Monday 14 November 2011

REVIEW: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (4*)

(Puffin, 2008)

Life is about to get very interesting for Percy Jackson.  Slightly unusual things have been happening to him his whole life, but when he accidentally vaporises his maths teacher during a school trip, it becomes apparent that something much bigger is afoot.  Within a matter of days he has arrived at Camp Half-Blood, met a god, discovered that his best friend is a satyr and his father is Poseidon, and been accused of stealing Zeus's master lightning bolt.  Can he find the bolt and return it to Olympus before the gods turn on each other and ignite a cataclysmic world war?

It's really a very clever premise, and one that would have completely swept me away as a younger teenager.  I'd have been in the library poring over books on the Ancient Greek gods before you could say Apollo.  Now, in my mid-twenties, it was a really fun way to brush up on some of the myths and legends I used to know - and I'm probably more likely to remember who's who on Olympus after reading Percy Jackson than if I'd read a textbook instead!

The story roars along at a cracking pace, with lots of exciting action and adventure and some hilarious little touches - like Cerberus, the three-headed canine guardian of Hell, playing catch with a red rubber ball, which made me smile.  Riordan mixes the modern world with the mythology of the Greek gods beautifully, bringing them right up to date while maintaining their dignity and all-powerful other-worldliness.  I loved it - and needless to say, I'll be reading on with this series very soon!

Source: I think I bought this book from Amazon UK?

Saturday 5 November 2011

REVIEW: Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell (4.5*)

(Vintage, 2002)

I'd already come across Kurt Wallander thanks to the excellent Kenneth Branagh series, but this is the first time I've picked up one of the original novels.  Happily, I liked it so much that I'm all ready to go on a rampage and buy the rest of the books AND the two television series.  I love it when that happens!

The novel opens with the discovery of a horrific murder in the isolated farming community of Lunnarp.  Called in by a terrified neighbour, Inspector Wallander arrives to find a mutilated and bloodied old man dead in his farmhouse bedroom.  His wife is alive, but only barely, with a noose cruelly knotted around her neck.  Armed with a host of confusing clues, uneasy hunches and the word 'foreign', repeated by the old woman on her deathbed, Wallander and his team must pull out all the stops to find the killers before the media storm around the case sparks a national wave of racial hate crime.

I found the whole novel absolutely fascinating, and it was a great brain work-out.  I couldn't stop mulling over everything that had happened so far, and every time I put the book down I was itching to get back to it again!  I think it helps that the reader is basically inside Kurt Wallander's mind from start to finish, even though it's written in the third person.  He's a thoughtful, clever, kind and immensely human character, with a fierce sense of justice and a touch of quiet vulnerability - the kind of cop every reader will be rooting for!  I also liked that this was very much a procedural novel, rather than a forensic gorefest, and the way the Swedish setting really came to life on the page.  Mr Mankell - you have another new convert!  Highly recommended.

Source: I think I found this book in a charity shop?  Maybe?