Saturday, 29 April 2017

To All The Books I've Loved Before: A Review of the Lara Jean Series

Such adorable covers, too.
The Lara Jean series is a trilogy by Jenny Han, starring half-Korean Lara Jean Song Covey. It consists of To All The Boys I've Loved Before, P.S. I Still Love You and Always and Forever, Lara Jean. Lara Jean has written letters to boys she's had a crush on, places them in an addressed envelope and puts them in a hatbox. Naturally, they are sent out at one point.

Lara Jean is an endearing protagonist. She's cute, girly and utterly adorable. She likes to bake and volunteers at a care home. She's not strong in the survive-an-apocalypse sense (although if it happens I think she'd give it a rather decent go) but strong in dealing with personal problems. Her anxieties actually make her more relatable to people of today. She's scared of owning up to her emotions and a nervous driver. Her older sister, Margot, comes of as sanctimonious at times in dealing with her, but obviously loves her younger sisters. Understandably so, since ever since her mother's death, Margot has been filling that role. Kitty, the youngest Song girl, is a bratty younger sibling in the best possible way.

In the first book, Lara Jean is dealing with her sister moving away to college. Her sister is starting at St. Andrews in Scotland, which of course means she gets a posh roommate. At one point, she asks to be sent Oreo's, which are easy to get over here, but this is such a minor detail that I'll let it slide. It ends on an unfinished note - like it was written for a sequel. I also don't think I'll ever understand sisters. I don't know if I could forgive so easily what happens between them in this book. Maybe the closest I'll ever come is through reading, because reading is good at allowing you to understand different lives you wouldn't normally.

P.S. I Still Love You continues right where the first book left off, so while I don't recommend this often, I think you shouldn't read this one until you've read the first one. It deals with something that wasn't as big a deal even 10 years ago when I was in school, but is a growing problem now - cyberbullying. It also tackles issues of girls being shamed for having sex, more so then boys. Everyone from her father to her peers seems to judge Lara Jean for the video, when it wasn't her fault at all. Lara Jean never judges other girls for having sex, just that she's made her own decision that she's not ready for it yet. It does contain a love triangle, which I dislike on principle, and in this one I actually preferred the boy she didn't end up with!

P.S. I Still Love You has one of my favourite quotes - "I guess you could call me a late bloomer, but that implies we're all on some kind of predetermined blooming schedule, that there's a right and wrong way to be sixteen and in love with a boy."

In Always and Forever, Lara Jean, Margot has a new boyfriend from England, which of course means he has a posh accent. Despite being from London? And he says cheers, which I've literally never heard anyone say, ever? Alright, minor detail in an otherwise great book. I am so proud of Lara Jean and the decisions she makes. Because of the first two being continuous, you don't really get a sense of her ongoing character development. Here, she's really grown up, and it shows. It does end well, but not necessarily in the way you'd expect. It makes a satisfying conclusion to her story.

Warning - these books will make you hungry. With Lara Jean's baking and her Dad attempting to cook Korean food on occasion, they're best read with a snack nearby.

This is actually one of my favourite contemporary Young Adult series that I've read. I recommend it to anyone with a more feminine side, who might identify with Lara Jean.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Five Bookish Places to Visit in Britain

I love to read and I love travelling - why not combine the two? I've been to quite a few places in Britain related to books. This is to give people a few places they could visit, not a comprehensive list. My advice? Take a book related to these places with you when you visit - books always seem more special to me if I read them in a corresponding location.

1. Brontë Parsonage Museum, Haworth - topping my list is the house of the Brontë sisters, because there's so much to do nearby, too. Obviously, you should look around the Museum, then the church. Pop into the town town for a bit of lunch - the café Villette was very good. Nice hot chocolate especially when it's cold. Make a note of all these shops to visit sometime later, too. Next, take a walk on the Yorkshire moors the way the sisters did, and enjoy the views of the scenic country. Make your way up to the ruin that was said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights. Later, have dinner in the very pub used by Bramwell Brontë.

