Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

A few days before his prison term is supposed to end, Shadow is brought before the Warden. In three years, he’s only seen the Warden once. Shadow is worried that something has happened, he feels that the authorities will find a reason to deny him his freedom. To his surprise he learns that he’s being released a few days early, then the Warden tells him, “…your wife died.”  The life that was waiting for Shadow is gone. The home he shared with Laura, his recently deceased wife, no longer has any appeal. It’s no longer their home, it’s simply a place that’s filled with possessions and memories – memories that are too painful to think about.

American Gods

After Shadow leaves prison, he makes his way to the airport and boards a plane, bound for Eagle Point. After waking from a strange dream he disembarks and learns that his flight has been redirected to St. Louis. Shadow hurries to catch his next flight – missing this plane means missing his wife’s funeral. A seating error results in him getting bumped to First Class. There he meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, and unbeknownst to Shadow, his life is about to change forever.

‘American Gods’, written by Neil Gaiman, is a story where legendary beings, those who possess great and terrible power, sing karaoke – and where ancient deities seduce men into worshiping them. It is a fantasy story that borrows from folk tales and mythology, and sets it in the modern world. We learn about pixies and how they arrived in the New World, and encounter a djinn who is struggling to survive in a world that’s forgotten his kind. As the story progresses – you begin to ask yourself questions such as; how does a God make its way in the electronic age? How would you interact with a being that’s witnessed countless battles, floods and famines? Would you believe someone if they told you they were thousands of years old? Could you ignore someone perform incredible feats, or would you start to think outside of the box and open your mind to the possibility that magic does exist.

american-gods

Released back in 2001, ‘American Gods’ is available in hardcover, paperback, and streaming audiobook on Hoopla. There is also a ten year anniversary edition available which features the author’s preferred text and has an additional 12,000 words. Daunting? Perhaps. But speaking as someone who’s read both the original and the author’s preferred text, I can honestly say that Mr. Gaiman added more depth to story and fleshed out some of the characters – which made it even more enjoyable. Last but not least, there is an upcoming TV show based on the novel, which is scheduled to air on Starz, in 2017. The author himself collaborated with the production of the series and is excited about it – which I think is the BEST endorsement anyone could give.

– Daniel Bohémier

The positive side of negativity

Whether it’s buying fake positive reviews or writing them for their own books under fake names, many authors seem to be convinced that anything but a rave  review of their books is a terrible blow. Apparently, bad reviews are the ultimate disaster.

From a reader’s perspective, of course negative reviews are helpful if they help you avoid reading a book you won’t enjoy. But librarians & booksellers, who recommend books as part of our job, know the value of negative opinions too. If I suggest a book to a patron that they don’t like, I want to know about it. Understanding what they didn’t like about the book — whether it was too violent, the characters too unrealistic, or not suspenseful enough — will help me find something more enjoyable next time.

But negative reviews don’t even always turn people away from the book they’re about. Anyone who’s been drawn to a book or movie because someone with the opposite taste hated it knows what I mean. If you enjoy sad, romantic stories, you’re not likely to be put off by hearing something dismissed as “a sentimental tear-jerker” — that’s exactly what you’re looking for.

So here’s to the occasional bad review. After all, a little salt with the sweet makes everything taste more satisfying.

Danielle

p.s. Patrick Somerville not only received a mostly negative review of his book This Bright River, it was a) in the New York Times and b) got an important thing wrong about the story. If any author had a right to be cranky, it was Somerville. Yet he had enough self-possession to handle the situation gracefully and even poke a little fun at himself in his post “Thank you for killing my novel.”  If only we were all so level-headed…