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How to Breathe Underwater: Stories
How to Breathe Underwater: Stories
by Julie Orringer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.99

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written, beautiful stories, 2 Dec 2005
I came across this book while browsing in a local bookshop, and later picked it up on 3 for 2, more or less on impulse. I have to say, I'm really glad I did; it's a wonderfully written collection of short stories by a first-time author.
I don't normally read short stories, but each of the ones in this collection is a gem; while there are certain similarities between them (among others: a female narrator/main character, often set against a Jewish background, featuring someone who is somewhat of an outsider), they're far from 'samey'. Each is a distinctive portrait of fundamental human emotions or conditions: grief, loss, jealousy, childhood, adolescence...
I couldn't believe this was written by a first-time published author; the stories are so descriptive, without being heavy-handed. You really feel like you're watching the story unfold naturally; the characters and situations are so lifelike and real, it almost seems like she's reporting rather than making things up.
Lovely stuff.

American Gods
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.18

82 of 97 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Big book, big ideas, 30 Nov 2005
This review is from: American Gods (Paperback)
American Gods is a big book in more ways than one; not only is it over six hundred pages long, but it deals with big ideas. The main character, Shadow, has been released from prison a few days early in order to be able to attend his wife's funeral. On the way home, he's recruited buy the mysterious Mr Wednesday.
It eventually transpires that Shadow has been recruited into a war between gods; the old gods, brought to America by the various immigrants over time, and the new gods of television and media and so forth.
The nice thing about this book is the amount of mythology hidden to a lesser or greater extent in the storytelling. Some of the gods are more easily recognisable than others; the jump from "Mr Nancy" to "Anansi", for instance, is not so great, whereas the link between Mr Wednesday to Odin is not as immediately obvious. But you don't have to have much grounding in mythology to be able to enjoy the book, which is one of the great things about it; there are plenty of layers to be unpicked, if you're that way inclined, but on the other hand, you can just sit back and enjoy Neil Gaiman's masterful storytelling.
The added benefit of this particular edition is the author interview in the back, which gives that extra little insight into the book. It's apparently also the author's preferred text, though having read both versions, I have to say that for the reader it makes little difference.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 19, 2011 10:23 PM BST

by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.91

8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Favourite Neil Gaiman so far, 28 Nov 2005
This review is from: Neverwhere (Paperback)
I'd previously read American Gods and Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman, as well as being a regular reader of his blog.
I think of all the NG I've read (now includes Anansi Boys), this is my favourite. It's wonderfully imaginative and descriptive, with some great great characters. Richard, the main character, is just plain adorable, what one of my friend would call "a shining example of humanity", and I loved Door's quirkiness and Old Bailey's gruffness-with-a-heart-of-gold, as well as the Marquis' slipperiness.
I read this with a huge grin on my face, only interrupted by having to attend a tutorial. Even then, I read it all the way there and put it down at the last possible moment.
Go on, what are you waiting for? Get a copy and read it now!

Fifteen (Rack) (Cleary Reissue)
Fifteen (Rack) (Cleary Reissue)
by Beverly Cleary
Edition: Paperback

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless tale of teenage first love, 28 Jun 2004
This is a very simple story - a summer in the life of Jane Purdy, a fifteen-year old Amerian schoolgirl. It's about meeting your first boy, going out for the first time, worrying about what to wear (then finding out it didn't matter, he likes you anyway), what your parents will say, being popular, and ultimately: finding out how to be yourself.
Written in the fifties, so a little dated, but not in the things that matter. The feelings and confusions of growing up are very delicately set down in this sweet book.

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