2. Jane Austen's House Museum, Chawton - another museum of a famous British female literary icon, and with a resident cat. After your look around the house, stop for a bite at Cassandra's Cup and then walk up the road to the manor where her brother lived, which you can also go inside and look around. The story of how Jane and her family came to live there is fascinating as any of her novels. 

3. Hay-on-Wye, Wales - the town of books! Bring a lot of change, big bags and make sure your suitcase has room. You'll go home with less money, heavy bags and sore arms but it is so worth it. The village, which is picturesque enough already, boasts over 30 used bookstores to it's name. It also holds the Hay Festival of Literature and Arts in the late spring.

4. Bodleian Library, Oxford - it's a library with over 11 million books, some rare editions. It looks like something out of Harry Potter, and is - it was used as the set for the Hogwarts library. The outside looks equally grand, too. And the list of famous people who have perused it's shelves is huge, including C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I love bookshops, but I think libraries have their own brand of special charm.

5. The Elephant House, Edinburgh - also known as the café used by JK Rowling to write most of the first Harry Potter books. The story goes that when she was out with her young daughter, Jessica, she's head to the nearest café and write. It so happened that it was often be this one. The doors in the toilets are worth a look - they've been graffiti-ed by years worth of Potter fans. Order yourself a coffee and write something, even if it's just a few words in a notebook.

This should give you a few good ideas! You could either do them in one trip around the UK, a few different trips or bit by bit if you live closer! Do you have any places you like visiting, either abroad or in your own country? I'd love to visit the Hobbit village in New Zealand or Emily Dickenson's house in Massachusetts!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Recommended Books for Disney Fans

It's probably no surprise that I love both Disney and reading. Why not combine the two? Disney movies are some of the earliest introductions to stories most of us will get, and I actually credit my early love of reading partially to the movies I watched. It's no secret that many Disney movies are based on a book, so here are just a few of them!


Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll: If you're going to read this, I recommend you read them both, as some parts in the animated movie were taken from the second book. There's a reason these books are so well-loved, as that trapped in a different world idea never gets old. They're perfect to read aloud to your child, as a introduction to reading more structured stories or just to read because you've got some time to yourself. I have an edition with beautiful manga-style illustrations, available here.

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: Another one that is very well known, and good to read aloud to children. I loved books about finding yourself in a strange land as a child - many of my favourites have something of that idea. For this one, I'd recommend the MinaLima edition here. It has fantastic illustrations (just look at that cover) and interactive elements to keep children entertained. Good for young readers or adult's bookshelves.

101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith: A book that's much lesser known then the Disney adaptation, this one is the perfect classic dog story. Another thing I loved as a child was stories about dogs, and dogs in general. This is actually one of few books I studied in school that I still like to this day.


The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer: I did review TLC here, so I don't want to retread old ground, here. This series, which also takes inspiration from Sailor Moon, is a set of fairy-tale retellings set in the future. The series starts with Cinder, a mechanic and a cyborg. All the main heroines are awesome, and different in personalities and skills.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston: Something else I've reviewed here, this retelling is absolutely adorable. It is a modern day retelling, that sets the scene inside a convention, and reads as a love letter to geek culture. It also deals with issues of after-effects of abuse, in ways not many retellings touch upon. The prince is an actor playing a Sci-Fi prince on a TV show, completely adorkable when he's not in character.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine: Wait, another Cinderella retelling? I know. Honestly, I could go on longer, just with adaptations of Cinderella. For some reason, it's one of my favourite things to be adapted. Unlike the others, this is more of a medieval adaptation, with Ella given the power to always be obedient. Despite this, she manages to be a strong protagonist who finds ways to subvert her "blessing" throughout the book.


Happy Place: Living the Disney Parks Life by Scott Renshaw: This book discusses people who have found themselves a second home in one of the parks. There is someone who has visited Disneyland for 1000 days straight. Trust me, if I could do that, I would. It also touches on phenomena such as DisneyBounding, interviewing the person who started the concept. I love the parks, even though I can't visit that often - a recent visit to DisneyLand Paris was the first time I'd been to one in 13 years.

