American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Oh, this really took some time.

First of all, thank you all for sharing the titles of your favorite books. It seems that when it comes to classics and mainstream books, we pretty much read the same books. It was interesting to learn the differences and I have to say that my ‘to-be-read’ list got significantly longer. Who knows? Maybe some of them will find their way here. ^^

That also helped in the writing of this review. It was hard to write it considering that this is one of my favorite books, but I realized that, ultimately, all you can do is to share your love for the book. So, I give you…

"This is a bad land for Gods."

America has often been described as a melting pot – a place where various people and cultures mix together. The people who have been arriving to the New World over the centuries have brought their beliefs, their superstitions and their gods with them. But, as the time passed, the gods have gradually been forgotten, replaced by the new deities – money, transportation, internet. Their powers have been diminished and, now, they simply exist in our plane, waiting for the end. The idea that gods exist only as long as people believe in them is one of the main themes of Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods.

At the beginning of the novel, the protagonist – Shadow – is at the end of his three-year prison sentence for aggravated assault. He is looking forward to returning home to his beloved wife and job at best friend’s gym. Just a few days before his release, his wife and friend die in a car accident. Left with nothing, Shadow accepts the job offer of mysterious Wednesday to become his bodyguard and errand boy. He is thrown into adventure of epic proportions – the war of gods.

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American Gods* is entertaining, multilayered novel which will make you want to start reading it all over again once you reach the last page. It is followed by Anansi Boys, the novel which shares the same universe, and novella Monarch of the Glen, which follows Shadow’s further adventures. If you like fantasy, this is a story for you. I'm not sure this review does Mr. Gaiman's book justice, but I highly recommend it.

*American Gods won Hugo, Nebula, Locus, SFX Magazine and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel in 2002 as well as several other nominations and international literary awards.

Favorite Books from Around the World

Belgrade Book Fair 2009, today

I'm struggling with the review of one of my favorite books. It's always tricky to write about the books you love dearly. How can you explain in so little words why has some book caught your attention, how it has influenced or even changed your life? Reviewing a book is always subjective to some extent, but writing a review of your favorite book even more so.

This got me thinking. People from 22 countries have so far visited my personal journal. Are we reading the same books? With internet and other means of communication, our world is certainly much smaller than it used to be and the books from different countries are more available than ever.

So, what are you reading right now? What is the last book you purchased? And what are your favorite books? Why?

Help me in a time of writer's block. ~_^

Right now, I'm reading Robert Jordan's The Path of Daggers.

The last books I purchased (today) are last Harry Potter (in Serbian, since my mom does not speak English), Sergey Lukyanenko's Day Watch, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Arnaud Delalande's The Dante Trap & Text Proofreading (I need it for my job).

My favorite books? You'll hear about them the next time. I don't want to reveal my next review. XD

Win for Book Depository!

The Book Depository finally put Serbia on the list of countries they ship the books to free of charge. That's great news for all the book lovers in my country who want to read books in English and pay reasonable prices for them.

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Thank you, Book Depository!
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Great news!

Amazon Kindle goes international! As of October 19th, Amazon Kindle will be available in more than 100 countries (including Serbia, yay!) for $279. The price of U.S. version will be $259. While this is a considerable investment, the new Sony Reader will cost about $400. My heart was with Sony, but, really, the price difference is more than significant. The readers will be able to download around 200.000 books.

One the downside, which I really don't understand (although I read Amazon's reasons) - Kindle will not be available in Canada.

This is a great move, but I would personally like more competition in this market. More competition brings lower prices and better services for the users. Let's see what will next year bring, since it seams there are 17 different readers in development around the world.

The Shack by William P. Young

Originally posted in my journal on September 26th, 2009.

Book blurb:

Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever. In a world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant "The Shack" wrestles with the timeless question, "Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?" The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

No, I wouldn’t.

Every once in a while, I come across highly praised or/and widely accepted book that does nothing for me. However, in spite of my personal feelings, I am usually able to find something in it, some value, a character, an idea, even only a scene which makes it worth reading. The Shack is not one of those books.

Let me say this. I am not an expert in theology or a believer, but I have seriously studied the Bible as a part of my literary studies and I have read the books dealing with similar subjects which, if didn’t make me believe, were at the very least – inspirational. But, I will try to concentrate on the literary aspect more, since that is, after all, my profession. That doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion about Mr. Young’s ideas and you will hear them too.

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This book is a sad product of our time, a time which seeks easy answers to difficult questions, instant gratification, a manual on how to live. It reads as (unsuccessful) pamphlet or one of those motivational books we like so much. It devaluates the idea of universal love, idea of God and offers false impression that we don’t have to work for good, for justice, for peace. It’s a shiny trinket which fascinates for about five minutes, but in the end remains just that – a trinket.

Do I have a positive thing to say about this book? Well, it’s easy to read. The style is easy, because, apparently it was written for Mr. Young’s children. Also, during the research about this book, I learned that Mr. Young wrote this book to overcome some really dark moments of his own life. If the book helped him, it has served its purpose. However, I recommend that you start your search for the truth and divine love as well as good read somewhere else.

