6. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - It's a setting that just full of possibilities: the Greek Gods of Olympus are still around and most of the principles are living in a rundown house in modern London. With characters like Apollo and Athena and Hermes, there's no end to complications and plot twists, right? Phillips does come up with jobs suitable of her cast - Aphrodite as a phone sex operator just makes perfect sense. And if Apollo and Aphrodite live in the same house, they probably would end up having sex with each other, considering their particular strengths, and despite being half siblings. Altogether, wouldn't we expect the whole clan to be just as dysfunctional in this age as the one they originated in? But that's the problem with this book - the characters do act all too often just as you'd expect. They have almost no arc. I guess that's the problem with characters so deitic - they have no where to go but down, and if that's not your ending, you really don't have much of a story. There are two mortals that get mixed up with this crazy family, and they do have a journey, but you'd think with people like Zeus and Hades getting involved, the whole thing would be more.....epic?
7. The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson, read by Peter Francis James - As young adult fiction, The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party, as the full title goes, is pretty astonishing in its own right. Told first from the pov of a pre-Revolutionary War period slave living in Boston, then in epistolary form from the pov of a fellow soldier in the rebel militia group he attaches himself to, and then again from Octvian's pov, this is a side of that time period rarely presented in fiction, let alone discussed in history classes. Octavian starts sout his life in a rarified condition - he receives an exemplary classical eduction. Why this slave receives such an education, and how what he has learned plays out against the common perceptions about his race and station is told in vocabulary and grammar correct to his time period. As an adult listening to the story, I thought the set up dragged a bit, but that's usually the case when an adult reads TA fiction. The second and third parts of the story, though, are a well told story for any age. The ending is a set up for a second volume, and I'm very curious to see how the author handles his character during the actual war.
8. The Guardians by Ana Castillo - Whenever I read a story told in the form of characters getting their own chapters to tell their versions of overlapping events, I hold that story to a higher standard. Why? Because it's an easier way to tell a story. The author doesn't have to pin down the voice they're going to use. In the case of this book, that higher standard is exceeded. A fifty-something legal immigrant from Mexico has taken custody of her illegal immigrant sixteen year old nephew. Her brother, a man who has crossed back and forth from New Mexico to Mexico so many time he no longer needs a coyote to guide him (but still must use one because the coyotes are all about job security), has gone missing. Regina does not want to give up hope that her brother will return, Gabo the nephew who already lost his mother to a cross over gone very bad, tries to use his extreme faith in God to guide him in all areas of his life, and a handful of interesting characters, not caricatures all share in the search. You won't forget what happens to these people because Castillo makes you care about them, no matter what your opinion on illegal immigrants.