An American Original by Bob Thomas: This one is a biography of Walt himself! I won't say it's the definitive biography, because there are loads of books about Disney on the market, and I know many biographies have a somewhat fictitious aspect to them. However, it is a fascinating look at the man behind the magic!

And of course, there's always various artbook based on all the different films! The classic of these is probably, The Art of Animation by Bob Thomas? Another thing there's a lot of on the market are Disney cookbooks, which should be great fun for parents and children, or anyone into baking!

Saturday, 22 April 2017

My (not so) Perfect Reviews: A Review of My (not so) Perfect Life

If I did do reviews out of 10
I think I might take off a point
for the bland cover. America got
a nicer one, it's green!
My (not so) Perfect Life is a novel by Sophie Kinsella. She is best known for her Shopaholic series, but has also done several standalone novels and seven books under the name of Madeleine Wickham. Our protagonist, Katie, wanted to live in London all her life, while growing up in a farm in the West Country. However, once she gets there, she finds it's not all it's cracked up to be. She has a tedious job at a marketing firm, a tiny flat, and a hideous commute. Her boss, Demeter, has what she would consider a perfect life. Her Dad, who often thinks up schemes to make money, decided to turn part of the farm into a glamping venue. Yes, seriously. When Katie loses her job, she moves back home to help out.

If you've read Kinsella's other books, you know what to expect in terms of style and prose. It reads easy, with plenty of funny moments. There's the love interest you wish you had, and the plucky protagonist who isn't always right but fixes her mistakes along the way. Her books make the best holiday reads. I actually discovered Kinsella as a panicked airport buy in my teens before a holiday. This actually might be my favourite standalone book she's done, since people need to hear that no-one's life lives up to their social media feeds. And towards the end, the story becomes more about two women supporting each other, which I love.

I found I really identified with Katie - I wanted to live in London all my life (still not managed it) and I'm the sort who's always looking for photos for Instagram - and I also found surprisingly that I identified with Demeter. Reading the blurb, I never thought that would happen. But I'm scatty and disorganised, too! And if someone like that can make it so well in her chosen career, there is hope for me yet!

The overall message - no-one's life is perfect, certainly not as perfect as they try and make it out to be on social media - is one that is really important to hear in this day and age. People post their highlights on the internet, and other people are constantly comparing that with their everyday. We all do it, both posting only our best shots and comparing other people's best parts to our worst, even when we know life isn't like that all of the time.

I recommend this one to anyone who has felt the pressure make their life seem perfect in order to live up to the gilded life others present on social media.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

The Review of the Tearling: A Review of The Tearling Series

The Tearling series is a trilogy by Erika Johansen. The three books are The Queen of the Tearling, The Invasion of the Tearling, and The Fate of the Tearling. Our main character, Kelsea Glynn, is the eponymous Queen, taking the throne of a monachy called the Tearling. The country was started when people crossed the sea in order to find a new life, as society in our future world began to collapse. This gives us a world without advance technology, but with knowledge about our cultures, civilisations and history. It reads like a fantasy set in the future.

The first book has to set the scene and introduce us to the characters. Kelsea is headstrong and flighty, not always good at following advice. She makes some questionable decisions over the books, and not all of them pay off. She is good at heart, but not always nice. The POV doesn't always remain with Kelsea, but she does get more focus then anyone else. It shows how ordinary people go about their day-to-day lives, something I liked, as it makes the world feel more real.

In Invasion, Kelsea starts having visions of life in America just before the crossing, showing us exactly how screwed up the world was. These chapters, from the point of view of a woman called Lily Mayhew are some of the most interesting in the book. Since they do answer many questions of how and why so many people left their home, I suggest that people who possibly didn't like Queen give Invasion a try. I have to put a warning here that there is a graphic rape scene in Invasion, but it's as acceptable as a scene like that ever is. The character going through the rape is treated with respect, and it is never excused or justified during the rest of the book.

