The Graveyard Book

The Graveyard Book CoverWith a blurb by Diana Wynne Jones on the front stating “The best book Neil Gaiman has ever written,” I may have started reading The Graveyard Book with high expectations because that is high praise from a very talented author. I must admit the association did make me think of this book as the most Diana-Wynne-Jones-like book that Neil Gaiman has written if that makes any sense. I hope it does and that alone I think is praise in itself.

Though this wasn’t my favorite Neil Gaiman book, it is a solid story that I think likely resonates well with many younger readers while older readers probably understand more of the vague references to supernatural elements.

This book is the story of Nobody “Bod” Owens. He is a boy who is raised in a graveyard. The circumstances of his situation are rather dark and the opening of the book does well to avoid any gruesome details, but Bod is a toddler when is family is killed by a man named Jack. What follows is Bod’s story among the residents of the graveyard and occasional lessons with the living. His experience is unique and the lessons he learns are lessons for us all.

The mystery behind Bod’s guardian, Silas, as well as the man named Jack present a unique knowledge of the world as it once was and what it could become. It is an ancient knowledge that remains hidden from the living world yet remains tied to it. There is definitely a larger story happening beyond Bod’s point of view.

I actually bought this book in a collection alongside Coraline and Fortunately, The Milk with all three illustrated by Chris Riddell. This was the last of the collection I read but I enjoyed all of them. I will likely read this book to my own children when they are a bit older.

Happy Reading.


Orange 1Orange is a story by Ichigo Takano that follows a group of high school friends. I have not seen the show but have heard about this story multiple times and it always sounded interesting. The main character, Naho, is a young woman in high school who receives a letter from herself ten years in the future. She thinks it is a prank at first until the events detailed in the letter come true one after another. The letter talks about regrets her future-self has regarding certain events that are about to happen in the upcoming school year. The letter also details what she wished she had done differently. The primary regret is the loss of one of their friends, and the letter guides Naho to make changes so as to change the future.

With elements of time-travel, the story is intriguing through to the end. The group of friends is filled with colorful, unique characters who provide a wholesome experience as they all work toward the one goal of saving someone they hold dear.

Orange 2I read this story in the two-volume Complete Collection. Though there were times where I didn’t quite understand some character interactions (the primary conflict being the inability or failure to communicate felt repetitive or forced at times), I really did enjoy the story and gave it a small pass when it tried to explain or hint at how the letters were sent back in time. I think that was actually irrelevant to the overall story and explaining it would have taken away much of what the story was trying to accomplish. The focus is the group of friends and them treasuring the lives they have with each other and the time they get to spend together. The time-travel aspect is interesting and is a catalyst to the events of the story, but the focus on interpersonal relationships and communication is what makes this story worth a read.

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you wondered if things would have turned out differently if only you had said something or taken the time to better understand someone, then this story is likely one you will enjoy. Just remember, you can’t change the past, but you can make the effort to influence your future.

Happy Reading.

Neil Gaiman Accepts the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award

I was lucky enough to attend the presentation of the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award to Neil Gaiman this past week. I’ve been a big fan of Gaiman’s work for some time and even went a bit out of my way to see him about five years ago when he visited Kansas University. He is included in my list of influential authors in the On Authors section of this blog. The St. Louis Literary Award is presented by Saint Louis University (SLU), so this was a little closer to home for me and I was thrilled at the opportunity to go. The award was presented Thursday evening on April 13th and a follow-up Craft Talk was held on April 14th. I attended both and bought probably too many signed copies of his books including books I already had at home on the shelf.

Despite living near St. Louis nearly all my life, I never even knew the St. Louis Literary Award existed until this year. The award began in 1967 and has been awarded to Margaret Atwood, Stephen Sondheim, Salmon Rushdie, Joan Didion, Chinua Achebe, Joyce Carol Oates, and Tennessee Williams to name a few. And now it has been awarded to Neil Gaiman.

Neil is a treasure and it is always fun to listen to him give talks or answer questions, and it is also fun to read his books. I’ve put a few that I have not yet read in my list of books to read soon, including The Graveyard Book after he talked about how long it took him to finally write it (25 years from idea to publication!). SLU recorded both sessions mentioned above, and I’ve included the award presentation below (as it was the only one available at the time of this post) for you to view if you wish so you can get part of the experience I had. Being in person is quite different than a recording, but sometimes we have to settle for less or nothing at all I guess. Similar to how a story is always different on paper than what you have/had in your head.

