Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

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Title: American Gods

Author: Neil Gaiman

Publication Date: June 19, 2001

Genre: Fantasy

Overview: Shadow is just about to get out of jail and go back to his wife, Laura. Only a few days before he’s set to be released, he gets called into the warden’s office. He’s being let out early. His wife is dead.

On his flight back he meets Mr. Wednesday. Wednesday seems to know too much about Shadow. Shadow isn’t sure what to think, but accepts Wednesday’s offer for a job. He starts going around the country with Wednesday, and Shadow discovers that there’s a war brewing in America, a war of the gods.


For Fans Of: Neil Gaiman (duh)


World-Building: Gaiman constructs a hidden world within on own. The world of gods forgotten and the gods that are rising. It’s not seamless. There are overlaps that seem to go suspiciously unnoticed by the average population. However, how the world developed is extremely well done. Gaiman gives us a view of the world’s history and its members that is to die for. It’s beautifully developed and described.


Character Development: Shadow, Laura, and Wednesday are interesting characters in the plot. Shadow, as Laura says, is not always alive. Prison has made him almost brutally self controlled. But his adventures with Wednesday show what’s underneath, including a strong sense of  honor and loyalty. Wednesday isn’t who we think he is, but that’s what makes him fun. Laura is interesting (she’s dead after all), but her growth is not insignificant. She stays, at her core, very much the same. But she’s also not as naive as we think she is.


Plot: The plot bends back on itself at times. It’s not a bad thing and really helps flesh out the world within worlds. Some events seem, at first, to happen sporadically, but it’s to the benefit of the plot in the long run, especially when you learn more about the war.


Rating: 4


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Review: Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

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Title: Reconstructing Amelia

Author: Kimberly McCreight

Publication Date: June 20, 2013

Genre: Contemporary, Mystery

Overview: When Kate’s daughter is found dead after falling off of her school’s roof, everyone assumes the worst: suicide. That is, until Kate receives an anonymous text message telling her that Amelia did not jump. Kate is then launched into an investigation to find out what really happened. In doing so, she finds out dark secrets about her daughter’s world–secret clubs, tell-all blogs, and cruel text messages– that Kate is sure led to Amelia’s death.


For Fans Of: Gossip Girl, The Cyberbully


World-Building: Reconstructing Amelia is set in the present day with all its amenities. The part of the world that really takes some convincing is in Amelia’s social life and in the investigation of Amelia’s death.


I understand that Amelia is supposed to be going to a very rich private school. And while I can potentially see secret clubs existing, it’s hard for me to buy into some tell-all gossip rag about the students. I know students can be mean and malicious, and maybe it’s just my own high school experience, but I don’t really buy the idea that someone would go out of their way to chronicle all the gossip that is going on in a small school. That stuff travels fast enough on its own. Let alone that blog becoming popular.


This being said, the gRaCeFULLY blog isn’t really important to the plot at all. All of the blog entries could be taken out and the plot would still move fine, if not more smoothly.


The other part of the story I found difficult to believe was that, in this world, Kate is very active in her daughter’s investigation. This was a wholly unbelievable thing to me. That Kate was permitted to follow leads, view evidence, and come with the detective on her daughter’s case to participate in questioning was ridiculous. This would, in any case or investigation, be a totally biasing, unquestionably forbidden thing. It took me out of the story.


Character Development: Reconstructing Amelia is much less about the characters than the mystery. That being said, there are characters who aren’t built in a way that even hints at their actions in the past. I found that disappointing.


Plot: The plot was fine. It wasn’t a terribly insurmountable mystery what had happened.


Rating: 3


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Review: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

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Title: The Wise Man’s Fear

Author: Patrick Rothfuss

Publication Date: March 1, 2011

Genre: Fantasy

Overview: We meet Kvothe, Bast, and the Chronicler once more. Kvothe’s story continues, in which he still is seeking mastery over the name of the wind. After a few interesting adventures at University, he leaves for a potential patron, a pseudo-king, the Maer, who Kvothe realizes is being poisoned. Kvothe must earn the Maer’s trust, and along the way fight for survival.


For Fans Of: Patrick Rothfuss, Tamora Pierce, Scott Lynch


World-Building: Rothfuss, again, shows us a very well thought out, vivid world. Magic is woven in subtly. The framing is done very well and adds to the story, allowing us to get input on the “reality” of some situations and giving other characters the power to show us dangers that are understated in Kvothe’s narrative.


Character Development: The second book shows us more of Kvothe than the impulsive young boy he had been. We see a lot more of him realizing that haste is far from universally best. He realizes sharply that clever can get you killed. On top of this, the supporting characters really come into their own, especially Devi. Though we don’t learn too much more of her backstory, we come to learn about who she is emotionally. The same cannot be said for Denna (though a few scenes seem to try).


Plot: It meanders about at times, particularly when he leave’s the Maer’s. There are a series of adventures that follow which don’t really do too much for Kvothe’s story, other than get him a sword and cape (and of course laid). When it’s on point, though, it’s very dynamic and the plot has some very solid foreshadowing and twists.


