Have read two books this month and they couldn't be further apart in style and substance. First up came 92 Pacific Blvd. by Debbie Macomber. This book is part of her Cedar Cove series. My mom and my mother-in-law are both big fans of Debbie's work; I've read several in the past and have enjoyed them as an afternoon's fun (to be fair, I read fast. Really fast).
This was my first Cedar Cove book, however, and probably will be my last. As an author, I love the hook she's come up with. She's created a mythical town and populated it with all sorts of wonderful people who enter and exit each other's books on a semi-regular basis. As a market tie-in, Ms. Macomber has published a cookbook of recipes, each one containing a little story about the person from Cedar Cove who donated it to the book. I bought the cookbook for my mom for Christmas and loved leafing through it before I wrapped it up and gave it to her. Brilliant concept brilliantly executed!
So why would it be my last Cedar Cove book? Because I just can't keep that many characters straight no matter how hard I try. There's a character list at the start of the book, but to be honest, I hate having to stop the reading and go back to look things up. I can keep the twenty-seven plus characters of the Lord of the Rings straight because some are dwarves, some are Rivendale elves, some are Lothlorian elves, some are human. But even the humans are divided between Rohirrim and Gondorians with Westfold men thrown in for good measure. Those divisions help. When everyone is pretty much a normal person from a normal town, I start to get Faith mixed up with Megan mixed up with Tanni.
The second book I read was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. Now this author has a reputation as an Internet Wonder Boy (I even followed him for a while on Twitter to see what the fuss was about). He's definitely got Internet saavy I'll never have, I'll give him that. I picked up this book at the bookstore on a whim more or less because I wanted to see if he was as good as his hype. In short? He is.
The plot was an interesting twist on the "do gods exist" question, uniquely answered. I found myself dusting off all my knowledge of mythology to try and guess who some of the gods were before they were revealed. I was right on several of them. A few (only a few) I'd never heard of. Some of them I teach when I tell the Ramayana. And I know who Louise Brooks is. I didn't know where she was born, but I can tell you where she died.
That said, I really don't care for books that are as gritty as this one is. I'm the wrong demographic for this kind of book. This is more a book written for men or boys who are on the cusp of being men. The language is coarse in a bathroom sort of way and I can take that only in small doses. To be fair, there are only a few characters whose minds are perpetually (literally) in the gutter and Gaiman does a good job of creating individual characters who stand out from one another. This book, however, suffers from the same problem I had with Macomber's Cedar Cove book: too many characters. A cheat sheet would've been helpful since several people I met at the start come back again two hundred pages later and I found myself scrambling to remember just which person Whiskey Jack was (among others).
So, two books inside two weeks. Not a bad start to the new year. And yes, I am still writing my own, too! Am working on a new one that just crossed the line from novella to novel. Darn hero and heroine want more of their story told! :)