In Fate, we get another new viewpoint, from a girl called Katie, just after the Crossing. It shows how the better world dreamed of by William Tear started to fall apart. This book, more then the rest, starts to show the lines between good and evil are not so clear. Mortmesne is not the nightmare place we were told. Tear may have had good intentions, but his utopian ideal struggles in practice. Mace, who always seems a dutiful guard, has some darker portions in his past. I would actually say that no character in the series is wholly good or bad.

One of my favourite things about this series is that it glorifies reading. During the Crossing, William Tear allowed people to take ten books apiece. In the intervening years, many fell apart over time. There is no printing press in the Tearling, and many of the population in Kelsea's time are illiterate. Kelsea's guardians had a huge collection of books, and one of the first thing she does is try to create more books.

Religion plays a role, but the only one that seems to have survived from pre-Crossing is Christianity, though a little changed from it's current form. You have to wonder what happened to other major religions. It's treated with nuance - there are good priests and bad priests, just as there are good and bad characters in any circumstance in the book.

This series more then any other I can remember has suffered from comparison disorder. There are a lot of views out their that compare this series to either The Hunger Games, or Game of Thrones. If you go into this series expecting it to be like either of those two, you will be disappointed, because it is not those series. However, if you go into this series with an open mind, expecting it to be it's own thing, then you might find something you like.

These books don't waste any time reminding you of the events of the previous book, or who-is-who. If you pick up the sequels after a while, you might want to reread the first book, too. These books seem long, but they read fast. I really enjoyed this series, personally. I would recommend this series to fans of fantasy or sci-fi who enjoy a good story but don't mind a slightly implausible world.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Top Five: Studio Ghibli Films!

Studio Ghibli movies always make me think of spring! The greens, the flowers, the water, the cute characters and heartwarming storylines. They are one of my favourite film studios ever, right up there with Disney. I thought it would be good to share my top five favourite Studio Ghibli films with my readers. (all, like, two of you)

  1. Kiki's Delivery Service - Kiki's is an absolute masterpiece. A thirteen-year-old leaves home and finds a place for herself somewhere else. Along the way, she learns about the value of hard work and friendship. Kiki, and almost every other character, are utterly endearing. Perhaps my favourite thing about Ghibli movies is how they present morals in ways that don't come off as OTT or sappy. The entire town is beautifully animated, looking like a real chocolate-box town.
  2. The Secret World of Arrietty - I love the detail in this one. Keep an eye out for all the little things in Arrietty's house. Of course, since they are small, the extra attention to detail in their house makes sense. The way the perspective on the larger house changes really helps to show the difference between the residents and Arrietty's family. It also has one of my favourite songs of theirs. (Also - see if you can find the British dub! It uses some famous British actors, and as it's based on a British series, it feels like the correct way, to me)
  3. From Up On Poppy Hill - one thing I notice is that I tend to like the movies with less supernatural aspects. I like My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away, but I'm sure a lot of Ghibli fans would find their omission from my list interesting. Poppy Hill has some of the nicest food shots in the whole Ghibli library, and a great message - you don't have to forget the past to move onto the future. I also like the romance aspect, and the idea of all the students coming together to save the Latin Quarter.
  4. When Marnie Was There - This recent one is a real gem, and deserves to be spoken in the same way as Studio Ghibli's most beloved classics IMO. The viewer will end up growing attached to both Anna and Marnie, even as they start to realise that things may be more complicated then they appear. It also contains such a nice message for adopted children, and another of my favourite Studio Ghibli songs!
  5. Whisper of the Heart - unlike a lot of Ghibli movies, the romance here is front and centre. As someone who writes for fun, I liked seeing Shizuku finding joy in her writing, but learning, of course, that she has to keep practising and improving. Many Ghibli protagonists have some kind of talent they are working on, something which I love. And I really like the idea that you don't have to go to school to perfect yours! It can certainly help in some cases, of course, but it's so rare in fiction for it to not treat school as the be-all-end-all, that it's nice to see.
That's my list! What's yours? I'll finish this off with links to the two songs I mentioned as some of my favourites above.

