“American Gods” Book Review


Author: Neil Gaiman

Publisher: William Morrow

Type: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Mythology

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Not wanting to give anything away about the story, all I will say, is that American Gods is the story of a war that’s brewing on Earth, in America no less, between the gods of old and the new gods of technology. Amid this growing battle, is Shadow, a recently released convict who finds himself encountering a strange man who goes by the name of Mr. Wednesday. What ensues is a strange and mind bending journey through the United States and all the ethnic groups and their belief systems which have created the country.

Thoughts:

American Gods is one of those books that I bought after my best friend told me that I had to read it since I love all things to do with mythology of any kind. After being told this, it still took me about a year or so before I finally purchased copy, selecting the 10th Anniversary Edition with the Author’s preferred text. It should also be noted this was the first book of Neil Gaiman’s I ever purchased for myself, all the other books I owned by him up to this point, my best friend (the one and the same) had bought for me as birthday and Christmas gifts. Yet, even after buying the book, it still sat on my bookshelf for another year. I finally picked up American Gods last month as I wanted to start reading it before the premiere of the television adaptation that Starz was heading up.

Having finished the book, managing to stay ahead of the show in my reading, my initial thought upon completion was “why did it take me so long to read this?” My best friend was right, I did love this book and it was right up my alley with my love of mythology and religion and how people’s belief systems not only affect them but society around them. For as Sam says to Shadow:

“I can believe things that are true and things that aren’t true and I can believe things where nobody knows if they’re true or not.”

This book posed the question of “what would happen if all the gods of old were brought to the new world and found themselves being forgotten as humans began to worship technology?” and it summarily answered that question.

I loved this story and all the detail that Neil Gaiman put into writing it. The small vignettes which were inserted at varying points throughout provided wonderful guideposts to help explain how all these vastly different gods found themselves in the United States as well as an idea of how the different cultures worshiped their deities to remember their heritage and what they had been taught as children. Reading this made me want to read more mythology, especially lesser known myths and gods that aren’t commonly taught, such as those from Africa that are not part of the Egyptian pantheon. Neil Gaiman has helped to remind me that not only is important to know the history of a people and where we came from, but part of that is also knowing their cultural and religious beliefs for all of those help to form not only a society, but we as individuals.

In the end, I’m glad that I finally read American Gods, I think it may be my new favorite book by Neil Gaiman. I’m also pleased that I started and finished it before the completion of the show on Starz, although now I must wait patiently for some of my favorite scenes to unfold on the show. If you are a Gaiman fan and haven’t read this book, read it already! If you’re a Gaiman novice but love mythology, pick this book up. Keep in mind this is not the easiest book to get through, but persevere and push through and let me know what you think.

 

“Lake Town” Book Review

Author: Jane Redd

Publisher: Mirror Press

Type: Science Fiction, Dystopian, Young Adult

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Having had her secret discovered by the Legislature, Jezebel “Jez” James finds herself on the run and being placed in the care and protection of members of the Lake Town. Being forced to leave behind both her home as well as her friend and love interest, Sol, Jez travels to the Lake Town with Reuben and other insurgent members. The story proceeds to flip between Jez’s experiences in the Lake Town where she meets Sol’s brothers and works with the members of the town to come up with a plan to infiltrate the Legislature; and Sol, who staying behind, has been captured and forced to work against the Legislature by joining the Faction.

As the time nears for the members of the Lake Town to infiltrate and destroy the city system, Jez is faced with the realization that although what they are about to do will save the lives of thousands, it may very well destroy the Sol, the man she loves and cannot live without.

Thoughts:

As with the first book, Solstice, I really enjoyed Lake Town. I was very pleased with the fact that it picked up exactly where the first book left off versus days or even weeks after the ending of the first book. With the book starting off this way, I was able to jump right back into things without feeling as though I needed too much of a refresher course. I appreciated the alternating chapters and viewpoints between Sol and Jez. I found that the author’s decision to write the book in this way better provided a more rounded picture of what was happening in both societies and how the endless rain had truly affected the human race and planet.

I really enjoyed getting to see the infrastructure and governing system of the Lake Town and how the endless rains had affected their population. Jez’s introduction to Sol’s brother, Jude, was interesting and I found myself not trusting him for reasons that I didn’t completely understand at first. As I continued to read of the Lake Town’s decision to use Jez and the fact that she’s a carrier to re-enter the city and activate the generators, which may or may not kill Jez, I found myself thinking of the old adage, “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Not wanting to give anything away, I will say this, I fell even more in love with these characters and cannot wait to see how the actions they have taken will affect them in the next book. I am interested to see if my suspicions about certain characters will proved true, or if the author will continue to surprise me. I must also say that if you haven’t read the first book, Solstice, make sure to read that one before diving into this. Unlike some series where you can come in on the middle and be okay, this is not one of them.

“The Night Strangers” Book Review


Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Crown Publishers

Type: Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Chris Bohjalian’s creepy thriller tells the story of the Linton family: Chip, Emily and twin ten-year-old daughters Garnet and Hallie. The Linton’s have moved to New Hampshire for what they hope will be a fresh start for their family, following Chip’s tragic plane crash of his regional jet into Lake Champlain. For Chip, the day started off like any other, with a normal taxi and take-off; unfortunately, the flight quickly went wrong when the plane hit a flock of geese causing dual engine failure and the inevitable crash into the lake. Despite Chip’s best efforts to safely land the plane, a la “the Miracle on the Hudson”, the majority of the passengers and crew aboard his flight die upon the initial impact or shortly thereafter due to drowning.

While Chip works to cope with the crash and discern what the ghosts who now haunt him want, Emily and the twins find themselves the center and focus of a group of herbalist women who are viewed as being witches by others in the town. As the ghosts push Chip closer towards harming his own family, Emily finds that not only does she need to protect her children from the father who has become distant and a stranger in their own home, but also from the neighbors whom she kept telling herself were just a harmless group of herbalists, yet are showing themselves to be anything but.

Thoughts:

From the very first sentence to the final page of the book, I was hooked on The Night Strangers. I found the depiction of the crash to be both engaging and wonderfully described, so much so that it caused me to reflect on my training as a flight attendant the different scenarios I’m trained for, to think about what kinds of actions I would be performing in that scene as part of the cabin crew. As I followed the family in their journey to their new town and house, I couldn’t help but pick up on what I viewed as influences on the author from other pieces of literature. The haunted house with whispers in the dark to the father, slowly driving him mad and pushing him towards murder made me think of both The Amityville Horror  and The Shining; I further thought of The Shining in the depiction of the twins. Although Garnet and Hallie are in no way shape or form as creepy as the twin girls in The Shining, there was still something about them and the keen interest the women of the herbalist club took in the girls that made me feel that there was something possibly supernatural within the girls themselves.

Anyone who has read a book by Chris Bohjalian will tell you that he is an amazing writer who really brings his characters to life and has an unbelievable knack for writing the female voice, but of all the books I have read by him I think that this may be my favorite in how he tells it. Most authors will tell and entire story in either first person narration, or third person; in The Night Strangers, Chris not only utilizes both first and third person narrations, but he also incorporates the second person narrator which was a truly unique and enjoyable method of storytelling to encounter as the reader. For those who are not familiar with second person narration, it is typically encountered in how-to books and cook books, for it’s when you as the reader are told what to do. In The Night Strangers, the second person is used when the reader is alone with the father, Chip. In these scenes, the reader is made to feel as though they themselves are Chip performing the different actions throughout the house. These scenes were some of my favorite parts of the book as it made me more sympathetic towards Chip as I was literally placed into his shoes.

In the end I was very satisfied with The Night Strangers, in no small part because it was an interesting and unique read which held my attention, but also because of how it was told. The only thing I had to complain about, it you can even call it a complaint, was a brief section in the book when Chip is reflecting on how if he hadn’t had the crash, he was on track to go from being the Captain on a regional jet to one day flying a Boeing 777. The issue I had with this is that that’s not how it works. In the airline industry, regional pilots can only transition from a regional plane (United Express, American Eagle) to a mainline aircraft (Airbus A319/A320 and Boeing 777, 747, etc.) if they interview with a mainline carrier (United Airlines, American Airlines) and are hired by that mainline airline. This was such a minor issue, and one that unless the person works in the airline industry or has family who works in the industry, the average reader wouldn’t even pick up on this, which I do recognize.

