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Neil Gaiman - American Gods

Title: American Gods
Author: Neil Gaiman
Rating: 6/10
Dates Read: 10/17-24
Synopsis: Another story by Gaiman about a seemingly ordinary man who gets sucked into a world of magic, myth and fantasy. Old gods of myth (Odin, Loki, Anansi) rise up to battle the new gods of the Internet, railroads and technology.

Comments: More grandiose and less original than "Neverwhere"; more sombre and less entertaining than "Good Omens". The characters are also less endearing, less quirky, less interesting. Despite the detail, it was hard for me to get into this book. It seems the more Gaiman novels I read, the less impressed I am by them. Maybe I should try more of the Sandman comics and his children's books instead.

M. M. Kaye - The Far Pavilions

Title: The Far Pavilions
Author: M. M. Kaye
Dates: 9/25 - 10/6
Rating: 8

Synopsis:
Sweeping epic about an English officer, Ash, and an Indian princess, Anjuli, and the 19th century British-controlled India in which they live. Several real historical figures appear in the novel, including many of the Indian nobility, British soldiers, and other notable figures. History, spice, intrigue, romance, war, bravery, ...you name it, TFP's got it. Originally published in 1978.

Comments:
Epic historical fiction, it is utterly engrossing for the first two-thirds, but once Ash and Juli are reunited, the depiction of the real-life second Anglo-Afghan war takes over the novel. There are two great love stories in this long novel - Ash and Juli's story, and Ash's love-hate bond with the country of his upbringing and the country of his forefathers. The relationship between Ash and his fellow English soldiers is more fascinating and memorable than the one between Ash and Juli: the comradeship and chemistry between Lieutenant Walter Hamilton (Wally) and Ash left me wishing that this relationship had been explored in more detail. Juli is a likeable, but not a flesh-and-blood character - she seems so loving, so long-suffering, but ultimately boringly martyr-like, while the fictionalized "Wally" comes alive, leaping off the pages of the book. It makes the ending even more depressing, as Ash and Juli "ride off into the sunset", which is a bit at odds with the horrific events depicted earlier, and the death of a lot of courageous and wonderful characters that I'd come to care for and admire. I heard that recently there was a musical of it in the West End... I don't know what to think of that, except that the actors who played Ash and Wally were both easy on the eyes... There was also a TV mini-series in the '80s too (with that guy from Chariots of Fire).
Penguin have put out a series of ultra-slim paperbacks to celebrate their 70th birthday. I bought the one by Wodehouse, which contains the following two short stories.

Title: Jeeves and the Impending Doom
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Date Read: 14-Sept
Rating: 7.5/10
Synopsis: A short story about quintessial English butler Jeeves and his comical master Bertram (Bertie) Wooster. Bertie gets stuck on an island in a lake in the countryside and is attacked by a vicious swan. Jeeves comes to the rescue.
Comments: Short, sweet and funny in that pre-war nostalgic, naively British way.


Title: Jeeves and the Song of Songs
Author: P.G. Wodehouse
Date Read: 15-Sept
Rating: 7.5/10
Synopsis: Another short story about quintessial English butler Jeeves and his comical master Bertram (Bertie) Wooster. Bertie is forced by his Aunt Agatha to sing "Sonny Boy" in public to save his cousin from the clutches of a blowsy opera singer.
Comments: Short, crazy, and classic. You won't know what hit you and the story's over before you know it.

Annie Proulx - Brokeback Mountain

Title: Brokeback Mountain
Author: Annie Proulx
Date Read: Sep 10, 2005
Rating: 8/10
Synopsis:
A short novella about two cowboys herding sheep on Brokeback Mountain in 1960s Wyoming.
Comments:
The story spans two decades and marriages and births and death. I wasn't immediately overwhelmed by the story (I didn't go, "Wow, that was the best story I've ever read", but it does leave a disturbing, unsettling impression. In particular, the gruff, reluctant love between Ennis and Jack leaves a bittersweet taste in your mouth.

Gilbert Adair - Buenos Noches Buenos Aires

Title: Buenos Noches Buenos Aires
Author: Gilbert Adair
Dates Read: 9/9 - 9/10
Rating: 4
Synopsis:
An English teacher named Gideon moves to Paris to teach at the Berlitz language school. Gideon is a frustrated gay man and this first-person narrative chronicles his fabrications and exploits in Paris in the "gay" 80s.
Comments:
Thinly veiled fantasty autobiography, self-indulgent hokum. Very disappointing because the author can do better (read The Holy Innocents [aka the Dreamers]) and all the glowing reviews it received.

The Food of Love - Anthony Capella

Title: The Food of Love
Author: Anthony Capella
Dates Read: Sept 8
Rating: 6.5
Synopsis: Laura is an American exchange student in Rome. Tommaso, an Italian waiter, falls for her. However, Laura's decided she will only date men who cook. Tommaso enlists the aid of his friend Bruno, who actually is a chef. Chaos ensues as they struggle to maintain the deception. Bruno also falls in love with Laura too...
Comments:
Predictable, unrealistic and utterly romantic but the food descriptions are yummy. The only annoying thing is that Benedetta, the Italian woman who Bruno stays with as he tries to forget about Laura, is so much better than Laura and so much more interesting than all the other main characters. The e-mail bits at the end are de trop (too much).

The Death of Kings - Clifford Brewer

Title: The Death of Kings
Author: Clifford Brewer
Dates Read: 9/4- 9/7
Rating: 7.5
Synopsis:
A medical doctor chronicles the illnesses and health of the Kings and Queens of England from Edward the Confessor to Queen Victoria.
Comments:
Fascinating and gruesome at times, it's a bit dry because the author is clearly a doctor, not a writer. However, a few inconsistencies can be confusing - read this book with a pinch of salt. History buffs, monarchists, and medical students who like gossip columns may like this.

Fairy Tales - Hans Christian Andersen

Title: Fairy Tales
Author: Hans Christian Andersen
Translator: Tiina Nunnally
Dates read: 8/25 - 9/3
Rating: 8
Synopsis: A collection of the famous tales by HCA, including the grisly ones that your parents didn't read to you when you were little.
Comment: It's only when you're grown up that you appreciate the morbid, sexually frustrated, macabre elements of these fairy tales. The biography of HCA and the beautiful paper cut-outs that are included add to this nice edition of his stories.

Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett - Good Omens

Title: Good Omens
Author: Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett
Dates read: 8/18 - 9/3
Rating: 6.5
Synopsis:
"The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter", one angel, one demon, the end of the world and the English sense of humour.
Comments:
Weird and sporadically hysterical. Not quite sure I get this kind of funny fantasy.

Neil Gaiman - Neverwhere

Author: Neil Gaiman
Title: Neverwhere
Score: 8
Read: 2-5 Aug, 2005
Synopsis: A random act of kindness propels businessman Richard Mayhew into a London that he had no idea existed. He is dragged on a quest with a girl named Door, a bodyguard named Hunter, and a shady character called the Marquis de Carabas.
Comments:This was the first Gaiman novel that I've read. Very interesting and creative. Must find more of his stuff.