Arrietty's Song:

Fine on the Outside:

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Beautiful Review Things: A Review of Beautiful Broken Things

Beautiful Broken Things is a book by Sara Barnard. It follows Cadnum (Caddy) Oliver, who has been inseparable from her best friend, Rosie Caron, since they were five. However, when Suzanne Watts joins Rosie's school, their dynamic changes somewhat. As it becomes clear that Suzanne is dealing with serious issues, Caddy finds herself going along with some of her more outlandish ideas. As Caddy gets into more trouble, she starts to learn that the lines between wrong and right are more blurred then they may seem.

At it's heart, this book is about girls supporting each other in any way they can. Even if they don't know how or don't always do the right thing, they do what they think is best for each other. All of the three girls make mistakes at some point in the book. They fuck up, because they're teenagers, but that doesn't make any of them fuck-ups. They're learning how to be better people to themselves, and how to be better friends to each other. Suzanne might also be the most realistic depiction of a teenager with problems I've read. Not everything is all fixed in the end, she doesn't magically get over her troubles and feel better. Because, as this book points out, you can't do that. You don't wave a magic wand and have everything be okay, but supporting people in small ways can make all the difference.

Even as this book shows the best of female friendships, it also shows some of the worst aspects of it. The jealousy you can feel when a best friend meets someone new. The way in which your desire to do the right thing can also be the wrong thing. How some friendships can be destructive, even without meaning to be.

This book avoids two things, really well. First, there's a remarkable lack of mean characters. There's some bitchiness occasionally, even at times from the main character, but she's always self aware that her actions aren't right, and she's properly apologetic when the results of her actions become apparent. Second, a lack of unnecessary relationships. Caddy wants a boyfriend, but over the course of this book it becomes apparent that the relationships that will mean the most to her are her female friendships. She did not need a boyfriend for this story to be told.

As someone who's still close friends now with my primary school best friend, books like this mean a lot to me. We've gone through different schools, different universities and new friendship groups, but even now I know there is no one else who'll support me like she does.

I recommend this book to anyone who has or ever had the sort of close friend they would do anything for. Also, extra points for having such a gorgeous metallic cover!

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Review of Butterflies: A Review of The Fall of Butterflies

An extra point for the bright,
pretty cover, perhaps?
The Fall of Butterflies is a novel by Andrea Portes. It follows Willa Parker, as she leaves her hometown of What Cheer, Iowa, where she is the most unpopular resident, despite being apparently pretty, allegedly clever and not obviously socially inept? She seems to be unpopular by choice, because she likes to sit in silence rather then talk about hairspray or football, as she assumes everyone else talks about. Her mother, who wrote a best-selling economics textbook, is sending her away to fancy boarding school. Once she gets there, she meets a girl named Remy Taft, who is the most dazzling, magical person ever. In case you couldn't tell, this book has not been one of my favourites.

One of the big reasons I disliked this book is because we are told everything, but not shown anything. We are informed that Willa is curious, but she doesn't really seem to ask any questions or explore her new surroundings at all. We are told that she is intelligent - "off the charts," compared to her classmates - but nowhere does she show us this at all. She gets off at a train station with a stranger, who is older and behaving semi-creepily towards her, to have pizza in an unfamiliar city. She wasn't interested in him, she just wanted pizza. She doesn't seem to know the name of "that giant clock" in London - I would expect someone who's intelligent and curious to at least know Big Ben! She talks about how much less privileged she is then her classmates, which gives her a different perspective on things then them, but her rich mother is paying her tuition.

Reading the description on the back of the book, it is easy to think that it is a book about a blossoming relationship between two young ladies. It's not, and Willa's actual love interest is the most bland, boring romance in the history of fiction. Remy herself is not a particularly unique or interesting take on the 'quirky girl with problems' trope, and I found Willa as the narrator unrelatable and unlikable. She also, while being allegedly super-smart, displays no hobbies, interests or a dream or ambition for the future.

