As a general rule, I steer clear of short stories. I am almost always heartbroken or disappointed when I come to the end of one, either because I am unhappy with the story or am wondering why the author would leave me in a lurch and not just make a novel (or a series if I'm feeling greedy) out of the story. So, I generally don't read them, but I make exceptions for books gifted to me, those highly recommended by readers whose opinions I trust and respect and compilations that have been put together by one of my favorite authors. For instance, nothing could have kept me from reading Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler last summer. Similarly, I knew I had to read this book by Neil Gaiman.
It usually takes me a little while to get my footing when reading Neil Gaiman, but I power through the first few chapters, always knowing that it will pay off. The problem is that strategy doesn't quite work when reading short stories. Which means there were a couple stories that were lost on me entirely, and others, which for me, seemed to end at the precise moment I was hooked. As you can imagine these instances were quite frustrating and reminded me of why it is so rare that I read anything besides full length novels.
There was one particular recurring theme around time that popped up in a number of stories, which really made me want a novel. I subconsciously strung those stories together trying to allow them to occupy the same universe to create a larger story, but really what I'd like is a new Neil Gaiman novel with all the nuances of these various stories more fully explored because they were fascinating. My favorite was the story that corresponded with the month of January in "A Calendar of Tales." I would tell you how glorious it was, but given how short it is, anything I would say would ruin it. So just trust that it needs to be read.
All in all, the sum total of these stories is brilliant. I actually read a few that felt like perfectly complete packages and didn't leave me feel like I'd missed out on something, which felt a bit like spotting a unicorn. The ideas explored in each of these little gems are so imaginative and intriguing, that even with the frustrations I expressed earlier, this is definitely worth the read.