Review 6: Coraline & Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

Coraline and Other Stories by Neil Gaiman

9781408803455

About the Author

Neil Gaiman is an English author who writes comics, books, graphic novels, short stories, film and theatre and has won many awards for his work. He was a great reader from an early age and states that JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a major influence to him and he read it a great deal as a child. Gaiman started his career as a journalist and his first book was a Duran Duran biography. Gaiman now lives in the United States.

Blurb

When Coraline explores her new home, she steps through a door and into another house just like her own – except that things aren’t quite as they seem. There’s another mother and father in this house and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. Coraline must use all of her wits and every ounce of courage in order to save herself and return home … but will she escape and will life ever be the same again?

Elsewhere in this collection, a sinister jack-in-the-box haunts the lives of all the children who ever owned it, a stray cat does nightly battle to protect his adopted family, and a boy raised in a graveyard confronts the much more troubled world of living. From the scary to the whimsical, the fantastical to the humorous, Coraline and Other Stories is a journey into the dark, magical world of Neil Gaiman.

Review

I have been going through a bit of Neil Gaiman phase just recently so expect a few more book reviews of his work in the near future. Also this is the second book I’ve read in less than a month with a black cat on the front cover. My husband believes a theme is developing. 

Coraline

I was very excited to start reading this book, as a few of my family and friends had recommended it to me, and I had managed to avoid the film, so had no idea of the story. However sadly when I started reading it and was 20 pages in a young student of mine, an avid reader herself, saw it on the side and got very excited and told me the entire plot. So sadly the surprise of reading the story was no longer there. That did not stop me thoroughly enjoying it though.

Coraline to me is a little bit like Alice in Wonderland but instead of Coraline falling down a rabbit hole she walks through a mysterious door into a another flat exactly like her own with another mother and father, but who are not her mother and father. This other world seems like great fun to start with, these other parents want to spend time with Coraline and do not seem to be working all the time. However there is something dark and sinister about this other world and Coraline knows it is not right and must fight to save her own reality. 

The characters in this book are wonderful: Miss Spink and Miss Forcible the retired actresses who love to regale anybody who will listen about their times on the stage and the crazy old man upstairs who trains mice, but nobody has seen these wonderful mice, who Coraline is wary of. Then of course there is the haughty black cat who hangs around the gardens and Misses Spinks and Forcible’s Highland terriers Hamish, Andrew and Jock. These wonderful animals have parts of their own in the story.

IMG_2458

(My haughty black cat)

Coraline is a typical child who just wants to explore and do things, she gets easily bored and as it is school holidays, in a new house and area, she is all alone apart from her parents and neighbours. Coraline loves to be different, but her parents are very ordinary, they both work with computers from home and they work a lot, so Coraline does not get much time with them. 

Coraline’s adventure to save her reality is dark and mysterious and leaves you constantly wondering what will happen next. I did not want to put the book down and due to its short length I soon finished the story of Coraline.

On its own I rate this story 5 out of 5 stars. 

The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds

This was fantastic! I never would have thought of having my old favourite nursery rhymes  turned into an American gangster style private detective film. To start with I must admit I was a little confused and then it all started to make sense and I was hooked. At only 14 pages long this story was soon read with a mug of tea and a biscuit to accompany it. 

The whole new take on popular characters like Humpty Dumpty the criminal, Jack Horner the private detective, Cock Robin who sadly died before we got to know him, was amazing and really well thought out. 

I loved the atmosphere Gaiman created with this story, I was basically imagining it all as a black and white film and everyone had American accents talking about hooch and dames. I do think it would make a wonderful short film as Gaiman has written it all out already for the film makers.

A truly fantastic read and it made me see my favourite nursery rhymes in a different light. There is no turning back for me now, my nursery rhymes will always be set in American gangster times.

A massive 5 out of 5 stars for this amazing short story.

Troll Bridge

I did not enjoy this story sadly, I found it very depressing and in places annoying. The story is about Jack a 7 year old boy meeting a troll, and subsequently growing up with the knowledge of this troll haunting him. 

The thing I did like was the imagery of how Jack’s surroundings were changing, more roads and houses appearing, steam engines disappearing and being replaced by diesel engines and certain railway stations and lines stopping. Each time he returned to the place where the troll’s bridge was the landscape had changed again and Gaiman describes it all in detail, it really makes you feel like you are there.

The first thing I did not like was the description of the troll, it started good but what jolted me out of the narrative was Gaiman’s need to describe the troll’s genitals. I really did not find that necessary and I would not like a child of mine to read that at young age. It just seemed like he was trying to shock the reader and I did not think it was required.

The main thing I did not like was Jack, he was a very selfish character and as he got older he got even worse and with added nasty traits. By the end I was rooting for the troll.

I know this story is all about growing up and rites of passage but it just did not work for me, thankfully the other stories make up for what it is lacking. I would have been very annoyed if I had bought this as a separate book.

A disappointing 1 star out of 5.

Don’t Ask Jack

This is a very short story and in my opinion the scariest so far in the book. The story is about a Jack-in-the-box who lives in a children’s nursery and nobody knows where the toy came from. The parents think it is a lovely little box and like to show it on the shelf but the children like it hidden deep in the toy box.

This was a sinister read for me, probably because a jack-in-the-box is my worst nightmare. This spooky toy has a certain power over the children and they fear it, hence why they hide it and the reader is left wondering what exactly this toy actually does to the children.

I loved this story, a real good one to read at halloween.

4 out of 5 star rating.

How to sell the Ponti Bridge

I found this story rather long winded and a bit on the dull side. It did not really keep my interest and I struggled to read it all the way through. It just did not seem to flow very easily.

The story is basically about the biggest scam that was ever pulled off in the Seven Worlds, a futuristic world in another galaxy. However, it seemed based around 17th and 18th century ideas. 

Only 1 star out of 5.

October in the Chair

I really enjoyed this story and I loved the idea of the different months actually being people, whose characters reflect the months’ attributes. The story is about the twelve months meeting up and one month being sat in the chair and nominated to tell a story. The month who is in the chair is October and he tells a very sad and spooky story, just like a ghost story you would tell in October to celebrate halloween.

I just loved the interactions between the months and the jokes they make with each other. October’s story is very sad and moving and also terrifying. It really made me think and want to know what happened in the end, however Gaiman leaves us hanging so we have to make up our own minds as to what happens at the end of October’s story.

A riveting read that I could not put down.

5 out of 5 stars.

Chivalry

The first word I thought of with this is story is adorable, it made me smile and have a little giggle.

Basically the story is about a little old lady called Mrs Whitaker who finds the Holy Grail in a charity shop and buys it because she thinks it will look good on her mantelpiece. And of course there is a knight in shining armour, because what story about the Holy Grail does not have a knight in it?

Mrs Whitaker is a typical widow who goes once a week to collect her pension, meets with her friend, bakes cakes, potters about her garden and tries to be the best person she can be but who is ultimately rather lonely since her husband passed away. Galaad is a knight of the round table who seeks the Holy Grail and turns up on Mrs Whitaker’s doorstep. He is noble, kind, handsome and a perfect gentleman with a noble steed called Grizzel.

I truly enjoyed this story but I also found it a little sad in the end. To begin with I loved the character of Mrs Whitaker and thought she sounded like everybody’s ideal grandmother. Then I loved the idea that you could buy the Holy Grail from a charity shop for 30p and that Mrs Whitaker knew it was the Holy Grail but just wanted it to go on her mantelpiece. The icing on the cake was when Galaad turned up to begin his quest to get the Grail.

This feel good story was magical to read and I am so pleased I read it, however I was a little disappointed with the ending and that has affected my rating.

My overall rating for this story is 4 stars out of 5.

The Price

Now this story upset me greatly, especially as I have a black cat who I would do anything to protect. This story is a short horror story, that shows not to judge people by appearances. 

The story is about a black cat who fights every night to protect his adopted family from a great threat. The man who tells the story describes how his family take in strays and look after them and the strays either decide to stay or go on their way. However the black cat turns up and adopts the family but everyday the family notice he has more wounds on him and that he is getting weaker. The man tries to find out what is hurting the black cat and whether he can help.