Rating: 4.5


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Review: The Weight of Blood, by Laura McHugh

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Title: The Weight of Blood

Author: Laura McHugh

Publication Date: March 11, 2014

Genre: Suspense

Overview: Lucy has grown up in the Ozarks and, occasionally, people disappear. They rarely show up again. When her friend Cheri, a young girl with mental disability, goes missing and later shows up dismembered, the town is abuzz. No one knows what’s happened and Lucy feels obligated to look into Cheri’s death. In doing so, she uncovers terrible secrets about the people she loves.


For Fans Of: Gillian Flynn, Scott Smith


World-Building: McHugh gives the reader a very vivid picture of life in the Ozarks. Though it isn’t a purely imagined world, it’s very well crafted without being overly detailed. There’s a sense of isolation and distance in much of the landscape which is very true to life for a lot of rural America.


Character Development: Lucy starts out as a fairly naive kid whose main concern is whether she and her best friend Bess will get to hang out. Though she remains fairly innocent throughout, she starts to ask some hard questions and I think that’s where her real growth is.


The secondary plot, following her mother, Lila, also shows some very interesting character development. We see Lila come to a town and turn from a run-of-the-mill young woman into a wife, a mother, and a surprisingly fierce woman. This particular plot line also gives the reader insight into the depths of other characters (namely Lucy’s father and uncle) that was interesting to see and supplemented our understanding of them and their actions in the main plot line.


Plot: The plot is dynamic. It’s fast-paced.There’s a lot going on, some of which flows very naturally, other times it feels a little strange and like some of the characters may not normally behave in the way they do. It’s never a major distraction from the story though, and usually is there to push the story forward.


Rating: 4-4.5


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Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

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Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora   

Author: Scott Lynch

Publication Date: June 27, 2006

Genre: Fantasy

Overview: Locke Lamora is a thief with terribly high ambitions. Cons come as easy to him as breathing, so much so that he is cast out from the biggest thieving crew in the city, right into the hands of some of the sneakiest criminals. As an adult, he takes the crew over, balancing cons that are forbidden among the gangs of the city with cultivating an image of a lowly breaking and entering crew.

Until, that is, a new threat comes into town: the Gray King. The entire city is under threat and Lamora has caught the King’s eye.

For Fans Of: Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson

World Building: The world that Lynch sets up is decently done. It was believable and, for the most part, consistent. There were a few things I found dubious: the economic and socio-economic implications of the Secret Peace and the medical knowledge in the world were primary points of contention. I have a hard time believing that two vastly different worlds would be able to come together for something as deliberate as the Secret Peace. Additionally, I find it hard to believe that underclasses like the Right People would willingly give up as large and profitable a mark as the rich simply for the luxury of not dealing with police. Additionally, I find that the medical knowledge is disjointed. In a world where there’s alchemy and where physicians guilds get cadavers on a regular basis, I’m surprised Lynch thinks that it is consistent to say that there’s a belief in the four humors rather than a greater medical knowledge.

Characters: The characters were interesting. In particular, I liked the Thiefmaker. He was very Fagan-esq (I’m sure that was intentional) and I liked the Spider and Jean. The rest of the characters had their moments, but I thought they all seemed very similar in dialogue. Their voices, in that respect, were very similar.

Lamora was lacking, I thought. He’s played up as this very clever and very mischievious person, but he doesn’t seem to behave that way. There isn’t a real sense of smugness about him or a sense of purpose for that enjoyment. I thought that the Sanza brothers seemed more like the type of personality that Lamora was supposed to be.

Plot: It served its purpose and was dynamic enough. I thought some of the plot points weren’t tied in particularly well. Nazca’s death didn’t really feel like the catalyst it could have been and it really took the Grey King’s plot a while to get going.

Rating: 4.0  A good read. I’d probably borrow it rather than buy it. High hopes for the second.

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Review: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Tom Rachman

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Title: The Rise and Fall of Great Powers: A Novel

Author: Tom Rachman

Publication Date: June 10, 2014

Genre: Contemporary (some mystery)

Overview: This novel follows Tooly, a late 30 something who has settled in Wales where she owns a bookstore in a small town. She’s led most of her life nomadically–her father was a U.S. contractor. When she was very young, she was taken from her father’s home and carted around the world with a group of criminals: Venn, Sarah, and Humphrey. Soon after settling down, she gets a call that Humphrey is ill and must travel back to New York, setting off a barrage of questions that have been left unanswered.

For Fans Of: Tom Rachman

World-Building: This book takes place in a contemporary setting. The world, itself, is unaltered save for the feasibility of mid-scale, repeated cons (not a terribly large stretch)

Character Development: There are some characters who really grow in this novel, Tooly first and foremost, and through her eyes, we see a good deal of growth in Fogg (or at least how Tooly comes to perceive him), Humphrey, and Duncan. We find out a lot about the characters’ past and, in a sense, it’s retroactive growth. It’s satisfying, though.

Plot: Some of the plot points seem a little rushed and it can be a bit hard to follow at first. The plot jumps between three different points in time, but after the first few chapters it’s very accessible.

Rating: 4.5 stars

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