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Victoria Reads Books

Global citizen, adventurer, ponderer. Lover of coffee, books, and the Oxford comma. Infected by wanderlust, enchanted by stories. Might occasionally be a photo blog.

Currently reading

Jane Austen
Progress: 230/412 pages
Le Petit Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Eight Great Comedies
Sylvan Barnet, Morton Berman, William Burton
The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction, Compact Edition: Stories and Authors in Context
Dana Gioia, R.S. Gwynn
Anna Karenina
Leo Tolstoy, Louise Maude, Aylmer Maude, E.B. Greenswood
The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction, Compact Edition: Stories and Authors in Context - Dana Gioia, R.S. Gwynn It amazes me how my opinions about short stories have changed over the years. I used to dislike them, the reason being that they were too brief for me to get to know the characters, to grow to like them, to be able to enthusiastically throw myself into their stories. However, I grew to like them, and hence, this book (which I bought for $1 at a used bookstore), contains many stories that I am looking forward to reading.

To many high school students, short stories are difficult to enjoy simply because they are used in class so often, and are torn apart and scrutinized. I have to admit, there are some stories that I dislike, and I'm still trying to figure out whether it is because of the story itself, or the painfully intense work we did analyzing them (I'm looking at you, 'Boys and Girls' by Alice Munro...). Anyway, I'm reading this anthology for fun. Yay!

Since I don't want to combine the reviews all 84 short stories, I'll provide the links to my reviews below.

The Secret Sharer (Joseph Conrad)
The Necklace (Guy de Maupassant)

The Necklace and Other Short Stories - Guy de Maupassant *review of The Necklace*

Using relatively unadorned prose, Maupassant manages to invoke frustration, elation, dismay, and resignation during the story, and, depending on how well you managed to connect to the protagonist, an indescribable ache following the final words. This is a simple, straightforward short story that teaches many important lessons- if you know someone whose materialistic desires impair their ability to appreciate what they have, you should recommend this to them. I wouldn't say that I fell in love with the story, but it was short, entertaining, and well written.

This story was a part of an anthology that I own. For reviews of other stories in the anthology, please go here.
Children of the Jacaranda Tree: A Novel - Sahar Delijani 3.5/5

Both of my parents experienced war first-hand. Countless hours have been spent with my parents talking to me about their childhoods, how war influenced them, their separation from their families, how they ended up in Canada, and yes, why I should be grateful that I didn't need to go through what they did. The moment that hit me the hardest in Children of the Jacaranda Tree was in the final chapter, when a girl named Neda laments the fact that the children of Iran are not mere witnesses to their country's history. They, along with their parents, are the historymakers; the horrors of their parents' pasts have bled through to the future.

Children of the Jacaranda Tree is a poignant look at post-revolutionary Iran, and jumps back and forth through time from the early 1980's to the present. It begins with a woman who gives birth to a beautiful baby girl in the darkness of a prison. The stories in this book are intricately interconnected. Many of the stories are heart-wrenching, as one can expect from a book taking place in a tumultuous time in Iranian history. This novel deals with love, with loyalty, with loss, with freedom.

The story of Amir is one that will stick with me the most- he a young man serving a jail sentence. Before this, I did not know that atheism was subject to the death penalty in Iran- this was the one thing that Amir pleaded not-guilty to. Amir has a baby daughter, and the author captures the anguish of being separated from family very well. With great resourcefulness, Amir gives his daughter a gift to represent his love, and waits for his jail term to be complete, anticipating the prospect of being with his wife and child once again. Needless to say, there is more to his story, which I will leave to readers to discover.

The greatest strength of this novel- the intergenerational depiction of Iran- also, unfortunately, serves to be its weakness. Although the author makes a valiant attempt to connect characters within the novel, as the novel goes on, it gets increasingly difficult to recall who the characters were and what role they played earlier in the novel. For instance, a character who is secondary in the first segment and is a cellmate, will become a primary- or another secondary- character in a later segment. A child with little plot significance will become an adult with a main story, so on and so forth. The overall cohesion of the book suffers a bit because of the awkward breaks needed to flip back and forth in an effort to remember who a certain character was in an earlier tale. As a result, the supporting characters lack the necessary substance needed to make them memorable. In addition, occasionally, it is difficult to determine the timeline when the date is not given.

