Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books Featuring Travel

This is a meme hosted every Tuesday by the Broke and the Bookish. Check out their answer here

So to be honest I haven't read many books that exclusively feature travel. I don't tend to gravitate towards books that involve road trips or backpacking through various countries.  So I was very liberal in my interpretation of travel. I was actually surprised that I was able to find 10 books for this list! Here are my top 10 picks for books featuring travel in some way: 

1. Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - A recent read for me and definitely a new favourite, this is the classic road trip we all wish we could take at some point in our lives. I loved following Amy and Roger on their trip across the United States and reading about all the awesome places they visit.

2. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - I loved this book as a child mainly because I was so transfixed with Middle Earth and all the places our Fellowship get to travel to. Frodo's quest takes him from the Shire all the way to Mordor, and he does most of it on foot. Pretty impressive. 

3. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami - Another book that involves a lot of walking which is why I've included it. This book about a Japanese university student in the 1960's probably doesn't seem like a travel book to most people but I was struck by how much walking and wandering Toru does.  Plus at one point he does take a train into the Japanese countryside, so there's that. 

4. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - This features a road trip across the United States but it's much more unconventional in that it takes place in the middle of winter (not the best time to be travelling) and there are gods. Also the methods of travelling at times are questionable. 

5. Going Bovine by Libba Bray - Another unconventional road trip across the United States as our main character is plagued by mad cow disease and his travel companions are a dwarf and a yard gnome.  

6. Paper Towns by John Green - The final road trip book on this list, we follow Quentin as he chases his childhood friend Margo across several states.  Not my favourite John Green book but I was surprised at the creepiness of several of Quentin's destinations.  

7. The Curse of the Wendigo by Rick Yancey - Speaking of creepy, this is the second book in a phenomenal young adult horror series. The reader is reunited with Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop as they go on the hunt for the supposedly non-existent Wendigo in the northern Canadian wilderness. 

8. The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith - While not the most realistic love story, it's still a cute story that follows the lives of two teenagers over the course of 24 hours after they meet at an airport and take a red eye flight together from the U.S. to London. 

9. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum - Travelling by means of a tornado is not an ideal form of transportation for anyone, but Dorothy makes the best of it when she finds herself uprooted from her farm home in Kansas to the magical and strange land of Oz.  

10. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares - This was one of my favourite books as a teenager and a perfect summer read. It follows four best friends who find themselves separated for the summer for the first time. The girls and their questionably magical pants take us from the United States to Mexico and Greece.    

Monday, 3 June 2013

Review: American Gods

Title: American Gods 
Author: Neil Gaiman 
Publisher: Harper Perennial 
Published: 2003 (first published June 2001)
Format and Number of Pages: Paperback, 592 

(This summary was taken from the summary provided by Goodreads)
Days before his release from prison, Shadow's wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America. Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm or preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break. Scary, gripping and deeply unsettling, American Gods takes a long, hard look into the soul of America. You'll be surprised by what and who it finds there...

I enjoyed reading American Gods though I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about it.  It's a strange book and at times it was confusing and disorienting but it was interesting as well.  I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading but I'm glad I went into it with no expectations about what I would be reading.  That's why I've only included the brief Goodreads synopsis rather than providing my own.

The majority of the book follows Shadow's life after he is released from prison.  I didn't like Shadow, but I didn't dislike him either.  I think my main issue was that I never felt like I knew Shadow and I had trouble understanding him and his reactions to the events that occur around him. Granted, that was probably the point. I mean his name is Shadow. I still liked to read about him mainly because a lot of strange things happen to him and I wanted to see where the story would take him. There are also a lot of side characters that Shadow encounters and I liked reading about them because they have their own strange personalities and clearly have their own interesting back stories.  It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out their real identities.

It took me a long time to read this book.  It's almost 600 pages long and it's densely packed; there's a lot going on and a lot to take in so it took a while to finish.  I was never bored with this book but at times, especially in the beginning, I was quite confused with what was going on. Once I stopped trying to figure out what was going on and trying to make sense of things, and just sat back and let the story unfold for itself, then I started to enjoy it more. The writing is fantastic and I really liked the narrative and the various ways it is used to tell the story and how it isn't limited to only Shadow's perspective. American Gods is also filled with plot twists and surprises, none of which I expected so for me they added to the overall reading experience.  

American Gods takes place in many different locations throughout the United States and offers a darker and more fantastical side to many familiar cities and landmarks. In a sense it is a road trip story as Shadow travels around the U.S. but it is a very different sort of road trip.  Much of the story takes place in the winter and this offers a darker, colder depiction of the U.S. which was really interesting to read about. The depiction of the United States is fantastical and surreal but the book still calls upon the reader to question what exactly is America and what it means to be American.

Overall I had a lot of fun reading American Gods and I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves adult fantasy or who has read and enjoyed other works by Neil Gaiman. This story  is dark and deals with a lot of adult themes and at times can be violent and sexually graphic so if you don't like those elements in a story then this book may not be for you.  Also if you haven't read anything by Neil Gaiman before or primarily read young adult I would suggest you read some of his other works; such as The Graveyard Book, Coraline or Stardust before attempting American Gods

Rating: 4/5