Friday, January 25, 2013

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The premise of this book is right up my ally...imagine that people who immigrated to the United States brought their gods, myths, and superstitions with them. Not just in spirit (no pun intended) but physically as well. As times and priorities shifted, the elves, fairies, and pagan gods (among others) were neglected for newer gods. This book is about an impending battle between the old world gods and the new world gods. Imagine Easter fighting a manifestation of Technology; or Odin, the All Father, fighting the god of modern day drugs.

Sounds good, right? Well, unfortunately, I read a different book. It took me months to get through it because I just wasn't interested, so I'd pick it up between reading other books. Not a good strategy because I'd forget what I had previously read and be completely lost. This would annoy me and so I'd only read a small bit, half assed, retaining nothing for the next time I'd pick the book up (in a month). It was a vicious cycle broken only by the last hundred pages or so, when the story picked up steam. Of course, when the mystery behind a major plot line was revealed, I had no idea what was going on.

So I did what most lazy readers do, I checked out the cliff's notes version of the story. Thank you Wikipedia. After reading the plot summary, I thought, "hmmmm....sounds like an interesting book. I should read it sometime."

I actually started reading the book again...but lost interest and haven't picked it up since.

Not sure this is a fair review...I've met a couple of people who really like this book. And it seems that if you are a fan of Neil Gaiman's work, you won't be disappointed (at least, that's what I hear).

As for me, too many characters for my little brain to keep track of, I guess. And a lot of build up to an anticlimactic end. Give me Coraline over American Gods any day.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gangbusters: How a Street Tough Homicide Unit Took Down New York's Most Dangerous Gang by Michael Stone

For some reason, I love reading about drug gangs. Not sure if it's the drugs, the gangs, the violence, or what...I'm addicted to these stories. Better than the alternative, right?

This book is the true story of a Dominican gang, known as the Wild Cowboys, that operated in upper Manhattan and the south Bronx in the 90's. Responsible for over 60 murders, a unit of detectives and DA's from Manhattan, Brooklyn, and The Bronx spent years painstakingly investigating this organization.

Stone begins with the murder of Andrew Carmichel, who was killed for apparently no reason while driving on the freeway. He then describes a seemingly unrelated quadruple homicide in the Bronx, at a busy crack hole. Victims were randomly gunned down, some still clutching crack vials in their hands.

In a neighborhood where gangbangers would boldly brandish weapons to cops driving by, a change for the better seemed impossible. But to the investigators and attorneys who worked the Wild Cowboys' case, impossible slowly turned into achievable.

Stories like this are interesting on so many levels. I like learning the ins and outs of how the gang operated - bringing in more money a year than many major corporations. I also find it interesting to see how the case came together over the years. This book is a definite recommend if you are into the true crime genre.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Fireproof by Gerard Brennan

This book is about a man who dies, is sent to hell, somehow resists eternal torture, and is sent back to earth to recruit followers for Satan.

Now before any holy rollers tsk tsk me for reading such a book, if you haven't already realized, much of Fireproof is tongue in cheek. Brennan manages to make topics like murder, hell, and satanism seem blase, in a darkly comedic way.

Our story begins with Mike Rocks, who used to live in Northern Ireland, until he died. Now Mike is in hell with his demon roommate who can't seem to effect eternal torture on him. So Satan calls Mike in for a meeting and decides to send him back to Ireland to recruit followers. But besides leaving hell, Mike has another reason to take this journey, and that is revenge. Mike didn't just die from natural causes, you see. And along the way, Mike meets new associates including a girlfriend who has a very casual attitude about homicide, and a homeless man with peculiar abilities. Satan also sends a helper, the imp, to keep an eye on Mike. That's because if Mike fails, Satan will sic Cerberus, the famed three headed dog on him.

Strange, but entertaining, that's for sure. The story at hand, about revenge and all that, is nothing terribly interesting. But the interactions Mike has with Satan, the imp, and basically everyone around him is worth the read. Brennan's writing is funny and witty, and I enjoyed reading the book.