As is so often the case for my second book review of the week, I’m reviewing a short book because I needed to finish something quickly. It’s not necessarily a bad strategy as there are some really good short books out there but it still feels like a bad reason for picking something up. Although, I don’t think I’d ever regret picking up a Neil Gaiman. Well, I didn’t like The Ocean at the End of the Lane when I read it but I suspect I missed something there. After all, the majority of people rave about that book. I keep meaning to give it a reread but I’m still wary. But that’s beside point. This time, I went back to a classic Neil Gaiman story. One that feels so Gaiman. There’s Norse mythology, an odd (literally) protagonist, and Chris Riddell illustrations. I decided to listen to the audiobook at the same time because I needed the comfort of his narration.
What have you been reading this week?
So, second lockdown is proving to be just as much fun as the last one. I feel like I’m having mini breakdowns every other day despite the fact that my workload has dramatically decreased in the last week. I don’t know what’s going to happen workwise. At least they haven’t furloughed me. Still, I would be able to get more reading done. Thanks to some super short reads, I’ve managed to get quite a how count this week. Most of them are too short to review fully, so it means I’m still behind on my reviews for next week. How does this always happen?
What is the first line of your favourite book?
I sometimes think that a memorable first line is a bit of a curse. I know that might sound crazy. After all, authors go through a lot to try and find the perfect opening to draw people in. Surely it must be on the major keys to success? But think about it. What if you have a really great opening but the rest of the novel can’t live up? Every time I see rundowns of books with the best first lines, I see plenty of books that I don’t really care about. Pride and Prejudice? The opening is iconic, certainly, but I find the rest of it rather bland. 1984? The opening promises so much that the repetitive and long novel can’t fully deliver. So, a great opening line doesn’t always indicate a 5 star read. But what about my favourite reads? Do they all have attention grabbing first lines? Do they pass the first line test? Let’s find out.
As I said in my Sunday Rundown yesterday, I’ve been struggling with reading so far this month. I’ve got loads of great books to read and I’m really looking forward to starting them. The only problem is, I just can’t seem to sit down and concentrate. Every night last week, I tried to read but I always started really late. It’s partly to do with the month I think. January is the worst month of the year. It feels so long. I’m sure time slows down. We’re all tired after Christmas and all of the food is weighing us down. The weather is miserable and there’s nothing going on. All around us, people are preaching about their new gym lifestyles by posting endless selfies (even though we all know it will last all of 3 weeks). People are going vegan or alcohol-free and feel the need to rub it in our faces every 5 minutes. January is a bad month, so forgive me if I’m not quite in the swing of reading yet. But I do have a plan. I’m going to binge audiobooks all month until I feel ready to read physical books again. That way, I don’t fall into a dreaded slump and fuck up my whole year.
During my second or third year of university, Coraline was playing at our campus cinema. I say cinema. What I’m actually talking about is a lecture hall that had a huge projector in the back and really uncomfortable seats. Don’t get me wrong, it was really useful to have somewhere that showed films on campus but it was hardly a comfortable experience. But I still went with some of my flatmates. On the bus on the way home, we were sat in front of a group of people who’d also been there. One member of the group was loudly and confidently saying “you can tell it’s directed by Tim Burton. It was so similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas.” It certainly took all of my self-control to not turn around call him an idiot. I feel bad for Henry Selick. He’s been responsible for so many great films but he so rarely gets the credit. The fact that The Nightmare Before Christmas is also called Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a bit crazy. I guess it was a marketing strategy and, if it was, it bloody worked. But it does mean Selick gets forgotten about.
As you’ll know if you read my last Sunday Rundown, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and listen to an audiobook ever weekend. This means I’ll hopefully be able to keep up with two reviews a week. It also means that I’ll get through more books a week. I don’t think listening to them at work as I did with The Diary of a Bookseller. It was fine for a non-fiction book but I don’t think I can keep track of the narrative of a story. Most of my job involves writing and researching. It’s not the kind of thing you can do and still pay attention to a book. But, I can try and get one finished when I have a free weekend. Stick one on as I tidy or take photos for the upcoming week. Then, if I’ve nothing else to do, I can just lie in bed and relax for a bit. This week, I had an urge to revisit an old favourite. The fact that’s it was also read by Neil Gaiman himself was just an added bonus.