A review of Everything to Lose: A Novel by Andrew Gross.
The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell (Harper Design, $39.99, 320 pages)
Neil Gaiman describes his work as making stuff up and writing it down.
Where to begin? The perfect biographer, the physical book (a large one), the captivating stories and their history coalesce to provide the fortunate reader with the feeling of truly experiencing Neil Gaiman. Audrey Niffenegger, author of the ghost story Her Fearful Symmetry and fellow Brit, sets the mood for Hayley Campbell’s thorough exploration into the evolution of Gaiman, to date.
If there is one thing that characterizes Gaiman as a writer (and McKean as an artist for that matter), it’s that he likes to keep moving on, a habit that was no doubt born during his time as a journalist and seeing writers being trapped in boxes from which they can never escape.
I’m a relative newcomer to the world of Neil Gaiman. The only work of Gaiman’s that I’ve read – and it happened in one sitting, is The Ocean at the End of the Lane. The provocative little novel piqued my curiosity. Who would write in this style and what sort of person are they in everyday life?
Biographer (and model) Campbell establishes her bona fides by explaining that she met Gaiman in 1992 when she was just six years old. He was a houseguest and, based on her dad’s enthusiasm at the visit, she knew he was special. Oh, and he was the author of her favorite childhood story. Their friendship has continued to the present. Campbell had free run of the vast archive of his work, mostly stored in the attic of his home.
The Art of Neil Gaiman is appropriately named. Gaiman made conscious and sometimes not-so-conscious decisions to become a writer. At times he took odd assignments to provide himself with food and shelter. Regardless of the job outcomes, it is clear that Gaiman searches for the lesson and value in his experiences. As a writer for magazines, he learned to quickly produce a finished piece. His habit of taking notes of ideas as they occur to him has provided him with a wealth of material.
The numerous illustrations are widely varied – photocopies of scribbled notes, childhood pictures, sketches for various projects and illustrations from finished works. The book is easy to read and engaging. Each page entertains the reader.
I savored the vignettes along with meals. There was no urgency as one feels with a mystery novel. The unfolding tale of Gaiman’s development as an artist is fascinating. The sections are arranged in quasi-chronological order. Some contain parallel time frames but different aspects of his development as a writer.
So, just what sort of person is this artist in everyday life? Neil Gaiman has a genuine appreciation of readers as well as being a kind person. Oh, and his imagination is boundless!
This book will remain a permanent part of my library.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
You can read a review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (by Neil Gaiman) here:
The Bride Wore Size 12: A Novel by Meg Cabot (William Morrow, $14.99, 400 pages)
Heather Mills is used to having her cake and eating it too, but this time her cake just might be cooked. Her wedding cake, that is.
Prolific author Meg Cabot delivers a new and very funny installment to fans of her Heather Wells series with The Bride Wore Size 12. Heather, a former teen pop singer, works at New York College – a fictitious private school in the city, where she is the assistant dorm director. The setting is ripe with possibilities for mayhem and humor.
The dialogue is snarky and remarkably upbeat considering Heather – who narrates the tale, is swamped by unanticipated drama at the beginning of the school year. Back-to-school events for incoming freshmen and a death in the dorm keep getting in the way of a more important matter – planning for her upcoming wedding to private investigator Cooper Cartwright.
The dorm residents include the son of a wealthy Middle Eastern king, numerous students whose helicopter parents insist on changing the room assignments to place their darlings in the best suites, and a core of resident assistants who help Heather manage the chaos – sometimes with cocktails. The politics of her job are enough to drive the average person bonkers; however, Heather has weathered more stressful situations in her prior career as a performer. Her mom ran off with Heather’s money and her manager to Argentina which necessitated the assistant dorm director job. She relies on her boundless energy and help from Cooper – and some alcohol, to solve the murder and get to the altar on time.
Meg Cabot’s audience clearly overlaps with those of writers Lisa Scottoline and Lisa Lutz. Together these three zany writers have provided many happy reading hours for this reviewer. Keep those book rolling off the presses, ladies!
Skating Under the Wire: A Mystery by Joelle Charbonneau (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 304 pages)
For a complete change of pace, but with a wedding theme as well, pick up the latest book in the roller-skating series by Joelle Charbonneau – Skating Under the Wire. Rink owner Rebecca Robbins is making a go of the business she inherited from her mom. The EstroGenocide women’s roller derby team now has a large and enthusiastic fan base. Rather than return to Chicago and the life she had before her mom’s untimely death, Rebecca has decided to stay in Indian Falls. Her grandfather, Pop, the senior citizen Elvis impersonator lives there, as does a rather handsome large animal veterinarian named Lionel whom Rebecca is dating.
Rebecca’s best friend Danielle is about to be married to the local preacher and Thanksgiving will be here soon. Rebecca is determined to be a super maid of honor for Danielle. The wedding shower for Danielle is held at the local senior center. As the presents are being opened, one of the ladies is missing from the festivities. She is found dead in the TV room! That’s mystery number one.
An intimate Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment above the roller-rink is the other obligation that Rebecca has on her literal plate. Thanksgiving has a strange meaning for the folks in Indian Falls due to a ten-year string of burglaries. You can count on Rebecca to create her own extravaganza as she turns a simple holiday dinner into a mass event all the while following clues and odd happenings to solve her most challenging cases yet.
Review copies were provided by the publishers.
You can read a review of Joelle Charbonneau’s earlier book, Skating On the Edge: A Mystery, here: