American Gods – Neil Gaiman

Read July 2015

American gods is the story of shadow, a quiet hard man, out of prison, wife dead, recruited to be the minder for what it turns out is a God. He is drawn into an underworld, existing beneath contemporary America, in which the Gods of old are. Battling for relevance in a consumerist age. It’s an interesting theme, the protagonist is great to follow, although a bit too perfect, and the plot draws you in. I got a bit lost 2/3 of the way in when it turned to lots of description and was less plot driven, but it’s a good back that balances mystery and fantasy well.

It was followed by a short story – The Monarch of the Glen – where Shadow is in Scotland and is chosen, Gladiator style, to fight for the humans against the monsters, in a house party for the mega rich, which is a modern version of a ritual that has taken place annually for thousands of years. Because – but largely because – we already know Shadow, this feels a stronger, more engaging and punchier story than American Gods.
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How to be both – Ali Smith

Read July 2015
As always it’s easy and hard to read Ali Smith – easy as her writing style is no natural and flowing, hard because it’s unconventional and doesn’t always follow standard punctuation and patterns.
Anyway this book was great. Part I focuses on the 15th century artist who was largely unknown and had a mixed sense of gender, and looks at what it is to be an artist and to find your way in the world. Part 2 is about a teenage daughter of an academic / activist who is trying to find her way after her mothers death, whilst discovering whether or not she is gay. 
I found the second story most gripping because the dialogue and the insight into the daughter’s mind is powerful. The earlier story was tougher going, it actually makes a lot more sense and you see new elements having read the second one.