Alexander Hamilton

Title: Alexander Hamilton Author: Ron Chernow
Pages: 818 Genre: Nonfiction, Biography
Recommended: If you like history, especially of the American variety or politics of any kind.
Song: The Hamilton soundtrack. The whole thing. Over and over.

The Hamilton Hype is for real, and this is the book that started it all.

So while the broadway smash is sold out for months and the soundtrack is on repeat in my ears, I’m having a hard time separating the book from the play.

This biography blipped my radar because I wanted to listen to (and better understand) the soundtrack. (Yes, I will watch a movie without reading the book, but that’s just not very often.)

A Good Biography

51P1c42DyLL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Lively or boring. Protective shield or exposé. A good biography can be all of these. Most of these is that I believe it. The second is that I leave it with the feeling that this person’s life impacts me personally; that the world, my world is less without them.

Alexander Hamilton may have died 200 years ago, but he’s still the face on the $10 bill. Youngest founding father, first Secretary of the Treasury, BFF of George Washington and Lafayette, husband and father of eight. He wasn’t perfect, but it takes a big person to openly admit that. He fought for America’s success, and he won. Hard.

That being said, I kept wondering when Aaron Burr was finally going to take his fatal shot. The amount of detail is cray-cray and government policy building isn’t really my thing.

Inspiring Great Things

Ron Chernow’s hard work paid off with this one. Broadway talent Lin-Manuel Miranda (LMM) happened to pick up this book during a vacation and it lit a fire that resulted in the hip hop Broadway smash.

I too laughed when I heard Miranda say that Alexander Hamilton embodied hip hop, but as I read this book, I began to see the connection. Hamilton fought hard for everything he had. He defended himself. He refused to be less than the best.

So, book or play? If you can get tickets, DO IT. Read the book after to get the rest of the details and have songs to enliven the text.

American Gods

Title: American Gods Author: Neil Gaiman
Pages: 635 Genre: Fantasy
Recommended: I don’t know that I would recommend this book. I suppose if you like Neil Gaiman, then read this book.
Song: Storm’s Comin’” Myketti Williamson. A storm is coming…and the Gods didn’t make it.

It’s hard to rate this book and even harder to review it succinctly. Sticking with the nearly 20 hour narration was almost painful. Then I compiled my notes and they just kept going and going. Yeah, it was boring and pointless as hell, but there is something about “American Gods” that will stick with me.

Alka-Seltzer Plot

To date, every Gaiman book I’ve read has behaved a lot like akbegun with a bang and fizzled out. It’s like alka-seltzer: it may hit your bloodstream faster, but it’s very anti-climactic. After about 30% the plot felt like bad-pizza-and-Nyquil dreams.

As Loki says, “The outcome of the battle is not important. What matters in chaos.”

What is American?

Gaiman addresses this question in the afterward. The author himself is British, but is married to an American and has lived in the U.S. long enough to partially lose his accent. He clarifies that his is less a depiction of America, and more of his own American fantasy.

Yet he hits on some very American traits. The conglomeration of Gods is exactly what America prides itself on being: a melting pot. In “American Gods” we meet Gods of the Norse, Greek, Russian, Egyptian, Native American varieties. We even get a genie and Elvis. Gaiman wrote one part with Jesus Christ, but it never made it to the final text.

Another American element is the story of the journey. Taking a road trip is one of the most American things you can do. Main character Shadow spends a lot of time on the road or in rural Wisconsin. For a book titled about Gods, it’s about the main character’s journey through their world.

Just Go With It

Every Gaian book I’ve read has a main character with a non-magical background. Every single one of them is exposed to the extra-ordinary, and never questions it. Shadow is no exception. He gets out of prison and is immediately ushered into this supernatural world. He just goes with it. His lack of surprise is only outdone by his lack of personality. As his deceased wife says, “You’re not dead, but you’re not really alive either”.

Audiobook

I listened to the full-cast recording, which was amazing. You really can’t go wrong with these! This one is well-produced and casted.

Over-Sexed

Gaiman’s sex scenes have a fever dram quality to them. In fact, it was just one of those scenes that terrified me enough that I put it down for about 10 years.

