Remember When(sdays)

What books do you think of when you think of the first decade of the 21st century (and the millennium)?

Remember when in 2000 ….

Dial up modems were a thing, the dotcom bubble burst, and everyone panicked about Y2k?

2000: One of the most touted books on the craft of writing, On Writing, by Stephen King is published (he was working on this one when he was hit by a van the summer before).

2001: Easily on my top 10 list, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, (a television show on Starz now). Neil discovered a side of America that perhaps we needed the year this novel was published, a reminder of things when the year took a turn.

2002: A Stephen King anthology, Everything’s Eventual, gets published, one story in particular “1408” gets turned into a movie with John Cusack (who doesn’t love John Cusack?).

2003: So many books in this year that hit a number of notes for me … The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (and its movie adaptation that I highly recommend) – lots of tears, and if you tell me you read it and didn’t cry I don’t think we can be friends. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was a huge hit, and really put the character Robert Langdon on the map (Tom Hanks does pretty well on screen for this one).

2004: P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern – a young writer when this one came out (22), but perhaps the Irish gift of the story found in her the powerful storyteller it needed with this one … another tear-jerker (I’ve found I have a hard time thinking about this story without becoming a little teary eyed … also, check out the movie adaptation, Girard Butler and Hilary Swank do an honorable job bringing these characters to the screen.

2005: J.K. Rowling’s 6th book, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is published, the same year my first child was born – by this point I’ve become an avid Harry Potter fan, and reading certainly took the edge off the pregnancy.

2006: Sara Gruen wrote Water for Elephants during NaNoWriMo and published it in 2006 – not that I’m subscribing to the write a novel in a month theory, but it can be done, and done well (Also adapted into a film with Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon). Also this year, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks – I do not consider the movie to be an adaptation of this novel, instead it merely borrows the title, the book is by far the superior story (and believe me, they are two totally different stories …).

2007: The sequel we didn’t know we were waiting for is published, Kingsbridge #2, World Without End by Ken Follett. No, I didn’t gain back any of those romantic notions that he did away with in the original novel, but I was pleased to see some of my favorite characters return, and a little frustrated to see some of my more hated characters also made it into this one unscathed. Oh well, they do say a good hero is made better by a particularly good villain.

2008: Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games, this one is particularly special to me because I read it, such a long time ago, and my oldest just read this one recently.  It created new conversations for us, and opened doors to new stories for him, thanks Suzanne! (We’re looking forward to binge watching the movies for this series too.)

2009: The Magicians by Lev Grossman has been referred to as the “grown up Harry Potter” series, and in a way I think that description seems apt – but it certainly does a fine job branching into its own thing, and building its own world. (I keep meaning to check out the show, but waiting for someone who’s read the books to tell me if they seem similar or no?).

Honorable mentions – Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons. Charlaine Harris wrote Dead Until Dark (the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, maybe more commonly remembered from the HBO show True Blood). James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club #1, 1st to Die, came out, these women solving mysteries holds a very special place in my heart. Christopher Paolini publishes his first book Eragorn (in 2002, when I was graduating high school, and he was 19 – mind you he wrote the book at the tender age of 15 … what was envy when I was younger has turned into more of an admiration for the dedication that took, teen years are a hard time to stay focused on any one thing, amiright?). Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven (I did a blog post review on this one, aaand there’s a sequel that came out last fall), and Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series kicks off (Anton Yelchin played a very endearing Odd in the movie). Stephanie Meyers Twilight series begins. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series should be noted – although I know it’s sparked some controversy here lately, it’s a fairly fun (if somewhat distracted romp), I think it mostly just gets confused about what it’s really trying to be when it grows up.

There are so many more books that I felt were just going to make this post feel more like a list than a personal “best of” that I couldn’t really list all of them, but let me know if any of your favorites didn’t make the cut, just in case I haven’t read them, I’m always looking for something new to sink my reader’s teeth into.

A Bit Like the Hero’s Journey Through Wonderland

two bare trees beside each other during sunset

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

I took last week off from posting because I found myself deeply entrenched in the 10th anniversary edition of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. I have been meaning to read this book for quite awhile [my husband has been patiently, and then not so patiently, waiting for me to read it as well]. Finally I found myself with enough time to be able to properly devote myself to the book, below I’ll walk you through my review. Be aware the version I read of American Gods is the 10th anniversary edition, also known as the Author’s Preferred Text, and has been identified as about 12,000 words longer than the original book published in 2001. If you have read the original published version there may be differences between your reading and mine and I’d love to know what you think and discuss.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman, HarperCollins (541pp),                                                             ISBN 978-0-06-208023-3,                                                                                                                    Buy it on Amazon ($14.31)

“‘The tale is the map which is the territory. You must remember this.’ From the Notebooks of Mr. Ibis”. 

In this tale we follow Shadow on his Hero’s Journey, and the story both challenges and inspires belief in the reader – asking that you not only suspend disbelief for the journey, but that perhaps you start to believe in it as well. While there are times where we wander away from Shadow’s path to see the journey’s of others we are reminded that these journeys are just as tied to Shadow’s own, and at the end of the tale Mr. Gaiman makes it all come together beautifully.

Neil Gaiman shows us a con artist’s repertoire, delights us with coin tricks, and befuddles us with riddles that we don’t realize we already know the answer to until after the answer is given, and all the while we are able to be enchanted the way a small child is when a rabbit is pulled from a magician’s hat. The moment you truly suspend disbelief is as magical as Alice falling into Wonderland, and once you allow yourself to believe when you return to the regular everyday a little bit of that wonder comes with you.

Certainly there are tropes throughout the story, and mysteries that are easily figured out, but in a way being able to figure it all out felt a little bit like being in on the secret from the beginning, and having that confirmed time and time again was less a let down and more a positive delight. After an initial read through this is one tale that will still surprise the reader with new details each time through.

If you’re looking for a more traditional story of good versus evil be aware that this isn’t that story – but if instead you’d like a complex antagonist you can’t believe you’re actually rooting for as well as a gray area hero to champion then this should check those boxes easily. There are no black and white views in the world of man, and neither do these views exist in the world of Gods.