If you have already read this book, I would like to hear your opinion.

The Alienist by Caleb Carr

Originally posted in my journal on September 24th, 2009.

I already said in one of the previous posts that I really like to read mysteries. That aside, it is true that mysteries rarely transcendent the limits of the genre to become - Literature with capital L. Caleb Carr's The Alienist is one of those books.

The novel is exquisite blend of genres, including historical fiction, mystery, thriller and police procedural and it should be appealing to many readers with different tastes. In XIX century, the people with mental problems or illnesses were called 'alienated', therefore, the alienist is a predecessor of modern-day psychologist or psychiatrist.

The book is set in New York City in 1896. Theodore Roosevelt, then Police Commissioner of New York, enlists the help of alienist Dr. Laszlo Kreitzler and journalist John Moore, his Harvard classmates, to solve gruesome murders of young boys who prostitute themselves on the streets of New York. Dr. Kreitzler is a pioneer in the field, one who believes that people's motivations depend on the 'context' of their lives and both his dubious reputation in the eyes of his less open-minded colleagues and political circumstances (Roosevelt's reform and battle against heavily corrupted police officers) make the investigation very difficult. The investigation is therefore secret and takes place outside the official channels. Kreitzler and Moore, who tells this story, receive the help of Sara Howard, the first woman to be hired by the police department, Marcus and Lucius Isaacson, two Jewish brothers who were hired when Roosevelt began removing corrupt police officers from the force, Cyrus, doctor's black servant and former patient, and Stevie, young boy, who Kreitzler saved from being institutionalized, and his protégé. Together, they are trying to solve the murders while fighting the prejudices, political adversaries and general belief that some crimes are better left unsolved.

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The Alienist is followed by the sequel - The Angel of Darkness, which, through Stevie's eyes tells another story of Kreitzler's group of friends. The book is as complex as Carr's first and explores another disturbing subject, especially for Kreitzler's contemporaries - mothers who kill their children. I’ve read an interview with Carr in which he said he had planned to write a series of these books, each told by the different character. The rumors say the third novel is in the works. If that’s true, I can't wait to read it.

You can find more about The Alienist - here. If you haven't read it yet, pick up this book. It will be more than worth your time.

EDIT: I've read both the original and Serbian translation of this book and I'm pleased to say that the translation has done justice to Mr. Carr's book.

Administration Series by Manna Francis

Originally posted in my journal on November 17th, 2008.

One of the reasons I initially became interested in Administration Series by Manna Francis was the fact that it was published online. The quality of the story attracted the right attention and it was picked up by Casperian Books and published in paperback. I know a lot of people who are writing and posting their stories online and this example should encourage them. I want to believe that really a good writing always finds the ways to the readers. I know my reading experience would be much poorer if I haven’t come across Ms. Manna’s stories.

The story is set in the future, in dystopian Europe, controlled by totalitarian Administration and powerful corporations. Torture, violence and mind manipulation are legitimate means against the criminals and, more often, political prisoners. Although the humanity has conquered the space (there are colonies on Mars, for example) and technology has significantly advanced, everyday life is disturbingly similar to the present. Far more disturbing is the fact that the citizens of this clearly oppressive regime enjoy some of the freedoms our world can currently only dream of – racial, gender and sexual equality. But, when it comes to the Administration, there is no freedom that cannot be used and abused.

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The authors' site also includes the reviews, fanart gallery and essays about the series. I suggest that you read the stories in the order presented on Ms. Francis' site. Or buy them in print from her publisher or Amazon. Highly, highly recommended read.

Adrien English Mystery Series by Josh Lanyon

I'm in the process of rewriting and editing the reviews I originally posted in my personal journal. This review is the first to be revised and re-posted here. Once all the edits are done, you can expect the new reviews. ^^

Originally posted in my journal on September 28th, 2008.

There are several reasons why I like a good mystery. I like an easy, pleasurable read which still requires the use of a few grey cells. Also, the mysteries offer very good escape if you need the break from everyday life. They offer sense of adventure a modern life often lacks. But, good mystery novels and mystery writers are hard to come by. Your average fiction detectives very often look alike psychologically if not physically, stories tend to be on too-much-info or not-enough-info side of the fence, writers tend to be pretentious and very, very often insult readers’ intelligence. There's a lot more I could say, but, yeah, that’s pretty much a gist of it.

Enter Adrien English, the main character of Josh Lanyon's Adrien English Mystery Series which, in this moment in time, consists of four novellas/novels: Fatal Shadows, A Dangerous Thing, The Hell You Say and Death of a Pirate King.

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I have read everything Josh Lanyon wrote but one story and I am not ashamed to say – I’m a fanyon. This neologism was created to describe Mr. Lanyon’s very passionate followers. It’s very easy to love his stories and characters and I wish there was a way to introduce his books to mainstream audiences, since I’m convinced the response would be very positive.

I can't recommend this series enough. The winter is coming and these stories are perfect for cold and boring winter afternoons. You know, hot chocolate, blanket, and a good book. And these are good. Very, very good.

Visit Josh Lanyon's official site or his journal.