IR Sci-Fi/Fantasy

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan

Wow, three book review in one day? I think I’ve got my book-reading mojo back! Not, of course, that I read three books in one day. I must have finished the Julia Quinn book on Tuesday, Tony Hawks’ on Friday, and Percy just a few minutes ago. But still! After three months of NO BOOKS, I feel that three in less than a week should definitely count as progress.

So. The fourth Percy Jackson book. Lots of things are afoot here – I think this is more setup for the next (last?) book in the series. Not that it felt like setup, it’s just now that I’ve finished it, I see that this was the beginning of a multi-book arc. Well, not that this big arc hasn’t been building throughout the earlier books, but it’s like Goblet of Fire, actually (Harry Potter book 4 – coincidence? Read the book.) where the book-challenge becomes less important than the series challenge. If that makes any sense.

I think the thing I like most about the Percy Jackson books is their sense of humor. Things are happening that are really quite serious and lives have been at stake (and lost) in almost every book, I think, but still there is a sort of ironic or sarcastic (again, I’m not thinking of the right word here – think Fenimore Cooper) tone and some very clever one-liners (mostly from Percy himself) that help to keep the pace moving right along and keep the dark undercurrents from bogging things down.

It doesn’t hurt that Percy is immensely likable (though I think Riordan writes him up – at the end of the book when he has his fifteenth birthday party, I was so surprised to be reminded that he had only been fourteen all along – that or kids are much more sophisticated now than I ever was). And I like Annabeth, though sometimes I just want to sit her down and give her a stern talking to about how Percy’s not going to get it and she’s going to have to take matters into her own hands. There are some…distractions…for Percy that I didn’t like – one of whom is still going to be around for another book, I imagine.

But, yes. Good pace, entertaining plot, romantic tension for the girls (and boys!), entertaining conflicts for the boys (and girls!), great characters. Lots of fun all around. I can’t wait to see how it’s all going to turn out!

My rating: A

Nonfiction

A Piano in the Pyrenees by Tony Hawks (not to be confused with Tony Hawk – big difference)

Pay attention, Steve and Sloane, this is how to write a book and be likable. Here is an example of someone who is patently not like me (he’s a middle-aged British man, I’m a twenty-something American girl; he can afford a house in London and a house in the Pyrenees, I rent a studio apartment in the midwest) and yet I like him. He seems like a good bloke.

So basically this time around, Tony decides to buy a house in the French Pyrenees and then build a pool. It doesn’t sound like very much, but this book (and his others) is really carried by his voice. Tony tends to just be swept along by events and, luckily enough, things always seem to turn out for the best. Despite the humor of the book and his narration, his affection for his new friends and neighbors (and his old friends, too) is clear which I think helps make it easy to cheer for him despite the fact that I can in no way relate to his experiences.

I don’t care if Mitchell and Webb made fun of him (and Dave Gorman and Danny Wallace), I still like him.

If you’re intrigued at all, I would recommend starting with Round Ireland With a Fridge which is my favorite of the bunch, but Dave Gorman’s Googlewhack Adventure is great fun as is Danny Wallace’s Yes Man. They’ll definitely give you the travel bug (at least Tony and Dave’s books will) and they’re all great fun.

My rating: B+

Fiction

The Lost Duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn

I…don’t really have anything to say about this book. It’s a romance novel, so you know pretty much what’s going to happen, but it’s by Julia Quinn, so at least the characters will be likable, the dialogue will be clever, and the plot will be, well, predictable but enjoyable. So if you have a couple of hours to kill and maybe a beach to lie on, this would be a good choice.

My rating: B+