Review | American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Title: American Gods (2001)
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publisher: Headline
Read: 4th – 10th May 2017
Genre: fantasy; mythology; urban fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

In this wacky and wonderful book, Neil Gaiman draws on a wealth of cultures and mythologies in order to create an engrossing and bizarrely original take on the gods of old. Utterly fantastical and surreal, once disbelief is suspended, this proves to be one hell of a ride.

“People believe, thought Shadow. It’s what people do. They believe, and then they do not take responsibility for their beliefs; they conjure things, and do not trust the conjuration. People populate the darkness; with ghosts, with gods, with electrons, with tales. People imagine, and people believe; and it is that rock solid belief, that makes things happen.”

Set in a modern-day United States, American Gods ostensibly tells the story of Shadow Moon, a rather taciturn man about to be released from prison owing to the sudden death of his wife, Laura. But Laura doesn’t stay as dead as she should do, and that’s not the only spooky event in Shadow’s life once he emerges from prison as a free man. Whilst on a plane journey home, he gets to talking to mysterious passenger, Mr Wednesday, and ends up (begrudgingly) working for him. Premised on the idea that gods only continue to exist because of people’s belief in them, the once-powerful “old gods”, brought to the US by the immigrants who settled there, find themselves diminished in the face of people’s faith towards the “new gods”, figures relating to America’s obsession with media, celebrity, and technology. Part satire of the all American road trip novel, part mythological retelling, familiar and less familiar deities pop into the story with aplomb as Wednesday (cough Odin cough) and Shadow try to marshall these forgotten “old gods” to rise up against the “new gods” society now worships instead.

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T5W | Books as Event Themes

It’s going to be a quick one from me today, folks, mainly because I’m tired but also because it’s Bout of Books this week and I’d like to dedicate most of my free time to reading for that – I think that’s an acceptable excuse, right? That being said, I had to participate in this week’s Top 5 Wednesday because it’s such a fun topic! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingereadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts of Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.

This Wednesday’s topic is Books as Event Themesit’s party season, whether that is high school prom, weddings, or summer holiday events. What books would make a good party/event theme? I’m definitely not much of one for parties or a party-planner (and I think it shows), but I’ve tried nevertheless because, hey, it’s just a bit of fun after all!

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Friday Reads | 5th May 2017

Well guys, not to sound like a broken record here but it’s the end of another working week which means it is high time for another Friday Reads in which I will discuss the book I’m currently reading and my bookish plans going into this upcoming weekend.

I haven’t done a Friday Reads in a few weeks (my last one was back in March, yikes!), mainly because I was battling through A Feast for Crows for what felt like for-ev-er but in reality was only a fortnight or so but, believe me, I felt every single minute of that time. Which is weird because I actually ended up really enjoying this fourth volume in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. It’s safe to say that this book is very politics heavy… there aren’t a lot of action scenes (especially not compared to the bloodshed that takes place in the previous books) but everything feels very calculated and conniving and you just know that though the characters aren’t actively moving from one place to the other they are moving their little pawns all over the board in the hopes of gaining the upper hand. All of this is why I ended up loving the book, as I was sure I would if I just stuck with it. People are right, though, if you’re in it for the political machinations of the Tyrells and the Lannisters and their scheming at King’s Landing, then this volume could well be your favourite, but if you’re more so in it for Jon Snow and his brothers on the Wall, well, I hate to spoil things but he doesn’t even make an appearance in this one.

Now, I’m not enough of a masochist to move straight on to reading the next ASOIAF book, A Dance with Dragons, though I do really want to get to that soon so I don’t end up forgetting what is going on in this series. However, I am enough of a masochist to move from one mammoth of a book to another, this time with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I was so excited to hear of the TV show being developed, especially when Bryan Fuller was attached to it, because I knew it would turn out stunning. But (and it’s a big ‘but’) I would like to read the book in its entirety before I allow myself to watch the show on Amazon Prime. I’ve previously tried to read American Gods, both in paperback and via audiobook formats, but never got any further than the scene where Shadow and Wednesday visit Czernobog and the Zorya Sisters. (No, I categorically do not know what it is about that scene that’s a sticking point for me because it’s really good so why on earth I stop at it each time I do not know for the life of me.) Anyway, I need to properly commit to this and give it another chance because I love Neil Gaiman’s writing and I’m sure I will adore this once I get fully invested in the storyline. It features gods and mythology after all – I am all over that crap.

At the time of writing this post, I can officially state that I have now read further than I ever did before (i.e. past that scene with the Zorya sisters) so I am hopeful that the rest of today and this weekend will bring even more progress on American Gods. I would certainly like to be a chunk of it through the novel by Monday, so maybe then I can allow myself to watch the first episode of the TV show since it premiered this past Monday.

Aside from that, I don’t anticipate reading much of anything else in the coming days. This past week was the start of my new job so I’ve been a big ol’ ball of anxiety and, you know what guys? That’s tiring as hell. So this weekend had better be full of a lot of not doing much or I will end up very grumpy indeed. Liz and I are planning a Tavern breakfast and that is the full extent of my plans for this weekend. Sounds good to me to be honest, I’m well in need of a very low-key weekend and a rest. Let’s hope a good chunk of reading happens amidst all that rest, eh?

That was my Friday Reads for this week but enough of me – what are you currently reading going into this weekend? Are you planning much for the next couple of days? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear it!

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Friday Reads | 20th November

Last week the unthinkable happened – I actually successfully read every book on my Friday Reads over the course of the weekend. I’m as surprised as anyone. However, none of them were particularly taxing reads, so that’s quite possibly how I managed to actually stick to a TBR for once. This weekend I’m hoping to repeat the success, with only two books on the go…

The first one I categorically will not finish. This is because it’s a 20-hour long audiobook of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I tried to read Gaiman’s Hugo and Nebula award winning fantasy/Americana/mythology novel once before, when I was probably much too young to even attempt, let alone finish, it. However since then I’ve read more of Gaiman’s work – An Ocean at the End of the Lane, The Graveyard Book, and Good Omens which remains one of my favourite books, along with a valiant attempt at Neverwhere. I thought now would be a good time to give American Gods another try. After reading Rick Riordan’s Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer last week (stay with me on this), the idea of gods and mythology amongst everyday life is something I’m keen to explore further in fiction. I recalled that American Gods was of this sort from the few chapters I did read years ago, and so it seemed a natural choice when I had an Audible credit left. I’m enjoying it so far and listening to it every morning whilst I take a bath, get dressed, make breakfast etc. We’ll see how much of this I get through today/this weekend, hopefully at least two hours.

The second one, I do have a hope in hell of finishing if I make it a priority as it’s Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling’s The Silkwormthe second book in the Cormoran Strike crime series. Despite everyone ever’s assurance that Rowling’s foray into crime fiction was a successful one and that her books were a good jumping off point for those of us who aren’t seasoned crime fiction readers, I was still a little hesitant. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I ended up enjoying the first book, The Cuckoo’s Calling, and its cast of colourful characters (Robin in particular) so I’m eager to hear more of their adventures. Plus the mystery in this one focuses on the alleged disappearance of a writer of a rather controversial manuscript so this surely should be even more up my street than the previous narrative! What can I say, give me a book about books in some way, and I’m a happy customer. I’m about 100 pages into the novel at the moment so there is a slight chance that I will be able to get through the rest of The Silkworm this weekend, especially considering the fast pace of crime fiction and how engaging I find Galbraith/Rowling’s writing style.

So that’s how my Friday/weekend reading is looking – how about yours? What books are you all perusing this weekend? Anyone read the books I’m working on at the moment? Would love to hear any thoughts/comments/recommendations!