Despite my nitpicking of a truly minor detail to the larger story as a whole, I continue to be an avid fan of Chris Bohjalian. I will continue to read more of his books, and I’ll probably even return to this story at some point as I know that there are things I will pick up on with future readings.

 

 

“Raven Song” Book Review

Displaying Cover.jpgPhoto courtesy of: Author Assistant

Author:  I. A. Ashcroft

Publisher: Lucid Dreams Publishing

Type: Dystopian, Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Rating: 🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

Raven Song is a post-apocalyptic story in which the world as we know it burned and society has had to rebuild and find a way to survive in the charred remains of the time before. The story centers around Jackson, a smuggler, and a man with no memory of where he comes from. All that Jackson knows is that he is able to see ravens wherever he goes, this despite the fact that ravens are a long extinct bird. In contrast to Jackson is Anna, a woman out of her time. Anna is a woman who went to work one day, only to then wake over a century later in a box. Scared, unable to breathe, Anna finds herself being saved from the box she’s in by none other than Jackson.

What ensues is a story of two humans who despite being from different times, find themselves drawn to one another through an unspoken and not entirely understood connection. With government officials and those who believe in and practice magic working to track them down and do all that they can to either control, or if need be, kill them, Jackson and Anna come to realize just how much they need the other one to survive and to find out who they are, why they’ve been brought together, where Jackson came from, and what happened in Anna’s past that has caused her to be present 100 years in her future.

Thoughts:

I received a free copy of this book from Author Assistant in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this as the premise sounded interesting and like something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, this book did not live up to my expectations. I found it to be painfully slow-moving, and there were many times where I wanted nothing more than to walk away from it never to return; but, I persisted in pushing through in hopes it would pick up and get better. Despite reading the occasional paragraph or even page where my attention was fully captured, these moments of enjoyment did not last long and sooner than I would have like, I was back to plodding my way through the book.

Not only did the plot move way too slow, but I found that it posed more questions than it answered. I know that this is the first book in a series and that this book is laying the ground work for the later books, but it would have been nice is some of the questions that were posed were answered instead of sidestepping the issue and creating more questions. Having finally finished this book, I currently have no plans to finish the series.

“The Sleepwalker” Book Review

Author: Chris Bohjalian

Publisher: Doubleday Books

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Type: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Rating: 🌸🌸🌸🌸 out of 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸

Synopsis:

One morning, Annalee Ahlberg’s children wake to discover that their mother has disappeared in the middle of the night. Knowing that their mother suffers from sleepwalking, Lianna and her sister Paige immediately contact their father who is out-of-town for a conference along with the police and neighbors to get a search party going. With no clues to where Annalee went, aside from a small piece of fabric from her nightshirt which is found hanging from a tree branch by the Gale River, the search eventually fizzles out.

With the case having gone cold due to a lack of clues and a body, Annalee’s daughter Lianna works to understand both her mother’s sleepwalking and who she was as a person. As Lianna delves into her mother’s history, she finds herself being drawn to one of the detectives investigating her mother’s disappearance, Gavin Rikert. With mounting questions about: what drew her mother out of bed that night? what exactly Gavin’s relationship to her Annalee was? If her mother is in fact dead, where is the body? Lianna slowly puts the pieces of what happened that night together as clues prove to be slow in forthcoming.

Thoughts:

I was fortunate enough to receive a galley copy of Chris Bohjalian’s newest book, The Sleepwalker from the publisher and as with other books I have read by Mr. Bohjalian, this was a truly enjoyable and unique story to read. This is also going to be a hard review to write as I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll do my best. One of the main things I loved about this book was how much it taught me about sleepwalking and the different types of sleepwalking that exist as I knew next to nothing about this condition. The characters were wonderfully fleshed out and I found that I was just as frustrated as the main character Lianna was in her search to figure out who her mother was and what happened the night of the disappearance.

