52 books for reading challenge

Here are reviews for the books I read in April towards my 52 x 3 reading challenge for 2012:

complete feltmaking cover#37 Complete Feltmaking:easy techniques and 25 great projects by Gillian Harris (Read 1/04/2012) The beauty of the lovely patterns in this book is that they all look absolutely do-able. Even the layered ones, like the bag on the cover, are so well explained one is lulled into a glorious sense of potentially quite false confidence, that will surely end in suds and tears. I can’t wait….

mush: sled dogs with issues cover#38 Mush by Glenn Eichler and Joe Infurnari (Read 11/04/2012) This was a gift, not a library book, and what a great gift it was. It’s about a team of sled dogs in the Alaskan wilderness and their people (the boss and the boss’ mate). The dogs really only agree on one thing – they all love to run –  and are otherwise at odds over sex, power, and the meaning of life.

Moon Called cover#39 Moon Called by Patricia Briggs (Read 12/04/2012) The first of a popular urban fantasy series that I have finally got around to reading. It’s well put together regarding the mechanics of how the supernatural world co-exists with the real world, but it’s main strength is the lead character of Mercedes Thompson. A history teacher working as a VW mechanic, who is also a Walker (natural shapechanger) raised by werewolves, Mercy is independent, stubborn, and good fun to get to know.

Dark Entry cover#40 Dark Entry by M.J.Trow (Read 15/04/2012) This historical murder mystery is the first in a series starring Christopher (Kit) Marlowe. Set in 1583, in Cambridge, where Marlowe is a student at Corpus Christi college, an undercurrent of the political and religious tensions of the time suffuse the story. While I found some aspects contrived (the coded message clue quite annoyed me), overall it was a darkly unsettling mystery.

first name reverse dictionary cover#41 1st Name Reverse Dictionary by Yvonne Navarro (Read 17/04/2012)  This is a useful little book for writers looking to name a character (or a dog, or a baby, I suppose).  Instead of starting with the name and giving the meaning, it is, as the title suggests, reversed and they start with the meaning and then list any name, and its origin, that have that meaning. Well, I know it’s not really a book you can read, per se, but I thought you’d be interested….

power of the dark side cover#42 The Power of the Dark Side by Pamela Jaye Smith (Read 17/04/2012) Another recommendation for writers, although this one will take longer to get through. It’s a comprehensive analysis of the bad guys – what motivates them, why they do the things they do, their strengths and their weaknesses. It’s full of pop culture references, as well as mythological and literary characters, Jungian archetypes and more.

rainshadow road cover#43 Rainshadow Road by Lisa Kleypas (Read 18/04/2012) Styled as magic realism, this one’s really just a romance with a sprinkling of pixie dust (or something like that).  I liked that the main characters didn’t fall for the really cliche romance plot device opportunities offered to them – like failing to disclose that her ex has blackmailed you to take her out on a date – and the town and supporting characters are nicely filled out (it’s the middle of a series so that could be why).

painted circus cover#44 The Painted Circus: P.T. Vermin Presents a Mesmerizing Menagerie of Trickery and Illusion Guaranteed to Beguile and Bamboozle the Beholder by Wallace Edwards (Read 19/04/2012)
I know I said I was not going to count picture books, but I had to include this one. Do you remember the old Coles Funny Picture Books?  With the rainbow on the cover? Gutenberg’s got one so you can see what I mean. What I remember about the one we had in the house when I was a little kiddie, was the pages of optical illusions – you could look at a picture and see one thing, and then see another. Well, this picture book is all about amazing optical illusions.  I had a flashback moment to my childhood just looking at the retro pictures – lots of fun.

photo reference cover Comic Artist’s Photo Reference: Men and Boys by Buddy Scalera (Read 19/04/2012) And now it’s a sort of two-for-the-price-of-one book review moment, because this one doesn’t really count as a book to read either. But if I didn’t tell you it was in the collection you might not even realise that we have such a useful thing. I wanted to show my son how to draw characters in action poses and this is the perfect photo reference book for that.  Great for aspiring comic artists.

