american gods – neil gaiman

American Gods

Ever since I have been with The Man, he has been trying to get me to read American Gods, but I have steadfastedly refused (I like finding little ways to annoy him).  Daft I guess, as Good Omens is one of my favourite books of all time, and I have read Neverwhere about 10 times over the years!

This year so the tenth anniversary of American Gods first being published, and we were also looking for a book to reading August for the E17 Book Club, so I thought I would suggest it as it has had such fantastic reviews all over the place – including a massive 4.05/5 on Goodreads (from more than 58k ratings) and inclusion in World Book Night’s Top 100 Most Popular Books.  The rest of the group agreed!

The story starts with Shadow, a convict who is just being released from prison.  All he wants to do is return to his beautiful wife Laura, and get on with carving a better life for them.  However, soon after receiving some disturbing news about Laura, his life seems to take a turn for the more surreal.

He meets Mr Wednesday, who could be a God (if he is to be believed) and is offered a job with some rather strange stipulations.  Feeling that he has nothing to lose, Shadow agrees to the terms of the verbal contract and begins a road trip across America with the enigmatic Wednesday, meeting his ever stranger cohorts on their way, coupled with the intensifying feeling that something bigger than all of them is really going down!

If the book had been about 150 pages shorter, I could have very easily said “I LOVED IT!” – end of story!  But I can actually say that I really enjoyed it.  Shadow was a fantastic character – I really felt for him, and he was extremely easy to like – and when you like a character (especially if they are the protagonist), it makes you buy into the story that much more.  Wednesday was also a fantastic character – extremely visual.

Gaiman is a real story-teller, you get lost in his descriptions and ideas.  You just have to let yourself be taken along by him to where he wants you to be!  There were so many strands to the narrative, so many little incidents that seemed unimportant at the time, and then later became key or even vice versa – whole beautifully written mini stories that were almost seperate from the main text, and were never again referred to within it!

However, there seemed to be a crucial incident about 3/4 of the way into the book that lost a lot of us in the group.  We almost all lost interest at that point, and some found it rather gruelling to get to the end after it.

But don’t let this put you off of reading it, it is a truly magical story, and certainly makes you think about religion, contemporary worship (ie, are we all praying at the altar of consumerism and media?) and the morals of mankind.  Well, it made ME think anyway.

I think we should go back to the old ways, make a few sacrifices. Build more beautiful temples. Have more swordfights. Regain some magic and mystery.

sixty-one nails – mike shevdon

Sixty-one Nails

I’m not sure how I came about this book – I think I remember seeing a tweet about it somewhere…but don’t hold me to that.

The marketing splurge of it being ‘Neverwhere for the next generation’ really drew me in, as I absolutely adore Neverwhere.

I can see what the connection was – it has the whole ‘alternative London’ going on that straddles this world with another secret one inhabited by the faeries or Fey, but at the same time it’s nothing like Neverwhere at all!

It starts when a very normal Londoner is going about his very normal life and suddenly has a heart attack on the Tube.  He is revived by a woman who allows him to call her ‘Blackbird’ – and tells him that he has ‘come into his powers’ and is no longer safe.

I loved this book.  I loved the tiny glimpses of London.  I love the way that the author took real, slightly odd London rituals/happenings and built up a fantastical reason for them occurring.

At first, I felt that the story was rather convaluted and wasn’t ready to buy into it, but without me realising, I had suddenly really bought into it, quite early on and just eagerly looking forward to finding out what happens next.  I know that this is meant to be one of a set (not sure how many yet) and I will definitely be reading the next one after I have read my next book club books.

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