Upon learning what happened to Annalee, I couldn’t help but feel like Lianna in that I knew all along what happened that night, as the clues were provided to me earlier in the story but I didn’t want to believe that was what happened. The old adage, of often the simplest answer is the correct one came to me as it proved to be true. Despite silently berating myself for not figuring it out sooner, I still enjoyed the story and can’t help but marvel at the fact that once again, Chris Bohjalian has managed to weave such a complex and intricate story that not only held my attention but provided just the right amount of misdirection and red herrings to keep me second guessing where I thought the story was heading.

Even though I loved this book, and I love the writing style, I gave it a four out of five rating because I found the first part of the book to be a bit slow. Despite this, the book did pick up in pace and drama for me once I finally settled in and I ended up flying through the second half of the book with no trouble.

If you’re a fan of Chris Bohjalian, you definitely do not want to miss this book.

 

Top 12 Books of 2016

As 2016 draws to a close I can’t help but reflect on the past year and all the books I read. For the most part, the majority of the 102 books read I found entertaining and enjoyable, there were only a handful that I did not enjoy. Looking back on all of these books, I felt it was only right to select my top 12 books from the year. As I waded through the list of books, I decided it was best to select my top read from each month to help narrow down the contenders.

JanuarySalt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Salt to the Sea was my first introduction to the writing of Rita Sepetys and she quickly became a writer that I look forward to reading more from. This was a beautifully written historical fiction YA book about a very little known piece of World War II history. The story centers around four teens who are each making their way, amidst thousands of other refugees towards the coast in hopes of boarding the Wilhelm Gustloff ahead of the Soviet advance. This was a heart-wrenching and all too human story of the greatest tragedy in maritime history. This book was my top read for January because of how well Ms. Sepetys wove the story together and for moving me to moments of tears and joys as she told the story.

FebruaryAudacity by Melanie Crowder

Another historical fiction YA book, Audacity tells the story of Clara Lemlich, a young Russian Jew who emigrated to New York at the turn of the twentieth century. Clara found herself working in a factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and after harsh work conditions she went on to lead the largest strike by women in US history. This book made it to the top of my February list mainly for the way the story was told. This important story was told in verse and for me it brought the story to life that much more. Verse isn’t for everyone, but I think that this is a book that many would find enjoyable.

MarchDark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

Every so often I get in the mood for some poetry reading and I will look towards either a classic poet, or a more modern poet. In March, I found myself reading Amber Tamblyn’s book of poetry that looks at the lives of more than twenty-five of Hollywood’s actresses. The poems range from Marilyn Monroe to Sharon Tate, from the famous to the lesser known. The poems are insightful and raw, and the pictures that accompany many of the pieces are each unique to that poem and to the artist who drew it. I would love for Amber to one day write a male version of Dark Sparkler as there are plenty of male actors in Hollywood with dramatic stories of their own.

AprilNovember 9 by Colleen Hoover

This was my first Colleen Hoover book and I decided to pick it up after seeing so many rave reviews of it on Instagram. I devoured this book in a matter of hours and was left not only satisfied with the book as a whole, but left wondering how I had gone so long without reading it. Not only did November 9 quickly become my favorite read for the month of April, but it became one of my favorite books of all time. So much so, that I’m afraid to read any other books by Colleen Hoover in case they don’t live up to this one, but I’m sure I’ll get over that fear in the New Year.

MayScarlett Epstein Hates It Here by Anna Breslaw

Reading this book was like spending the afternoon with one of my best friends. Scarlett was the kind of fan girl that I was able to relate to as she reminded me of how obsessed I was with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when I was a teen. Now, I didn’t take part in the online communities or write Buffy fanfic, but I did make it a point to be home when it aired and I would shush anyone who tried to speak to me during that hour of the night. This was one of my favorite début of the year and I can’t wait to see what else Anna Breslaw comes out with.

JuneGirl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes

I found this book to be a very cathartic read, as I myself had experienced a trauma at the beginning of the year. I was able to relate to Maguire and her issues with anxiety so much so reading Girl Against the Universe aided me in dealing with my own anxiety and working to move forward in my own life. Both this book and the author, Paula Stokes, are on my favorites list because of what was an important read for me and because of the kind words I received from Paula Stokes when she read my review of her book.