The author (I'm not sure if it's her personal views or expressing the point of view of her character) spends more than one whole page complaining about Britain. Based on no real experience or research, just defaulting to the "monarchy is bad" viewpoint. There are pros and cons to it, the subject of which is quite often debated in the UK, but it's not as clear-cut as many Americans seem to think.

Since I did not like this book, I find I can't recommend it to anyone, personally. But if you find you enjoy it, that's great, because all fiction is open to subjective interpretation.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Geekereview: A Review of Geekerella

Geekerella is a modern day Cinderella retelling, by Ashley Poston. The main character, Danielle, is a geek, primarily of a Sci-Fi show, Starfield, which she used to watch with her father, before he died. The show had a character, Carmindor, who was a Federation Prince. In an upcoming film reboot, he's going to be played by a teenage heart-throb Darien, who everyone thinks is going to ruin the character. Said teenage heart-throb is a huge geek himself, having grown up watching the show, loving Carmindor because he got to see someone who looked like him in charge of a ship. One wrong number later, and our leads are texting each other details about the show.

I loved this book! It's been a while since I've read a book this quickly. The references to other fandoms are many and varied - I got a kick out of the 'calibrating his guns' discussion. And my Dad watched Star Trek in the evenings, while Mum worked. Granted, I would normally do my own thing in the same room, but the feeling was there.

One of the main problems with making a Cinderella story is the trap of making every other female character bitchy. In this one, the overall cast rounds out the two romantic leads fantastically. Sage, Cinderella's co-worker, is lovely, and a geek herself. She never got into Starfield, which means Danielle gets to do the time-honoured geek tradition of introducing someone else to a series. Sage's Mom, in her few scenes, also comes across as a lovely person. Calliope, one of her Step-sisters, isn't so much evil as she is trapped, between her sister and mother. There are also some good female characters in Darien's side of the story, and there are some male characters you'll hate just as much. The stepmother is also given a reason for her behaviour. It doesn't explain it, but it does make sense. She didn't like how her husband was so into this Sci-Fi show, and doesn't like how his daughter is the same way. She thinks that dwelling too much on a show is bad for you, in a discussion that almost every geek who's ever had their interests put down will relate to.

The story also touches on some more serious issues, like the pressures of fame and, where a Cinderella retelling rarely treads, into the long-term effects of abuse. Danielle feels like a burden and someone who ruins everything. While the story ends (spoiler alert) on a happy ending, feelings like that aren't likely to disappear overnight.

I highly recommend this one to anyone who's ever been considered (or considered themselves) a geek.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Trans-Atlantic Comedy Problem

My discussion here could possibly apply to many pairs of countries, but in this blog, I'm going to focus on two countries I am most familiar with. Humour doesn't travel well, and two countries with demonstrate this are the US and UK, in something I call the Trans-Atlantic Comedy Problem, or TACP.

I saw Ant-Man in the cinema in America with a group of my friends. I noticed that they were often laughing at things that elicited a mild chuckle from me, at best. It doesn't help that we Brits don't tend to laugh loudly while in public, particularly at the cinema. But I did find myself laughing at sentences that they didn't. After it ended, one of my friends asked me if I had enjoyed it at all, since I didn't seem to be laughing. I had, and was quite bemused that someone would have thought this meant I didn't like it. But this pulls into one of the reasons laugh tracks are used - American comedy encourages others to join in, and laugh with each other. I'm not actually opposed to the use of laugh tracks, as long as they're not overused.

Often, British versions of a show can get an American update, or vise versa. This can either go fantastic or be a complete disaster. On the fantastic end, there is The Office UK and US, both good shows with audiences on both sides on the Atlantic. On the disaster end, there is The Inbetweeners, a show that was popular in it's own country, yet few people have ever heard of the American version. One of the most oddest things about this is that while American humour doesn't always translate well, I've heard plenty of Americans talk about how much they love British humour. Some have even been shocked that I've never watched Monty Python. You have to bear in mind, it wasn't something cool and different to me growing up, it was some weird thing my parents watched.

