October look as dauntingly optimistic as mine do" - I'll echo both you and Carl on that one! Then again, I seem to say this about most months of the year, so maybe I should just get used to the fact that there are only ever going to be thirty (or thirty-one) days in a month!

    I'm sorry to see that "Good Boys" didn't stick out more for you! I thought it worked as a wonderful companion story to "Flints", and is a great example of Gaiman playing with the magical without having to go full-force with it. I also think that maybe "Strange Little Girls" belongs more in a book dedicated to the relationship between Gaiman and Amos, as it's not a great stand-alone story (although I LOVE this album and these stories remind me what I love about the album).

    I'm glad to see that everyone else got more out of "Miss Finch" than I did. I mean, I LOVED the circus aspect of it. Everything else? I think I missed something, because it just fell flat for me. I also had a much sadder reading of "Harlequin" than everyone else did, although I adored the story. There was just a sadness there that wouldn't stop nagging at me!

    Great thoughts, and awesome luck getting everything done in October that you need to - can't wait to hear your update for next week!
    - Chelsea

  5. Anonymous5:30 PM

    I absolutely loved Finch. I think part of it might be that Miss Finch reminds me a lot of my high school librarian, who was awesome once you got to know her, but she tended to intimidate people. It was one of my favorite stories thus far.

    I agree that HV was strange. I'm still not entirely sure what I think of it...

  6. That is cool that Miss Finch reminded you of a real person. Your description of that librarian is exactly what I picture Miss Finch to be like.

  7. If I had to choose (and I always hope I won't!) I think that I would say Harlequin Valentine is the best story we've read, though I love Miss Finch equally - wonderful that she reminded you of someone! HV can be read in the same way that American Gods can, or a retelling of a fairytale, following but subverting a tradition - so you know that the characters are archetypal, as well as real. Their realness could make it sad, but the story element transcends it. That's my thinking, anyway.

  8. **Cat: Yeah, it is a bit daunting, but I it can be a lot of fun, too!


    **Marg: I even listened to the CD and I still didn't love it.

    **Carl: I know. Several of my plans are your plans, too! I wish October was longer, too. It is my favourite month of the year, but I have just been too busy lately to do a lot of what I want to do.

    I was forced to play the piano as a child. I hated it and quit as soon as I was allowed. I just don't have a natural ability and my sister does. I always felt stupid for sticking with it when it all came so naturally to her. Now I wish I had learned how to play guitar. Lorrie's family is all really musical and I am not at all. I always feel like the odd one out!

    I never get picked to go up on stage and I really appreciate that. I hate that sort of attention!

    Yes, circuses. If you pop back over here, what was the book on circuses that you recommended? I wrote it down but now can't find it.

    I still haven't had time to watch the Tori Amos videos you sent me. There were a couple songs I really enjoyed on Strange Little Girls, but I wasn't amazed by it.

    I am just not sure I 'got' Harlequin Vampires. I am not sure what it was that made me hesitant. I am looking forward to talking about the next batch of stories because the entire reason for this buddy read, the story about Susan I was curious about, was included. I have lots to say and I am going to try to post ahead of time so it isn't a rushed together post.

    **Chelsea: Or, horrors, once a year they only give you 28 or 29 days in a month to get anything accomplished... And yet February always seems so long... (Very sick of snow at that point.)

    Yes, 'Strange Little Girls' was a strange thing to include, I thought. It something that is easier to appreciate when you are a fan of Tori Amos and I have never really listened to her before. I have heard lots of good things about her, though.

    I think the 'Finch' story won me over with the circus. I am a big fan of circus stories lately. If the story was set somewhere else, I might not have enjoyed it at as much. And, yes, I actually know what you mean about the sadness in 'Harlequin'. I never really thought about it until now, though.

    Thanks! I look forward to your update next week, too.

    **bookswithoutpictures: I am glad that Finch reminded you of someone. That's a very nice connection!

    I think HV is a story I need to think about a bit more. I mind think differently about it with a bit of time and a reread.

    **Carl: Same here. I just didn't really think of anyone myself that she reminded me of.

    **Geraniumcat: ah, yes, American Gods. One of these days I am going to finish that book! I really have no excuse to have not. Every time I pick it up I enjoy it, but then I sort of fizzle out. Your thinking makes me think differently about everything. I will have to keep your thoughts in mind should I choose to reread this collection in the future.


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