I found that I was personally not entirely satisfied with the prose style. For instance, the similes/metaphors were hit-and-miss for me; some comparisons just didn't quite work. Other than that, I got used to the prose style as the novel progressed, and there were several passages that were simply beautiful.This is the author's debut novel, and she definitely has potential.

As shown by the title, the 'Jacaranda tree' serves as the novel's main symbol. Although it is fairly ostentatious, it would make for interesting analysis. It should also be noted that the pacing of this book is a little awkward; the first fifty pages or so were very strong, but it dragged a bit at certain sections within the book. The pacing is effective in the sense that it allows the reader to explore the setting and environment (which is likely what the author is going for anyway), so this is isn't too big an issue.

Overall, I think that this is a very strong debut novel from this author. I can see it in high school classrooms as a book to study, especially in a time when books with subject matter dealing with developing countries is gaining traction. Sahar Delijani, the author, is obviously passionate about Iran, and this passion does shine through in her writing.

(I also have to note that the cover of this book is stunning.)

Entertainment value: 3.5/5
Writing quality/style: 3.5/5
Readability: 2/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 2.5/5
Plot: 3.5/5

I received an ARC of this through the Goodreads First Reads program. This has not influenced my opinions about the book in any way.
Oscar et la dame rose - Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt Any further judgement or analysis that I would attempt to make beyond the vague star rating would be impeded by the fact that I am not very proficient at French... and I read this book in French.

I'll leave it at that.
Eight Great Comedies - Sylvan Barnet, Morton Berman, William Burton Since I don't want to combine all of the reviews, I'll provide links below:

The Clouds (Aristophanes)
Mandragola (Machiavelli)

Twelfth Night and The Importance of Being Earnest currently do not have reviews since I did not reread them in this particular volume. This book belongs to my school, and I'm trying to get through the rest of the plays before I have to return it. Links will be added if reviews for those ever get written.

The Clouds
Twelfth Night
The Miser
The Beggar's Opera
The Importance of Being Earnest
Uncle Vanya
Arms and the Man
La mandragola - Niccolò Machiavelli
Mandragola: A Modern Movie Adaptation

Black screen.

Loud club music plays; the lyrics are indistinguishable but probably have something to do with sex, booze, and swag.

A group of men sit around a table and are drinking copious amounts of alcohol.

CAL: "Yo, chicks from your city? Ugggly."

CAM: "Yeah, well, even if they are, I have a cousin that is hot enough for all of the girls in my hometown. Her name is Lucy."

Black screen.


Shot of CAL creeping LUCY, who shakes her mane of hair behind her dramatically as she puts on a pair of sunglasses at the poolside.


Shot of LUCY stripping and being creeped by CAL.


Shot of LUCY tucking her hair behind her ear; her diamond wedding ring sparkling on her finger.

Dramatic pause.

NICK: I want to start a family!
LUCY (crying): I know... nothing's working!

Cue pop song at the top of the charts.

CAL (dreamily): I'll do anything to hook up with her.

CUT to HOSPITAL, where CAL is dressed as a doctor.

Yes... I see the problem, sir. Your wife is infertile, but I have just the thing to help her.

NICK: What???

CAL: I have medicine that can fix that infertility. Only thing... the first man your wife sleeps with after taking the medicine will die.

NICK: ... where are we ever going to find someone to make this huge sacrifice?

(camera closeup)

CAL winks.


Coming soon to theatres everywhere.


Damn… obviously my sleep-deprived brain decided that it would be a great idea to write an awful modern fanfic-styled movie trailer take on Mandragola. Albeit, y’know, that not exactly happening... that movie trailer did cover several plot points.

