Category: Reading

Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

I’ve decided to return to my book-reading resolution.  While it’s unlikely that I’ll make my 50 book mark by the end of the year, that should not stop me.  Last night I crossed book #20 off of my list, and that’s a number to brag about.

But I also believe that books are not conquests.  You don’t read a book for the sake of reading it and moving on to the next one.  You read a book because you want to experience the story.  Maybe you want to peek inside a writer’s head for a while, maybe you want to escape what’s in your own mind temporarily.  The reasons for reading a book are just as personal as a writer’s reasons for writing one in the first place.

But that’s for another post.

Last night I finished reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman.  Despite the overwhelmingly positive reviews of his work, I’d hesitated picking up a book of his until now.  Why?  Maybe I’m just stubborn.  I don’t like people telling me what I should read.  Perhaps it’s an extension of the ideas mentioned above.  My reasons for reading are personal and someone else shouldn’t interfere with it.  Whatever the reason, I’m glad I finally read this one.

Be warned, there may be minor spoilers ahead if you haven’t read the book.  I’ll keep them to a minimum, though.

My first impression upon reading this book and being introduced to all of the godly characters was “I need to do some research!  These gods are interesting.”  And that’s no joke.  I adored the writing style in this book too.  The book had a darker, more serious overtone which contrasted with scenes full of, well, Gods and dwarves and pixies.  Given the tone, I expected more death and bloodshed (and fewer resurrections) in the ending.  The loose ends did get tied up nice and neatly by the end, but the execution was well done.

Toward the middle of the story, Shadow is dumped in a small town called Lakeside presumably to lay low while Mr. Wednesday does much of the dirty work.  (While at first this seems like a cop-out, this subplot proves have more significance later on, so that was interesting.)  The townspeople take an immediate liking to Shadow, this stranger who wandered in on a bus the night before and has no idea how to live in sub-zero temperatures.  The police chief gives him a tour of the town and helps him buy things because he has nothing better to do.  I was left amazed, thinking, “Is this how small towns really operate out in the Midwest?  Maybe I’ve been living in the wrong towns all my life!”  But alas, even the frozen utopia of Lakeside had some dark secrets to it.

This is definitely a candidate for re-reading in the future.  There were quite a few intricate details that were missed by me in the first go through of the story.  I suppose it didn’t help that I took a break halfway through to focus on writing and editing.

The next book I’ll read will be Nadine Ducca’s Serving Time.

Returning to Challenge: Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert

Finally, I get to return to my Book a Week challenge.  School is over, I’ve finished moving in and I’ve found a job that will pay the bills.  With those stresses over with, I can move on and relax.

I started reading Dune a few months ago, on a classmate’s recommendation and urging.  I loved it, despite and possibly because its length rivaled this country’s regulation laws on the sale of cabbage.  I’m not quite sure why I took so long to start reading the sequels, but after one last visit to the bookstore before the move I picked up the next three books in the series.  I’ll be burning my way through those soon enough.

Dune Messiah picks up twelve years after Dune ends.  Paul’s empire is established and a rebellion forms.  Paul is treated as a Messiah and his sister as a Saint.  Irulan plays a more prominent role, at least for the first half of the book, and Paul decides which one of his women will give him an heir.

I loved this story because it brought me back to the same writing style and worldbuilding that I grew to love before.  There was significant change since Paul took power, but it was still familiar enough that I could get back into the story.  I will say that I felt the ending was sort of rushed.  Too many things happened, things that were obviously important to Paul, while he was elsewhere and unable to act.

Tomorrow I’ll get started on Children of Dune, while I’m at the beach with family.

Challenge Accepted

Early on Sunday morning I arrived back at the house where my family has lived for seven years. Since moving away two years ago I’ve come back for the occasional visit during breaks from school, but this time I’m here to stay for the foreseeable future.

I’ve written before about how I’m moving back in with my family and how depressing the situation is. I love my family, of course. But I’d already begun to establish a life for myself, and having to pack it all up because of money is discouraging. I had to quit my job and leave my new friends behind.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the difficulty I face looking for jobs. The job pool here in this small town is much thinner than the cities in south Florida. Now that season is ending, this is especially so. Now that the weather is warming up north and the tourists are packing up to go home, restaurants are now starting to slow business and even start layoffs.

I am making one thing clear: I will not waste time looking for any part-time job that will hire me. I’ve worked my ass off for two years gaining a degree, certification, and work experience. I’ve worked long enough to know not only what I am capable of on the job, but what kind of boss I want to work for. An employer who puts little to no effort in his/her business, with the expectation that employees will always be there to fill up the gaps, is not someone who should be in a management position, much less above me on the ladder. 

Moving on, the job hunt isn’t the only thing I’m going to be resuming. Starting next Sunday, I’ll be continuing the 52 Books Challenge that I started in January. Because it won’t truly be a 52 Books Challenge, I’ll start calling it the Book a Week Challenge. I’m going to start by continuing a series that I got into and fell in love with a long time ago, with Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah.

Script Frenzy also starts next week, and I’m going to work on a webcomic script. Ideally, I’d like to see it online someday, but that’s a ways off. I still need to outline much of the main plots! More information about my comic can be found here.

My plan was to release Poplar and Mint on March 31st. With everything else going on, that will have to be pushed back a bit. I’m shooting for the end of April, but details TBA. School’s done, I’m out of work, and I’m not any less busy. Though honestly, I couldn’t stand it any other way. Bring it on!

On Sacrifices

I’ve recently come to the conclusion that some of my plans for this year and the future will need to be put on hold. It’s depressing, but I don’t have much of a choice right now.

