All posts by Laurie C

And Then What Happened?: Stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio (Audio)

cover image of StoriesIn his introduction to this short story collection by well-known novelists and short story writers, editor Neil Gaiman explains that the collection came about when he solicited fellow authors for stories that would make readers ask, “And then what happened?” He says that to him this is the hallmark of a good story, which I took to mean that a good story needs to have a strong plot, not just good writing or good characters, but it seemed to me as though some authors misunderstood and just left off the endings of their stories.

They did leave me wondering “…and then what happened,” but with annoyance rather than pleasure, as if I had been reading a Choose Your Own Adventure™ book with all of the possible plot permutations torn out of the back. After checking a few times to make sure I hadn’t messed up the track order on my iPod or missed transferring some of the stories’ endings onto it, I realized that some of the stories really did just end without a resolution. Ambiguous endings, fine, but these were beyond ambiguous. They were simply non-endings.

There were other really great stories that left me thinking about the characters and what may have happened next to them without making me feel as though the ending had been left off. Many excellent short story writers contributed to this collection, including Joyce Carol Oates and Neil Gaiman himself, but a best-selling novelist does not necessarily a good short story writer make.

Since I picked this audiobook out mainly because a couple of my favorite audiobook narrators read stories on it, I still enjoyed listening to Stories, though. Even the stories that weren’t as great as the others were still read very engagingly by star-quality audiobook narrators Katherine Kellgren and Jonathan Davis, along with two actor/narrators who were new to me on audio, but also excellent – Peter Francis James and Euan Morton.

All 27 stories have a fantastical element to them, and there’s a good representation of fantasy, s/f, and horror writers as well as authors like Carolyn Parkhurst, Jodi Picoult, and Chuck Palahniuk, and Stewart O’Nan, who aren’t known for writing in those genres.

Sample the audio edition of Stories: All-New Tales edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio here.

Read the AudioFile review here.

Stories: All-New Tales
Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, eds.
HarperAudio, 2010
978-0-7927-7273-6
18.25 hours on

Disclosure: I borrowed this audiobook through my public library. Yay for libraries!

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Art Geeks and Gardner Freaks: The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

Cover image of The Art ForgerWith its intriguingly tangled plot and multiple timelines, The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro is an entertaining peek into a fictionalized Boston art world – contemporary artists, dealers, and collectors – as well as a glimpse back a century and a half ago when Impressionists were the hot new thing and Isabella Stewart Gardner was collecting the art that she would eventually display in her iconoclastic museum in Boston’s Fenway neighborhood.

Living illegally in her small, untidy studio in the less-trendy end of the South End, Claire Roth is a painter still hoping to land a one-person show that will launch her career, after a scandal a few years earlier got her blackballed her with the art world’s gatekeepers. To make ends meet, she paints for a company called Reproductions.com, copying famous works that the company then sells to consumers looking for quality reproductions. Claire specializes in Degas reproductions, and is also researching and writing a book about Degas, but is mostly focused on creating her own work.

When owner of the most influential gallery in Boston, Markel G, asks to visit her studio, Claire thinks her big break may finally be looming, but she’s surprised when Aiden Markel seems more interested in her reproductions than her original work, and she is even more surprised when she finds out what he has in mind for her.

The Art Forger is loosely based on the actual history of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, especially the famously unsolved 1990 theft of several priceless masterpieces including a work by Degas, After the Bath, which figures prominently in the story. Isabella Stewart Gardner designed her home in the style of a 15th-century Venetian palace to be a museum, her own artistic legacy, displaying her extensive art collection in casual, homey style. Until she died in 1924, at the age of 84, “Mrs. Jack,” as she was affectionately known, lived on the fourth floor of the building, with the other three stories open to the public since 1903. Known as mischievous, fun-loving, and slightly eccentric, Isabella Stewart Gardner left the entire property to the public in perpetuity after her death, with the minor stipulation that the guardians of the museum never add, change, or remove anything. Ever.

To add to the sense of realism, the author of The Art Forger (who lives in Boston and teaches at Northeastern University) includes a fictional Boston Globe newspaper article and personal letters supposedly written by Isabella Stewart Gardner. The Art Forger’s fast-paced plot strikes me on the whole as extremely unrealistic and the characters are pretty sketchy; we learn a lot more about forgeries, Degas, and the minutiae of painting than about Claire herself, even though she narrates. But Isabella Stewart Gardner herself is supposed to have said “Don’t spoil a good story by telling the truth,” and The Art Forger is a good story – thought-provoking enough for a book club and entertaining enough for a casual read.

The Art Forger
Shapiro, B.A.
Algonquin Books
October 23, 2012
978-1-61620-132-6
368 pp.
$23.95, U.S.

Disclosure: I received a free advance reading copy of The Art Forger, signed by author Barbara Shapiro, from the publisher during Book Expo America last June.

Ten Signs You’re Obsessed with Book Blogging and #Bloggiesta

Today is the last day of Bloggiesta, hosted by Suey (@sueysays) at It’s All About Books and Danielle (@the1stdaughter) at There’s a Book. If you’ve never heard of Bloggiesta, then you’re probably not obsessed with book blogging. But if you’re here today because of Bloggiesta, then see whether these signs of obsession apply to you.
And, yes, #5 really happened to me this morning. (We haven’t been able to catch it, and the little thing gets bigger and more brazen every day!)Bloggiesta badge

Ten Signs You’re Obsessed with Book Blogging

1. You couldn’t possibly finish your Bloggiesta to-do list in a week, much less a weekend.

2. You appreciate when authors use initials instead of first & middle names (e.g. NK Jemisin) because it’s Twitter-friendly.

3. You’ve started to #think in #hashtags.

4. When you see a new book cover, you think about how good it would look on your blog.

5. You sit still so long with your laptop, commenting on book blogs, that a mouse strolls out from under the chair beside you.

6. You’ve signed up for so many book blog challenges, it’s a challenge to keep them straight.

7. You’ve stopped being jealous of other bloggers’ Mailbox Monday and In My Mailbox posts, and are just relieved you don’t get as many books to review in a month as they do in a week.

8. You pore over blogrolls, hoping for the thrill of seeing your blog listed.

9. Your family doesn’t recognize you without the glow of the computer screen lighting your features.

10. You barely have time for reading books.

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