Essentially, this play takes place in Florence and is about Callimaco, a man who wants to sleep with Messer Nicia's beautiful wife, Lucrezia. Messer Nicia is incredibly stupid. Callimaco, in conjunction with a guy named Ligurio and Fra Timoteo, manage to convince him that Lucrezia will become fertile if she drinks a potion made of mandrake. However, the crew manage to convince Messer Nicia that the first man to sleep with Lucrezia will die, which allows for them to also convince Nicia that Lucrezia sleeping with another man is a GREAT idea.

So, basically:

- How can I convince a married woman to sleep with me against her wishes?

I didn't even have to try to read this through a feminist lens. The sexism screamed at me from within the pages and wildly flailed in my direction. I couldn't ignore it if I tried.

Regardless of the understanding that sexism was much more prevalent in the society that Machiavelli lived in, the misogyny within Mandragola personally made me very, very uncomfortable. Where some people may be able to disregard the sexism and enjoy the play, I was not able to. Quotations like "The real sin is to displease your husband" and "All women are a little light in the head; if one of them can string two words together she is considered a marvel- in the country of the blind the one-eyed man is king" were amongst those that just made me cringe. Machiavelli obviously isn't the beacon of moral goodness, so my disapproval stems mostly from the fact that the sexist plot leeched at my ability to enjoy it.

On the other hand, apparently there is a way to read this play as a political satire where women are Italy (or something of the sort). I evidently didn't read the play that way. Perhaps the sexist elements are understood differently in reading the play as a political satire rather than a simple comedy. I might have to return to this one after gaining a better understanding of history during that time period.

Some nice quotations (taken out of context so they sound more profound):

"As far as conscience is concerned, you have to accept this common rule: the good must never be sacrificed for fear of the evil."

"Fear of the evil is greater than the evil itself."

(The 'evil' is Lucrezia having sex with someone other than her husband. But hey.)

Overall, it's a quick play and a lesser-known work of Machiavelli. Despite my qualms with its treatment of women, it did manage to hold my attention.

Entertainment value: 2/5
Writing quality/style: 3.5/5
Readability: 2/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 1/5
Plot: 1.5/5

The edition of 'Mandragola' that I read was a part of the anthology Eight Great Comedies. This book that was lent to me by my school as a part of our English unit on comedy, where we briefly studied The Importance of Being Earnest, another play within the volume. As this school year is coming to an end, I figured that I should try to read some of the other comedies while I had the book in my hands.
The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit - Don G. Campbell I gave this a bonus star for sheer entertainment value.

In the eighth grade, I did a science fair project on the effects of music, and read this book. Although many good points are brought up about the benefits of music, the fluffiness and lack of scientific evidence for many of his arguments rendered this book wholly unconvincing. Although the concept of the benefits of music does hold merit, I would not recommend this book if you wish to gain definite, factual information.
The Secret Sharer - Joseph Conrad My eyes caress the delicate words strewn across the page, tasting the sweet nectar and experiencing the literary pleasure only a skilful painter of words can bring, the existence of the words intertwining with the essence of my being, stroking my heart and stoking the fire of my mind...

Uhmmmm... bleh. I'm sorry you read that. :/

Now that I've gotten my rather sorry attempt at being the next Joseph Conrad out of my system, I'll keep going with this review. ;)

The Secret Sharer is the second Joseph Conrad work that I have read. It is a novelette (about 16 500 words in length), hence is a rather quick read. Despite this, Conrad's endlessly descriptive prose style can take getting used to. The following is an excerpt from The Secret Sharer:

"She floated at the starting point of a long journey, very still in an immense stillness, the shadows of her spars flung far to the eastward by the setting sun... around us nothing moved, nothing lived, not a canoe on the water, not a bird in the air, not a cloud in the sky. In this breathless pause at the threshold of a long passage we seemed to be measuring our fitness for a long and arduous enterprise, the appointed task of both our existences to be carried out, far from all human eyes, with only sky and sea for spectators and for judges."

