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June 6th, 2006

As a preliminary note, it's really difficult to write book reviews with a cat on your chest stuffing her head under your chin, however cute she may be.

23. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (reread).
Tried this again to see if I could figure out why it's just never riveted me or stuck in my head the way most of Gaiman's writing does. I think the answer is just in the nature of the central character. During the course of the book he goes from a passive, personality-impaired drifter to someone with some semblance of actual Will, but the crucial transition happens so late in the story that by then I've lost interest in him. The surroundings are interesting enough to keep me reading, but the characters are what make a story memorable, and here they're just a bit too shallow for my taste. Seriously, the character with the most, well, character in this book is the hero's dead wife! The central idea of the story (gods, or slightly warped copies thereof, come to this continent with their worshippers and slowly fade from lack of devotion and infighting) is really nifty. But with all the time spent setting up the environment, the human story starts too late. When the occasional vignette detailing how this or that god came to this country is more compelling than the main storyline....

24. East of Eden by John Steinbeck (reread).
One of my top five books of all time (just don't make me put it up against Lord of the Rings!). Half fiction, half philosophy, in Steinbeck's vividly melancholic style - I think this book may have been part of what taught me to be a Thelemite long before I'd ever heard the word. Timshel!

25. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant.
In many ways I want to compare this to Diamant's The Red Tent - historical fiction, from a woman's point of view in a patriarchal society, in a time of cultural transition, but in the Italian Renaissance rather than Old-Testament Canaan. The heroine is an aspiring artist, which adds a dose of personal interest for me, obviously. It's well-written and the plot is far from predictable, but it just isn't sticking with me like The Red Tent did. I'm not sure why.

26. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (reread).
A long-lost childhood favorite with modern-day resonance; a quest for Rhyme and Reason in a world gone cockeyed with an imprisoned Which, a silenced Soundkeeper, and the Island of Conclusions (which you can only get to by jumping). A very quick read, but a timeless one. If you somehow missed it growing up, go now before the demons from the Mountains of Ignorance find you!

Currently reading: The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. On deck: Widdershins by Charles de Lint, and Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore (among the many others I acquired at Powell's last Friday). Awaiting anxiously: Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey (June 12, says Amazon, though apparently at least one independent bookstore in Austin has it already - curses!).

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