I am not great with stories about animals that get hurt and so I found this story hard to read and digest but I did find it a good story and I enjoyed the narrative. The fact that this family always goes out of its way to help stray cats and happily pays the vets bills and feeds them and opens their home to them make this family every cat’s dream. So it seems that they deserve a guardian angel as a reward and this angel comes in the form of the black cat. The black cat I like to think has seen all the kindness this family bestows on cats and so decides to adopt them. 

Black cats always have a bad press and are considered bad luck and in the UK are always the last cats left in cat shelters. So I love that this story has turned the tables and made a black cat the hero, the knight in shining armour and the good luck charm to the family.

A really good read but a disturbing one for me that made me a little angry.

3 out of 5 stars.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties

The two characters Vic and Enn are typical teenage boys, one who is really good at chatting up girls and his friend who is very shy and awkward around girls, who tries his best but ultimately always sees his friend go off with a girl and is left somewhere at the party with nobody to talk to.

Vic and Enn are heading to a house party of a friend of theirs but when they show up it is clear that it is a different house party and they do not know anybody there. Vic immediately makes himself at home and starts to get along with the prettiest girl there and Enn awkwardly tries to take his friend’s advice and talk to the girls at the party. However as Enn talks to more girls you soon see that something is not entirely right with these girls.

The story is a very stereotypical plot of teenagers full of hormones wanting to drink, party and manage to go upstairs into one of the bedrooms with somebody. I must admit when I started reading it, I thought ‘oh no! Not another of these storylines’ but I should have trusted Gaiman, as he never goes for the ordinary mundane storyline. 

It was a good read but I was pleased it was a short story as it was not very engaging for me and left me unimpressed. If it had not been part of the book, I probably would not have read it.

3 stars out 5.

Sunbird

I did enjoy this story even if it was a little predictable, the idea of a club where people gather to eat as many different foods as they can and not care about the consequences on their body is brilliant. This is a club for very greedy people, who do not care if what they seek to eat is endangered or near extinction as long as they get what they want.

The members of the Epicurean Club plan to find and catch a Sunbird to eat it and their planned expedition is very amusing. 

The outcome of the story to me was rather obvious, but that did not stop me enjoying the story and having a good chuckle whilst reading it. The best part was I read this story whilst eating my lunch, which I thought fit in rather well. 

The characters were well written and all rather amusing, if anything I would have liked the story to be a little longer and the characters to be fleshed out a bit more, but then it would not have been a short story.

A good short story to read whilst on your lunch break. 4 stars out of 5.

The Witch’s Headstone

This has got be my favourite story of the book! I just loved everything about it and I have ordered The Graveyard Book so I can read the whole story as I believe this short story is a chapter from the book. 

The character Bod is wonderful, he is so kind and thoughtful and sweet natured, everything you would not expect from a child brought up in graveyard by ghosts. From the moment I started reading this story I was hooked and wanted it to be longer, I wanted to know Bod’s past and future – it was brilliant.

Bod is fascinated by the potter’s field and the reported witch who is buried there and after he accidentally meets her he wants to be her friend and get her a headstone as he finds it unfair that her burial site is not marked or remembered in any way. 

An excellent read that finished way too soon.

5 out of 5 stars from me and I hope The Graveyard Book is just as good.

Instructions

Confused! This last story? Or whatever it is had me very confused, yes it is a set of instructions but to what? I got my husband to read it and he said it was almost like instructions for a video game. I would not know anything about this as I was never allowed video games as a child so missed out on that whole thing, apart from the odd game I played at friends’ houses. 

It just had me confused and bored and to be honest I skim read it in the end. It was a really disappointing ending to me and I wish the book had finished with The Witch’s Gravestone.

Sad to say but the book ended with 1 star out of 5 for me.

My overall verdict on this book is 4 stars out of 5 because there were a few disappointing stories for me. However it is a great read and one that you can dip into and read a story when you have a few spare minutes. 

Thank you for reading my longest review so far on my blog.

I hope you have enjoyed it, please leave me a comment if you would like to discuss the book.

Purchase Links:-

Amazon

Kindle

Waterstones

Book Depository

Lady Book Dragon.

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