For me, it is undeniable that his writing is beautiful. Regardless, the basic plot is so threadbare that occasionally, Conrad finds the need to over-describe objects or situations that ultimately serve no purpose, either to the plot or overall environment.

(Confession time: I fell asleep in my school library while reading this work.)

I could probably summarize the plot of this book in one sentence. I'll opt for a brief description, however:

A sea captain who doesn't know his crew very well sees a naked guy clinging to the side of his boat at night and hides him in his cabin. He learns that the guy is on the run from his own ship because he killed someone.


So, obviously the focus of this book isn't the plot because there really isn't much of it there. The interesting part of this book concerns Leggatt, the 'secret sharer', who the unnamed narrator repeatedly states is basically his doppelganger. This, of course, brings forth some interesting questions of what Leggatt is supposed to represent, and the impact that meeting Leggatt has on the sea captain.

Overall, I did enjoy this story, but am not overly passionate about it. The prose is beautiful, and although simplistic, the plot provides a frame upon which to display some interesting thoughts and ideas.

Entertainment value: 2/5
Writing quality/style: 5/5
Readability: 3.75/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 3.5/5
Plot: 1.5/5

The Clouds

The Clouds - Aristophanes,  William Arrowsmith The edition of 'The Clouds' that I read was a part of the anthology Eight Great Comedies. This book that was lent to me by my school as a part of our English unit on comedy, where we briefly studied [b:The Importance of Being Earnest|92303|The Importance of Being Earnest|Oscar Wilde|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1298438452s/92303.jpg|649216], another play within the volume. As this school year is coming to an end, I figured that I should try to read some of the other comedies while I had the book in my hands.

Reading ancient plays do, by nature, come with some difficulties for me. I admit to having little knowledge of Greek history and the context in which The Clouds was written – I possess more knowledge on Ancient Rome than Greece. I do, however, know my mythology, which definitely helped in furthering my understanding of this work. Having an understanding of context would assist in comprehension, and perhaps I will return to this work after gaining that knowledge.

Despite this, I still found The Clouds enjoyable. This play tells this story of Strepsiades, a man deeply in debt. He enrolls in a “thinking house” to be taught how to outwit his creditors in court by Socrates. He proves to be completely incompetent and is replaced by his son, who, of course, doesn’t want to go to this school where there are pale-faced nerds; he would much rather hang out with his horses. The knowledge that Strepsiads’s son Pheidippides gains, however, comes at a price…

Although it is a comedy, this play does contain a serious undertone in which Aristophanes heavily criticises Socrates and Sophists in general. Through the debate between ‘Right Logic’ and ‘Wrong Logic’ (guess which one Aristophanes is criticising!), Aristophanes explains how ‘Wrong Logic’, the ability to live life with no effort and talk yourself out of all trouble, regardless of its unjust and immoral nature, is how many politicians and people of high status have become so fortunate. The ending, I felt, brought the serious and critical undertone to the surface. I suppose I would have to see the play performed to observe its intended meaning (although I guess this would vary as well, depending on the directors interpretation).

A lot of people are also commenting about how crude this play is. I suspect that I am reading either a euphemistic or censored translation, as I’ve noticed minimal bawdiness. I’m probably missing out. I don’t know enough Ancient Greek to judge the translation, but otherwise, the flowing, rhyming dialogue is quite interesting to read. Overall, I enjoyed this play, although admittedly, it didn’t make me laugh out loud. I would recommend it to, obviously, fans of Greek comedy, although it is a relatively readable one for those who want to give it a try for the first time.

Entertainment value: 3.5/5
Readability (would vary according to translation): 2.5/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 2/5
Plot: 3.5/5
The Outsider - Albert Camus, Joseph Laredo I need to write a French essay about this book. I also need to write a novel comparison of this book and [b:American Psycho|28676|American Psycho|Bret Easton Ellis|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348400564s/28676.jpg|2270060] for English class, so I am currently writing this review to get thoughts flowing.

