Sunday, February 6, 2011

Reading all over the map this week

Faithful Place: A NovelTana French's Faithful Place is by far my favorite of her novels. I find her so adept at characterization and at steeping her mysteries in a strong voice and sense of place. She also paints a through and intriguing picture of life inside the Dublin police force of her imagination - so much so that I missed seeing our old friends from the Murder Squad in this third novel. The interpersonal office-based relationships (or lack thereof) are strong threads in her work. But I felt with both In The Woods and The Likeness that French had no confidence in her ability to plot, leading to the irritating resolution (and hints of magical realism that serve only to give her an out) in the first and the eye-rolling stretch beyond credulity and into ridiculousness that set-up the second. Faithful Place, however, should prove to French that she's well able to create a strong mystery with twists and intrigues and true emotional charge without resorting to tricksiness. I hope she continues along this line in future works. (The next one, if you're interested, features Scorcher Kennedy. I thought based on this one that it would be young detective Stephen, but I just read an interview in which French says that was her original plan, but she found Scorcher's voice the one she needed.)

Termite ParadeOn an entirely different wavelength, Termite Parade by Joshua Mohr is a little wacky and a little creepy, but also well-voiced and well-paced. (Try reading it in the bath sometime, if your kids will leave you alone.) I heard Mohr read a selection from this on KQED's Writer's Block podcast (subscribe if you haven't - they do pick some great stuff) and was immediately caught up in the "but what happened next?" of it all. Mohr has a sharp observational humor and creates wire-edge tension as he switches the narrative vignettes between three main characters, all looking for very different things from the climactic moment. I'm definitely going to look for more by Mohr. (See what I did there? Funny, right? Right?)

The Heroes of Olympus, Book One: The Lost Hero
If your tastes run to the mythic instead, pick up Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero. (Assuming of course that you've already read all of his Percy Jackson books, which, if you're a kid in your tweens or teens, you probably have. Fun for adults, too!) This brings back Camp Half-Blood but with a new (though sometimes overlapping) cast of characters, and it's nice to see this world again. You've got your demigods, you've got your heroic quests, you've got your monsters of old finding new hangouts in 21st-century America. Our Lost Hero himself, Jason, is a solid character, and his cohorts Leo and Piper are stellar additions to the Riordan Pantheon. I'm looking forward to the next books as they undertake the tasks required by their own personal prophecies.

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