“American Gods” is a winner in the original idea department, but it just couldn’t keep my attention. I’m interested to see what Starz does with the TV show.

Shadow and Bone

Title: Shadow and Bone. (The Grisha #1) Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 358 Genre: YA Fiction/Fantasy
Recommended: If you like most YA books.
Song: “Just Like Fire” by P!nk

This book is all about magic.

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Yes, it’s YA

The appreciation scale of YA literature ranges from “ga-ga” to “bitter hater”. I fall somewhere in between, where I’m all-at-once ambivalent, swoony, and ready to criticize. “Shadow and Bone” follows the typical YA plot: adolescent separated from their normal life and sent to a strange place with equally strange people, strange new skills and strange drama. High school + magic = best seller in the bag. (Not even joking. At Grisha High there are social cliques based on magical ability.) Insert love triangle and betrayal for added fandom.

One particularly entertaining commentary on female YA characters sums it up perfectly. Thanks, Nataliya on Goodreads!

So, Why Read?

I fell under the spell of “Six of Crows“, published by the same author in 2015. Now that Leigh Bardugo has a few successful novels under her belt, I can see where she has become stronger over time (S&B was published in 2012).

What I loved about “Six of Crows” was the depth, variance, and internal struggles of its characters. This I missed in “Shadow and Bone”, where the characters fit into main fairytale and YA archetypes.

That being said, “Shadow and Bone” does have some interesting villian building. I love myself a good villian: one really bad day at work had my buying the Funko pops for Maleficent and Sauron.

Magic Doesn’t Rule

Power breeds power, right? Not in Ravka (setting). Usually, those with magical powers call the shots. In this book, the Grisha (people with magical ability) fit more into the skilled worker role. While an interesting dynamic, I missed explanation of what stopped the Grisha from taking over a long time ago.

Magic As A Talent

Magical trainer Bagda says, “It’s not something separate from you…your power serves you because that is its purpose…because it cannot help but serve you.

Another YA trope: finding your power within yourself. I think this is what has me returning to the genre over and over again. I like when people find that everything they are looking for is right there in their hearts.

Audiobook

Narrator Laruen Fortgang does a great job. I especially like the voice she does for The Darkling. She also narrated a part in “Six of Crows” and was amazing there too.

Blog Challenge Day 29: Top Things On My Bucket List

Death really isn’t on my radar right now.

I’m 30 years old. If I were to die tomorrow, it would be safe to say that I left a lot unaccomplished. I don’t have a bucket list; I have goals.

Since the challenge requires it, here are some things I would like to do during my life.

  1. Have and raise children
  2. Stay married until I die.
  3. Apologize to a few choice people
  4. Celebrate New Years in Times Square
  5. Make an epic entrance in a limosine (or other luxury car)
  6. Make an equally dramatic exit in a helicopter
  7. Own my dream home
  8. Own more than one pair of Louboutin heels

Cinder

Title: Cinder Author: Marissa Meyer
Pages: 390 Genre: YA Fiction/Fantasy
Recommended: If you like the Cinderella story. If you like most YA books.
Song: Electric Feel by MGMT (yknow – ’cause she’s a cyborg)

This was one of those picks based solely on popularity and a best friend reccomendation. I didn’t read the synopsis, look at the cover or even glance at the length; I just hit “download” and went for it.

So it surprised me when the Cinderella character (conventiently named Cinder) is a cyborg. She lives in the future city of New Beijing, where she is a mechanic. The story follows the based Cinderella plot, but takes on a few more intricate plot points. All in all, it’s a winner of a retelling.

Meyer really created a great setting here. There’s an incurable plague going around, political drama between Earth and the moon (Luna), and a bunch of fun robots.

One of the key places where “Cinder” wins over its YA counterparts is the progression of the main character. At the outset of the novel, the main character is usually at their lowest state. They are “normal”. It doesn’t take long for this character to find out that there is much more to them than met their eye. it’s usually very predictable. Cinder’s story, while easy to pre-map, does not leave you so far ahead of the plot that you get bored.

I was pleasantly surpised by “Cinder”. It really is worth all the hype!