(... in all honesty... I'm procrastinating.)

The Stranger/The Outsider/L'Étranger isn't a book to read for its plot. It is intentionally threadbare in order to facilitate the philosophy expressed through this book. The protagonist, Meursault, takes everything as it comes to him, unashamedly and unaffectedly. Society does not understand him, and he does not care. I found this book interesting, but not immensely engrossing. I understood the plot, I understood Camus's intention, and I was entertained by Meursault's voice, but I can't say that I loved this book, or that it was something that inspired a cataclysmic shift in my thinking or lifestyle. That is just me, though; I can see how this book could have a large impact on others. That being said, I found that Part II- especially the final pages of the book- contained the essence of the novel, and skilfully transformed Meursault's frenzied thoughts into his sense of inner peace. I would recommend giving this book a try; despite having little plot, it is short enough to keep your attention, and will give you a taste of some intriguing philosophical ideas.

Sidenote: Meursault is actually pretty sassy. Trying to picture this scene in my head doesn't quite work...

Marie: Do you love me?
Meursault: I don’t think so.

Marie: Marriage is a serious matter.
Meursault: No.

Marie: Would you accept this marriage proposal if it was from another woman with whom you had a similar relationship?
Meursault: Naturally.
House - Neil Gaiman,  Allen Williams Here are some random 1:00 AM ramblings on this poem.

We all want to be understood.

In my interpretation of House, Neil Gaiman uses the scenario of a crudely constructed papier mache head on a hill to portray this want. I think that the papier mache head symbolizes the 'outer self', the side of you that everybody can see, through your physical appearance or physical actions. The polishing eyes/mowing the lawn reminds me of either maintaining a physical appearance- perhaps polishing glasses, perhaps shaving, or could represent the overall care taken to maintain an image. In the rest of the poem, Gaiman describes how people go past the papier mache head on the hill and "they think the house is me". This shows that the people passing never notice the inner self, the essence of a person who makes them who they are- the people only see the face on the outside, what is shown. Everything else remains unnoticed.

I can see your house from here.
With this statement, Gaiman demonstrates how everybody has more depth and more value than what is apparent. This value goes beyond an image that has been projected.

I enjoyed this poem- this poem reminds us to be more aware, and take the time to- as cliche as it sounds- try to look at who someone is on the inside, beyond their physical appearance or actions.
This Is Water - David Foster Wallace description

"The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day."

I generally refrain from holding authors in such high regard until I've actually finished one of their works. I'm still working through [b:Infinite Jest|6759|Infinite Jest|David Foster Wallace|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1165604485s/6759.jpg|3271542], although I guess this speech would technically count as one of his works... regardless, David Foster Wallace was undeniably brilliant.

For future reference:

The speech, published in The Guardian on September 20, 2008.
The speech, read aloud by David Foster Wallace.

A full review for this may appear once day... probably after a few dozen more reads, once his words fully sink in. I'm hoping to someday purchase the book as well, or at least see for myself what the format is like.

DFW has the remarkable talent of somehow making you laugh while feeling introspective and somewhat depressed at the same time. I am in awe of him.
The Lottery (Tale Blazers) - Shirley Jackson My face after reading this:


This short story is terrifically written, but is completely horrifying. It begins on a light note, but it doesn't take long for the reader to notice the ominous undertone in Jackson's writing. This story brings emphasis to irrationality, mob mentality, and cruelty in human nature. It effectively demonstrates that tradition can't be excused for the sake of being tradition. This is a well written story with a powerful message- I definitely recommend it.

The Lottery was published in The New Yorker in 1948
The Seven-Day Target - Natalie Charles Nick Foster and Libby Andrews seem to have moved on from their broken engagement. Libby is an attorney, and Nick now works as an FBI agent in another town. However, when Nick comes back to attend the funeral of Libby's father, he learns that Libby is the target of a serial killer. Despite their past, Nick will do everything in his power to protect Libby and help discover who is behind the plot.