My Mum says that she "doesn't get American humour" but she likes to sit down with a few episodes of Friends. I mean, I've yet to meet a human being who doesn't like Friends. I was talking to a UK friend of mine once, and said I found Friends episodes funny, even on rewatches, whereas I found UK shows less funny after watching them a few times. She agreed, so I'm not the only one who thinks this. I don't think either approach is bad, just... different? Also, "I don't understand American humour" was a common sentiment from the older generation, but seems to be dying off with younger people - perhaps because of our increased exposure to American media at a young age?

What's the route cause of this issue? One of the things I've noticed from the American side is putting in references that only Americans would understand. In Wreck-It Ralph (which is an awesome movie, don't get me wrong) there is one point where the characters are making jokes at the word 'duty' sounding like 'doodie.' At the time, I didn't know that doodie was American slang for faeces, and I didn't remember that because Americans pronounce their 't's' like a 'd' they would sound the same. Even though I could hear it, my brain must have been making it sound more like a t, as that was what I was used to. For reference, the English pronouciation, or at least how I say it (so many different accents in England) would be 'jew-tea.'

Of course, I'm sure this isn't the only, or even the primary, reason why, but it's one I've noticed. I myself tend to appreciate comedy from both sides, giving me the best of both worlds.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

A Review of American Gods

American Gods is a book by Neil Gaiman, whose other books include Neverwhere and Coraline. The books follow Shadow, who is let out of prison a few days early to attend his wife’s funeral, and Mr. Wednesday, a stranger he meets on the plane. Astute reader with a knowledge of mythology may figure out twists early, but this can make it all the better. In fact, the more you know about mythology, the more you may get out of reading this book, but that’s not to say it isn’t a very enjoyable read if you don't. My knowledge of mythology is what I’ve barely gleaned from other fantasy stories, and I loved this book.

American Gods plays with a concept I’ve liked for some time. America, as the melting pot of the world, has had many diverse cultures make it their home. As people settled, (or were forcibly removed) they attempt bring their traditions with them and keep them alive, including their religions and their various Gods. These Gods must find a way to survive in a new world that seems to have forgotten them, while new Gods loom on the horizon.

Shadow is very much the everyman fill-in for the reader, an outsider to this world through whom we’re informed about it. Fittingly for a book that is as much about immigration as it is about fantasy, he is a person of colour. It is still rare for readers to be encouraged to step into the shoes of a PoC to learn about a fantasy world, but in this case I can’t see it working any other way.

There are also a few asides discussing immigrants from different countries and the different Gods they bought with them. I found myself wishing these were more frequent! I found them some of the most fascinating parts of the book and would love to have read more of them.

This book is long, almost feeling too long while reading it, certainly the edition I have, at least. It’s most definitely worth the length, but make sure you have a good few days quiet to read it, or else be prepared for a long commitment. There’s nothing worse than putting a long book down half-way through, not getting back to it for a few days, and then forgetting what has happened. I’ve read it once, and as much as I loved it, let’s just say it’s not on my reread pile for anytime soon – it’s just too long. But it’s a book that is certainly worth at least one read. Should you read it before or after watching the upcoming show based on it? That’s up to you. I feel like if you wanted to, you could read it alongside the TV show, even.

There are a few scenes of a sexual nature, and as usual, I didn’t enjoy them. I don’t ever tend to enjoy them in books, as a general rule. I don’t find them uncomfortable, I just find them pointless. They weren’t particularly well-written and didn’t add anything to the story, for me. But I can just skim over them and start reading again when the story starts back up, so it wasn’t enough to spoil my overall enjoyment.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and anyone with an interest in myths and legends. I want to stress that my recommendations aren’t a case of ‘I only think these groups will like this book’ but ‘I think these groups especially may enjoy this book’ as I definitely think this is the sort of book everyone should enjoy.