Tank Girl cover#45 Tank Girl: Bad Wind Rising by Alan C. Martin (Read 20/04/2012) Way back in the day, but not quite as far as the Coles Funny Picture Book, I read a lot of British comics, but I somehow never read Tank Girl. And now I have. And, perhaps, I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for a foul-mouthed, anarchic, drug-raddled, gratuitously violent, puerile comic. Perhaps I never will be again. Perhaps, while I wasn’t watching, I got old.

American Vampire cover#46 American Vampire by Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque and Stephen King (Read 20/04/2012) And yet, here be violence. This is a great graphic novel and I recommend it for anyone interested in vampire stories, and for fans of Stephen King. He’s not a fan of the romantic reinvention of bloodsucking undead monsters, and Skinner Sweet, despite his surname, is definitely monstrous. The juxtaposition of the two stories – Sweet in the Wild West, and Pearl in 1920s Hollywood – is really well done, and I’ll definitely be hunting down the rest of this series.

umbrella academy apocalypse cover#47 The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Read 21/04/2012) Oh my giddy aunt, what’s not to love about this graphic novel? Such clever writing, enormously engaging characters, great art (inside and out – just look at that cover!), and an altogether fantastic story. Yes, it’s about superheroes, but they are weird and utterly dysfunctional – I don’t think the children had as easy a time of it at the Umbrella Academy as those precocious dilettantes at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters….

umbrella academy dallas cover#48 The Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba (Read 21/04/2012) You may think, where could they go after Apocalypse Suite? And the answer is Dallas. And awesome. Because now there are time-travelling assassins, God as a cowboy, and further evidence that killing members of the Hargreeves family is a temporary measure at best. Can I just state publicly that the person who suggested I might enjoy these graphic novels is the best friend ever.

taming of annabelle cover#49 The Taming of Annabelle by M.C. Beaton (Read 22/04/2012) Beaton is best known for the Hamish Macbeth and the Agatha Raisin murder mystery series, so this second in the Six Sisters Regency romance series may seem odd. Except that Beaton is a pseudonym for Marion Chesney, who has written more than 100 Regency romances under her own name. As for Annabelle, I don’t know how Chesney/Beaton does it, but she worked the same magic with this character as she did with Agatha Raisin – she made me dislike her so much at the start of the book that I stopped wanting things to work out for her, even though I knew they would. Damn it all! I can be so judgmental.

limpopo academy cover#50 The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection by Alexander McCall Smith (Read 22/04/2012) Sometimes the mysteries in the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series are very low key, but I found this latest installment to be quite dramatic. Of course, things are solved to everyone’s satisfaction – what else could we expect from Precious Ramotswe? Full of gentle humour, and philosophies for living a kinder life, this novel was an entirely delightful read.

have mercy on us all cover#51 Have Mercy On Us All by Fred Vargas (Read 27/04/2012)
This series keeps getting better and better. Vargas described this book as combining her interests in “archaeology, history, medicine, entomology, epidemiology, and microbiology”, but it wears its learning lightly, and is utterly readable. In it, Commissaire Adamsberg is convinced that an odd town-crier in modern-day Paris, who is being sent bizarre messages to read, holds the clue to a series of murders.

Wild Ways cover#52 The Wild Ways by Tanya Huff (Read 29/04/2012) This is the second in this clever and well-written urban fantasy series about the Gale women. If I had not enjoyed The Enchantment Emporium so much, and already been a fan of the author, I probably would not have picked this up  – dreadful cover – but it is a great book. Probably best to start with number one, and then you will fully enjoy this tale of wild magic, a sulky teenage Dragon lord, and selkies involved in the Celtic folk music scene.

So there you are. One third of the way into the year and the first of my three x 52 books complete. Any feedback on any of the reviews is always welcome, and if you would like to recommend I read something fabulous I’m happy to hear it and improve your fantastic friend rating accordingly. 🙂