JulyThe Call by Peadar O’Guilin

This YA horror story is one that literally haunted my dreams while reading it. Rather than reading the story in one sitting, I decided to draw out the anticipation of everything and as a result I would toss and turn at night dreaming of all the different possibilities where the book was going to go next. My nocturnal musings led to me only getting 4-5 hours before I was awake again and picking the book back up. I loved everything about this book and its unique take on the folklore of the fae in Ireland and what happened to them. This was the perfect book to keep one up reading late into the night.

AugustGirl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

I have recommended this book to so many of my fellow bookworms since reading it, I even filled out a shelf talker at the bookstore to further help promote it. Girl in Pieces is a story that needs to be told as it deals with some of the darker issues which exist in society and that some of us, our friends, or family may deal with. The story was raw and emotional in its sadness. Reading this book made me want to reach in and hug the main character, telling her everything would be all right and that she could count on me. Upon finishing the book, I was left wishing I had studied psychology  or social work in school and gone into counseling for teens.

SeptemberMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This was actually a re-read for me. I first read the book not too long after it was originally published and decided to revisit it after hearing they were going to make it into a movie. On my second read through, I found insights into the story and the accompanying pictures that I had missed on the first read through. Sadly, I still have not seen the movie, or finished reading the rest of the books, but those are both things I plan on resolving in the New Year.

OctoberThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

This 1920s retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet was so well written and uniquely done. I loved that for once, an author actually wrote about a minority female as their main character. The story was beautifully woven together and had so much rich insight into the history of Oregon in the early 1920s. The included historic pictures further added to the story for me since I was unaware of the vast majority of the facts which are covered in the book not having grown up in Oregon. I was fortunate enough to meet Cat Winters at a book signing and share with her just how much I enjoyed her book; I was even able to convince 4 other people (all strangers to me) who  were looking to read a diverse book to purchase it.

NovemberVassa in the Night by Sarah Porter

This retelling of a classic, and lesser known, fairytale was darkly enjoyable. Vassa was such a different story and unique in it’s telling that I flew through the book, and then proceed to read the original fairytale. Sarah Porter told this story so well, that I think she could give the Brother’s Grimm a run for their money.

DecemberBlack Moon by Romina Russell

The third book in the Zodiac series did not disappoint. The stakes continue to be raised, the new zodiac worlds which are introduced are just as stunning unique as those introduced in previous books and the cliff hanger ending left me screaming in shock and horror. This book quickly jumped to being my favorite book in the series thus far.

As previously stated, 2016 was a wonderful year when it came to reading. I read a total of 102 books, attended some amazing author discussions and books signings, made some new bookworm friends along the way. Looking forward, there are some amazing books coming out and I can’t wait to see which authors I’ll get to meet on their book tours and stops in Denver.

 

How I did on my 2016 Charity Reading Challenge and What’s Next

At the beginning of the year, I wrote about my desire to take part in a charity reading challenge. My goal was to read as many books as I could and for every book I read, I would set aside a certain dollar amount (1-499 pages = $1, 500-999 pages = $5, 1000+pages = $10), to be donated at the end of the year to the charity of my choosing, Stand Up 2 Cancer, in memory of my father who passed away from bladder cancer in 2010.

As 2016 draws to a close, I have managed to read 102 books, and to set aside $131 for donation. Of those 102 books read, 96 were ones that earned $1, 5 books earned $5 and only 1 book earned $10. Although I originally planned on making a donation to Stand Up 2 Cancer, I have since then become aware of the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) and have made a charitable donation of $131 to them. My reason for this change is because although Stand Up 2 Cancer is a wonderful cancer organization, I want to donate to a cancer organization that is specifically working to raise awareness about, provide resources for, and find a cure for the type of cancer my father passed away from. Many people are not aware that bladder cancer is the 5th most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States, and I want to do what I can to help raise and support that awareness.

With that being said, moving forward into 2017, I have decided to reduce my reading goal from 100 books to 75 in hopes that I will be able to read longer books and have even more money to donate at the end of 2017 to the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network.

As I did with my original charity reading challenge post, I encourage all who read this to create your own charity reading challenge to benefit the charity or cause closest to your heart.