The day before he accepted the award, or perhaps that very day, it was announced that Neil was on Time‘s list of 100 most influential people of 2023 (talk about timing!). Both accomplishments are well deserved and add to Neil’s long list of awards and recognitions. Despite it all, he is a humble man who still feels imposter syndrome. I could go on and on, but I’m sure you’d prefer to hear things from Neil himself.


Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of PilgrimageColorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage is a hell of a title by Haruki Murakami. This is the first novel by Murakami I have read. I was going to start with Norwegian Wood but ended up choosing this one after reading Murakami’s nonfiction book Novelist as a Vocation where he mentions this book as one he is particularly proud of (though I can’t recall the details).

The book itself is a quick read, or at least I read it quickly, because of the mystery-like nature of the story. The story follows Tsukuru Tazaki who is in his mid-thirties and meets a woman he thinks may be one he can fall in love with. They are dating and she convinces him to revisit his past so he can move past whatever is holding him back. The past in question is when his extremely close group of friends inexplicably cut him out of the group shortly after they all begin attending universities. This event deeply impacted Tsukuru and his expectation of relationships (both intimate and otherwise), and he has felt unable to develop or maintain relationships since this event.

The mystery of discovering why Tsukuru was cut off is intriguing and keeps the story moving at a quick pace. There are a few unresolved questions, not directly tied to him being cut off from his group of friends, that I felt should/could have been addressed but never were. The first involves a character named Haida but I won’t go into any details to avoid potential spoilers. The second, also no details, does not impact the overall story but might bug some people that no additional information is provided especially since it is indirectly related to the cause of him being cut off from the group. Keeping in mind that this entire story is about Tsukuru himself, the reader doesn’t need this information because his story does wrap everything up well, but I’m sure some readers want the answers to these questions involving other characters.

I have since started Norwegian Wood and it didn’t catch my interest as quickly as this book has, but I am still early one and will see how it goes. I may read more of Murakami’s works if I continue to get lost in his storytelling as so many people have. I’ve been meaning to read his work for a long time and have now finally gotten around to it. I have a copy of Kafka On The Shore as well. I think I do enjoy his writing style and I get why his books are well received. I’m going to see how these next few work out and see if I enjoy his work as much as I do the works of my favorite authors.

Happy Reading.

A Silent Voice

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 1I don’t know what it is, but there is something about A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima that speaks to me on a fundamental level. I first came across this story when I noticed the movie and was interested in seeing it, and then I finally watched it. This was a few years ago. I recently picked up the collector’s additions which combine the 7 volume serialization into two, hardback volumes that also includes interviews and supplementary materials. I read both volumes in two days.

This story is admittedly heavy. It covers hard topics and each volume opens with a warning label recreated here: “This manga contains depictions of bullying, ableism, physical and emotional abuse of children, depression, hospitalization, death of a loved one, suicidal ideation, and a suicide attempt.” Not exactly an enticing list, but these are also societal issues that are often overlooked, dismissed, and avoided, which is why I think this story is so important.

The main character bullies a deaf girl when they are young and he regrets this as the years pass which fuels his desire to atone for his past behavior. This development of empathy, the uncertainty of ones place in the world, and the inability to interact with others all lead to a story that I couldn’t stop reading. The core theme is communication (something I value highly). The entire story shows characters who struggle to understand each other both physically and psychologically. Even those without disabilities often cannot get their point across accurately or want to open up but shy away for various reasons.

A Silent Voice Collector's Edition 2Have you ever wished you could/would have said something to a friend or in a specific situation? Have you ever failed to speak up or defend someone who was bullied? Maybe not, but I think we’ve all encountered some barrier or failure of communication which has resulted in someone being hurt, confused, rejected, or otherwise misinterpreted to their detriment.

I think we can all work toward improving how we communicate. Some people listen to respond while others listen to understand. We should all work toward being the latter. In a perfect world, we would be able to telepathically transfer our knowledge of what we want to share, along with corresponding emotions, to another person so that they would instantly understand.

That may or may not be the perfect form of communication, but we are stuck with words. Scribbles on a page or vibrations through the air, how we communicate already includes mediums where we need to decipher what someone wishes to convey. The way we decipher communication is based on our personal experiences as well. In a way, it is impossible to truly know someone, but we can try our best to understand each other, and that is what makes this story incredible. It shows a group of people who at first cannot communicate but then work as hard as they can to understand each other.

Happy Reading.

P.S. I recommend at least watching the movie if you don’t want to give the books a shot. Even if it may be uncomfortable, I think it is beneficial.