I don't tend to be an avid reader of this genre, but I decided to give this one a shot because of the mystery/suspense plotline. Although there were a few interesting twists, I ultimately had trouble believing many of the characters and the actions that they took. I do not claim to be an expert on criminal investigations, but I would think that the police would assign better protection for a serial killer's target than allowing her to go into hiding with an ex-fiancé (who isn't technically assigned to the job)- especially after the guy that is supposed to be watching her is killed . Libby isn't even doing a very good job of hiding- she is playing a very active role in the investigation itself. I found that Libby's sister Cassie, and Dom, another officer, weren't very believable characters, as they put their pride far ahead of Libby's safety. Libby's lack of caution didn't exactly help either.

I didn't notice anything particularly innovative about the romantic storyline. Two attractive people with a history together (and unfortunate childhoods- one with cancer and the other with child abuse) find themselves working together in the face of danger and rediscover the chemistry they had. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, I just didn't find it memorable. In addition, the romantic dialogue felt slightly stilted: for instance, lines like "You make me want to be a better man", "I can't live without you", "You're all I've ever wanted", and "I've always loved you" in extremely close proximity made the scene feel a bit cliché.

Random sidenote: I do not understand how the catchphrase relates to this book- "Love Never Dies, But Can It Kill"?

Overall, this was a fast-paced and interesting addition to the Harlequin romances. Personally, I wasn't sold on the story, but if romance is your genre of choice, don't be afraid to give this a try.

I received an ARC of this through the Goodreads First Reads program. This has not influenced my opinions about the book in any way.
Dreams and Shadows - C. Robert Cargill I’ve been mulling this book over in my head for a few hours now, trying to decide whether I like the book, or whether it is simply ‘okay’. After some deliberation, I’ve settled on the 2/5 rating.

This book is divided into two parts, and follows two protagonists, Colby and Ewan (yes, like Ewan McGregor). Commencing the unfulfilled promise of a fairy tale with “once upon a time”, the author quickly snatches the reader’s attention by ruthlessly shattering a perfect family. This is the beginning of Ewan’s story, and is, in my opinion, the best chapter in the book. Then, eight-year-old Colby is introduced as an overly curious, precocious child largely ignored by his mother. He meets Yashar, a cursed djinn, who grants him a wish. Little Colby does a Phaëton and makes a wish that will doom him to a terrible fate that he is unable to yet perceive. He wishes to be able to see the supernatural. The focus of this book is on the supernatural creatures that are very unpleasant (and do most of the slasher film-style killings). Colby’s naïve desire to see everything that the supernatural has to offer leads him to the Limestone Kingdom, where he meets young Ewan, who is now living amongst the fairies. Other significant characters worthy of mention are Mallaidh, a beautiful young fairy in love with her ‘hero’, Ewan, and Knocks, the vicious changeling who has dedicated his bitter life to ruining Ewan. Throughout the rest of the book, we see the consequences of Colby’s choice play out, and see that fate and the ‘nature of things’ can never be defeated.

Dreams and Shadows is a fantasy novel that is most certainly not intended for young readers. The author – who was the screenwriter for the horror film Sinister – writes scenes containing explicit goriness with a great deal of gusto. Hence, if descriptions of people getting sliced in half, smashed against walls, having their head shattered, and having their organs spew everywhere grosses you out, this book is definitely not for you. Although gory scenes can have their place, I felt that at times, the excessive violence did not play any significant role in providing description in scenes that strengthen the plot. For instance, in Part 1 (which I feel is the weaker half of the book), there are chapters pertaining to the slaughter of unfortunate characters in the wrong place at the wrong time. The characters who meet their untimely ends are undeveloped and unlikeable, so their deaths have little meaning to the reader. In general, I never connected with any of the characters (except for Ewan’s mother at the beginning of the book), which prevented me from being fully invested in the plot.