In This post I listed my resolutions for 2012, one of them being that I take part in and complete the 52 Books Challenge. I took a bit of a break in order to read and help edit some friends’ novel drafts, and I still haven’t finished that. In truth, it’s become draining to take part in this challenge with work and school taking up so much of my time, and proofreading drafts takes up more time and effort than simply reading them. Finding a new book, and reading it in its entirety before the week became up, was starting to become a chore for me. I’m of the opinion that when something that was once enjoyable turns into a task that must be completed, it’s time to give it a break. I’ll come back and read one book per week as soon as a graduate, which will be in one month.

With graduation comes another sacrifice I’ll have to take. Living in south Florida, for those who are unaware, is almost prohibitively expensive. A studio apartment in the worst parts of town can go for $550 a month or more. My loan payments, when they kick in, will set me back about the same amount. I won’t be able to afford both on my own. So when I graduate, I’ll be moving back in with my family in Port Saint Lucie, about two hours north of where I am now.

It’s depressing because it still feels like I’m giving up in a sense, and that I can’t handle the pressures of the real world. I’ll be a twenty-one year old college graduate who’s worked harder than some of my former bosses, and still unable to make it on my own. Even reading has become a challenge for me. But that’s the reality of my situation. I have to come to the realization that sacrifices don’t always mean giving up, it means looking at the cards I’ve been dealt and making the best of them.

Now I’m given more time to focus on my final classes and my job, before I have to say goodbye to both.

Week 5: The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson

My original plan was to give myself at least one week’s break before reading the next book in any series, like The Hunger Games and Millennium trilogies. This week, I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer, so to hell with it, and finished up Millennium.

I was not disappointed. Much of the loose ends in Lisbeth’s backstory were tied up, and I got a strong sense of satisfaction while watching the people who gave her so much hell get taken down for good. I was left wondering whatever came of Camilla, who was mentioned so many times throughout all three books but never showed up in person. Still, it makes some kind of sense for her to stay in the background if she wasn’t so important to the story as a whole. Considering what a private person Lisbeth is in the first place, why should we know every little detail about her life?

One thing that did bother me is similar to what bothered me about Fire. I mentioned in my last post that Lisbeth has a strange ability to make the average stuffed shirt crazy about her. Mikael Blomkvist has this same ability with women, to the point where a police officer who worked with him for about one month was already falling in love with him. In Dragon, we saw one of the Vanger clan fall for him after a brief affair. Even Lisbeth discovered that she had feelings for him, and grew extremely bitter when she discovered that they would never be returned. Erika even lampshaded this phenomenon toward the end of Hornet. It comes off as more of an informed ability, as while I consider Mikael to be a likable character, I couldn’t see myself falling for him.

This is still a great ending to the trilogy. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that the story is done.

Week 4: The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

I finished reading this late last night, or really early this morning. Despite having a long day at work and school with a lack of sleep the night before, I could not bring myself to go to bed until this book was finished. That shows how good it is.

This book shifts the series’ focus almost completely to Lisbeth. In Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, we had more insight into Mikael Blomkvist’s character. Fire has him somewhat less prominent without being missed.

One thing that really bothered me was toward the beginning of the book, where Bjurman is thinking to himself about his blackmail situation. He’s thinking over what he did to Salander with no remorse whatsoever, even though he knows that what he did was wrong and that it could ruin his life. Okay, fine, we already established that he’s a world-class asshole. His reason for why it started is bothersome.

He was turned on by Salander in ways that he couldn’t explain, as she is not his usual type of woman. This would be more acceptable if that thought didn’t also cross the minds of Blomkvist and Armansky. It strikes me as odd that three men who would before not give a woman like Salander a second look are suddenly attracted to her.

Besides, that, I found the rest of the story to be interesting and enjoyable. I couldn’t help but laugh sometimes at some of the cops during the extensive investigation. Only two of them seemed to be in their right minds, more interested in solving the investigation and following it down whatever path it may have led. The rest of them, so sure that they knew Salander was behind the crimes at hand could not be convinced of otherwise (despite the little evidence against her), that focused more on finding her. Then there was a media circus surrounding the cases, that somehow turned a triple murder into the story of a lesbian satanist cult. I’m willing to guess that there was a heavy amount of social commentary on the author’s part in this part of the story, without knowing enough about the social climate of Sweden.

Finally, a lot was revealed about Salander’s backstory. It was certainly worse than anything I could have imagined. I can’t wait to see what else will be revealed in book #3.

Week 3: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I finished The Hunger Games last night, wrapping up another week in this 52 books challenge. To be honest, I’m surprised not only that I’ve made it this far, but that I’ve managed to develop a rhythm and am still enjoying myself. While of course I do like reading, this is much faster than my usual reading pace, and I expected to feel the beginnings of a burnout about now.

I’ve heard many good things about The Hunger Games before I started it, and I’ve been wanting to pick it up for a while. After finishing, I can say that I was not disappointed. I like the setting of a post-American dystopia and the fact that the author was not afraid to show some blood. This is especially important, because I don’t think it would be possible to pull off a story with that kind of premise while being shy around the violent bits.

The only thing that put me off was the narration, and even then only in certain parts. It can be explained by the fact that the speaker is a sixteen year old girl, and a very informal girl at that, but there are places where her style of speech is jarring. Example:

“The girl with the arrows, Glimmer I hear someone call her—ugh, the names the people in District 1 give their children are so ridiculous—anyway Glimmer scales the tree….”

Collins, Suzanne (2009-09-01). The Hunger Games (p. 182). Scholastic Books. Kindle Edition.

Overall, I liked it, and will be getting to the other books in the series soon.

Week 4’s book will be The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson.