Friday, June 24, 2005

Jury duty

is good mostly for reading novels (also they showed a remarkably funny video, in its middle stages it included Ed Bradley and Diane Sawyer solemnly lecturing about the importance of trial by jury even if it seems like a lot of waiting around, but it opened with a Monty Pythonesque dramatization of Trial by Ordeal as done in some conjectural Middle Ages where everybody wore robes with hoods, involving ponds and stones and such--one of the more outrageous things I've seen recently). Mercifully I wasn't put on a jury, though the two days of waiting around pretty much thwarted me on the work front. But I had a run of really good novels to read.

First of all, Valiant : A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black. It is superb--I love books of this kind (call it young-adult urban fantasy, though the label doesn't do it justice), and it is impossible to imagine a better one. I won't write more now, as I'm contemplating a longer and more essayistic post on the subject, but it is really spectacular. It prompted me to reread Tithe, which I loved when I read it last year and enjoyed just as much when I read it again yesterday. I am surprised to see that the general drift of the Amazon reviews for Valiant are that it's not quite as good as the first one--I thought Valiant was even better, or perhaps just more exactly my kind of book. But maybe people get antsy when they think they're going to get a sequel and don't--the main characters of Tithe make only brief and oblique appearances in Valiant. Anyway, read these books! They're amazing!

Courtesy of Lauren, the next book in the pile was The Untelling by Tayari Jones. I liked her first novel very much too (it's a good novel about childhood framed against the story of the Atlanta child murders--I think I must be pretty much exactly the same age as Jones, though growing up in Philadelphia rather than Atlanta, so this stuff all really resonates with me). The new one's even better. It's a perceptive and memorable novel about secrets and lies, modest in its scope but powerful in its impact; it also runs just the right line between the expectations set by "literary" and "popular" fiction, managing to be beautifully written and gripping in its "what happens next" aspect. I liked it a lot.

And I've just finished Fire Sale, the latest V.I. Warshawski novel by Sara Paretsky. It's excellent! I have always really liked and approved of these books, they're very much the best of what you can do with female narrator/private investigator/city setting/business crime stuff. The last few were interesting but a little whacked-out: you got a post-9/11 obsessiveness about international politics that again I approve of--I like seeing a writer well into a series try something different, and it gave the books a kind of passion that is not always present in best-selling series--but they weren't as well-plotted as usual. This one is really great--it combines some of the complexity of the more recent ones with a return to the old form on crime-solving. Highly recommended.

Actually, all these books are highly recommended, it is nice to get such a good run of high-quality novels. Very more-ish... must get serious work done this weekend, though.

1 comment:

  1. I think that Valiant is the best thing Holly's done yet and it makes me realllly anxious for her next book. Am glad you loved it too.

    The book I'm reading now, I think you will also love -- A Princess of Roumania by Paul Park. It's out from Tor in July and I believe will be marketed as an adult title even though it could just as easily be shelved in YA.