In terms of nature vs. nurture, this book takes the ‘nature’ side of the argument to the extreme. The fairies all feed on different things – not necessarily flesh. Certain types of fairies feed off of things like fear and agony; others such as the ‘redcaps’ wear a woolen cap and must kill to keep the cap red with blood in order to maintain their power, and the ‘sidhe’ feed off of sexual energy. Most of the deaths in the book are justified because it is ‘within the nature’ of the fairies to feed and kill in horrible ways; the fairies have absolutely no control over these urges. Although I do know that this is a fantastical world, it still seems weird to me that a fairy can brutally murder someone (to feed), be extremely upset, then cry something along the lines of ‘why did you leave me, my love?’ and repeat this cycle over… and over… and over. The rules of Colby’s capabilities were also lost on me- I felt like I didn’t have a good grasp on what he could or could not do. Hence, his performances in the battle scenes often left me baffled. The background facts about other creatures are revealed in non-fiction textbook-styled chapters sandwiched between chapters of the actual story. Although they were occasionally interesting, they generally felt very formulaic in the sense that something would happen in the plot, and pause! What did we just see there? – sometimes even when characters in the plot just explained what happened. I felt like they interrupted the flow of the plot. I did enjoy, however, when the text was referenced within the plot itself.

Although I didn’t buy the romance between Mallaidh and Ewan, I thought that her death scene was thought out well, and was quite clever. I also thought that Ewan’s final words were brilliant. Although I have difficulties understanding the nature of the fairies, I thought that a great moment in the book was when one of the main characters acknowledges that absurdity, and tries to use it as an argument against them.

I think what this book was missing was the necessary description to make the characters and their significance more fleshed out. I understood that Colby and Ewan were friends, but I had trouble feeling their relationship. I may simply be hard to please, but my lack of belief and investment in the story made me unable to connect to it- which is somewhat ironic considering the importance of the concept of belief in the story itself. To add, I didn't feel that this book was comparable to the works of Neil Gaiman- everything from the the prose style to the use of imagery and tone felt quite different. All in all, I did finish the book, and enjoyed some aspects of it- but I won't be rereading it or picking up the sequel.

Entertainment value: 3/5
Writing quality/style: 2/5
Readability: 2/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 1.5/5
Plot: 3/5

I received an ARC of this through the Goodreads First Reads program. This has not influenced my opinions about the book in any way.

Review edited 3/17/13
American Gods - Neil Gaiman
Thinking holistically about American Gods , a few words come to mind: weird man-eating vagina????? , deep, resonating, and... wow. This book was actually really, really, good.

This isn't a book that I would be able to quickly summarize competently- any attempt of mine to do so would result in something sounding like a hokey adult Percy Jackson book (which it most certainly is not). Hence, I will leave that to the multitude of excellent reviewers also on this page. ;)

The main weakness of the book, in my opinion, is the pacing. The first two-thirds of the book are quite slow, although not without purpose and not unbearably so. The characters that the protagonist, Shadow, encounters- or even those that are mentioned in their own side stories but never encounter him- are fascinating and vibrant. In particular, in the one story about the man sent to America to sell useless things, I felt quite emotional, which is really a testament to Gaiman's skilful writing This book does have spots of humour as well- for instance, Sam's massive rant about things that she believes in was hilarious. Things definitely picked up in the last third of the book, where the reader is sent tumbling with the twists, turns, and revelations.

This is a book that I can definitely reread in the future. I am, admittedly, a huge fan of Neil Gaiman as a person and as a writer, and I look forward to reading more of his work.

Entertainment value: 4/5
Writing quality/style: 5/5
Readability: 3.5/5 (5 being the most difficult to read)
Characters (depth/development): 4/5
Plot: 5/5

A few favourite quotes:

"A town isn't a town unless it's got a bookstore, it may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore, it knows it's not fooling a soul."

"It doesn't matter that you didn't believe in us. We believed in you."

"I think I would rather be a man than a god. We don't need anyone to believe in us. We just keep going anyhow. It's what we do."