I’ve finished Rick Riordan’s newest book, The Red Pyramid, which uses Egyptian mythology in much the same way as his extremely popular Percy Jackson series used Greek mythology. It’s a big book, both in publishing terms and in page count. Here’s what I have to say about it: Eh.
I really enjoyed the Percy Jackson books. And there was a lot that I liked about this one. Riorden managed to use his formula in a new way. The Greek gods had half-mortal children in Greek mythology, but not the Egyptian gods, so Riordan cleverly changes his concept to talk about possession by the gods instead. In some ways, I think the story is better integrated into the mythological world of the Egyptians than the Percy Jackson books. It unfolds well at the beginning so that I was immediately hooked by the mystery. Also, it doesn’t hurt my opinion at all that one of the main characters, Carter, is homeschooled.
However, somewhere around page 300, I realized that what should have been a fun bit of brain candy had become something I was slogging through. Even a trip to Graceland (and I adore Graceland) or the Land of the Dead didn’t help the feeling that the book was just one thing after another in the middle, without a strong enough sense of building action. Where are the editors these days to tell authors to cut these things down a little? As well, the two characters’ voices weren’t strongly differentiated. We’re told the ways in which they’re different, but I never felt it reading their different sections. They had the exact same snarky, humorous attitude as Percy Jackson, which made me feel a little like Riordan is a bit of a one note author. Sadie Kane was an especially difficult narrator for me to believe. The feminine voice just wasn’t there for me.
By the end, the book came back around and the action became exciting again. I liked the ending enough that I may read the sequel, at least assuming the page count doesn’t multiply too much. However, I’m disappointed. I thought this one would be fun.
Apparently it’s Children’s Book Week. Who knew? Well, other than Amazon, who apparently tried to sell me some books via spam email based on this information. Wow, I thought to myself, what does Children’s Book Week entail? Parties? Awards? Festivals? Speakers? So I found their website. Turns out the answer is not very much. They had a list of a dozen or so independent children’s bookstores around the country who were having Children’s Book Week themed events and some expensive dinner at a New York restaurant. There is a contest for kids and a pretty poster you can get for free.
Part of Children’s Book Week is the announcement today of the Children’s Choice Book Awards. The winners included Lulu and the Big Little Chick by Paulette Bogan, Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka, Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell, and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins. Hooray for Catching Fire, which I greatly enjoyed.
Apparently this whole Children’s Book Week deal got started way back in 1922. Think how amazingly far children’s literature has come since then. Maybe we need such a week less than at one time, when there were fewer books written with children in mind and writing for children was a less respectable occupation. On the other hand, I do still think about committing violence upon a person I heard say that they wanted to write a children’s book, but then decided to write a “real” book instead, so I think children’s literature doesn’t always get the love it deserves.
I recently read Peter Abrahams’s latest YA book Reality Check, which has just been released in paperback. I’ve had a growing interest in reading mysteries, a genre which I somehow completely missed growing up. Even with that interest, this isn’t the sort of book I would have picked up in a million years, except that I so enjoyed Abrahams’s Echo Falls series. Well, I finished it, but mostly because it was such a quick read. I can’t say it was my cup of tea at all. The protagonist was just so relentlessly dumb. I get what Abrahams was trying to do in showing that his persistence and good intentions eventually paid off, even if he wasn’t the brightest bulb. Still, I spent most of the read thinking that it was an annoying plot device that just let him give the reader clues at a slower rate.
So forget about that. But do read Abrahams’s wonderful Echo Falls series, which begins with Down the Rabbit Hole. These are in the YA section, but the characters and the handling of the crimes and mysteries are done with a little more innocence than Reality Check. The main character, 13 year-old Ingrid, is smart enough to know better than to keep getting involved all the town’s mysteries, but her curiosity keeps getting the better of her. I like how Abrahams hits on a familiar young adult theme by making the grown-ups around Ingrid, even the well-meaning ones, incapable of helping her. Even though Ingrid is clever, she’s still clearly a kid, not a miniature adult. I’ve seen this series compared to Veronica Mars. I don’t know if I’d say it’s that good. All of Ingrid’s mysteries are also considerably less complex than season two of Veronica Mars. But I certainly enjoyed reading, even if I occasionally saw the plot twists coming.