104 in 2014: 1. starting with poison

A new reading year, and a new challenge! So here goes with my first 10 books towards 104 in 2014.

There’s a bit of a purple and green colour theme to the covers here, and there’s also a lovely current of toxins running through half of them. Read on, and discover why:

#1Lucifer Book 2: Children and Monsters cover Lucifer Book 2: Children and Monsters GN by Mike Carey (Read 1/01/2014) I love the way that writers like Mr Carey can toss all these plot lines into the air and juggle so effortlessly, keeping them up there, until, wham!!, down one comes and knocks you sideways. Great writing, visually engaging – needless to say, I’m very much enjoying this collection of an excellent graphic novel series.

#2Make Hey While the Sun Shines: 25 Crafty Projects and Recipes cover Make Hey While the Sun Shines: 25 Crafty Projects and Recipes by Pip Lincolne (Read 2/01/2014) This title was so adorable, I had to borrow the book. It contains cute little craft and sewing projects, but in a style which is not really my thing.  If  you think it might suit you, go and have a look at the author’s website first, before you grab the book.

#3Hush, Hush: The Graphic Novel, #1 cover Hush, Hush: The Graphic Novel, #1 GN by Becca Fitzpatrick (Read 3/01/2014) Oh my giddy aunt, this was dreadful. It is not outside the realms of possibility that the book is better. Sundry online reviews would seem to indicate this to be the case. In fact, many readers who loved the book have scathingly critiqued the graphic novel. I could barely follow the story and the way that the characters were drawn seemed to be out of synch with the story.  Not recommending this one.

#4A Young Scientist's Guide to Faulty Freaks of Nature cover A Young Scientist’s Guide to Faulty Freaks of Nature by James Doyle (Read 4/01/2014) Well, I confess I borrowed this book for my household young scientist and got drawn in by a story on poisonous fish. It’s one of those grab bag books, full or weird facts and disgusting bits of trivia. Practical experiments included for the target audience of young scientists, so altogether quite fun.

#5The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1) cover The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy, #1) by Mindee Arnett (Read 4/01/2014) I liked the premise of this teen paranormal mystery romance, but found the execution average. I remember reading a glaringly stupid phrase on about page 15 and seriously considering putting the book aside. But I persevered. And I shouldn’t have. The characterisation felt flat, the dialogue was unconvincing, and the mystery non-existent.

#6Poison cover Poison by Bridget Zinn (Read 8/01/2014) Gorgeous cover, right? Over on Goodreads readers have pointed out it is basically the movie poster for Snow White and the Huntsman, flipped. Which makes sense, because this book would work wonderfully as a film. Especially the cute, direction finding pig. I loved that the main character was a young woman determined to make her own path in life – not so keen on her self-delusion, or how much she had somehow managed to cram into her 16 years. Buy, hey, it’s fantasy so maybe 16 of their years is like 28 of ours? But, then, she acted like she was 16, so maybe… Anyway, it meant she was a master potioner, with a formidable reputation, so she could whip up a mean poison. Nice. I’d rate it kind of fun, but flawed.

#7Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1) cover Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1) by Gail Carriger (Read 9/01/2014) I couldn’t quite seem to get into Ms Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate books, but I very much enjoyed this first of a series aimed at young adult readers, where the heroine is sent off, by her exasperated mother to finishing school. It’s not the sort of school Sophronia is expecting. Certainly they turn out young ladies – but these are young ladies trained to finish… whatever needs finishing. In a charming conceit the school is located in three linked dirigibles, that drift over Dartmoor, and the girls learn all the ladylike arts of curtseying, eyelash fluttering, knife fighting and, of course, poisoning. I have already placed a hold on the second in the series, and await its arrival impatiently.

#8The Pleasures of Men cover The Pleasures of Men by Kate Williams (Abandoned 10/01/2014)
I tried. I mean, I really tried to read this book. I started reading it last March! I wanted to love it because of the gorgeous cover and I wanted the book to live up to its promise and … it … just …… didn’t. I kept coming back to it, dragging the carcass of the disjointed prose and impossible to fathom points of view around; wading through the lurid, overheated sensibilities; the excruciatingly, painfully oblique, intimations of lesbianism; the putative musings of the anachronistically Ripperesque Man of Crows which, ambiguously, may have just been the fevered imaginings of the mentally unstable heroine; goggling at the Gothic grotesquery of thinly disguising an historical artist as the most likely, morbid and oddly Bates-inspired, villain who lives alone with his mother because he killed his father with a bread knife! You’re feeling my pain after that sentence, aren’t you? I was waiting for the Big Reveal. Why was Miss Sorgeiul so plagued by the Memory of Dire Things she had done? What Monstrous Horror had she committed that Destroyed her Family? It took me 10 months of putting the damn thing aside to finally get to page 222 of 390 to discover that her Guilty Secret of Profound Evil was (look aside, gentle reader, I’m about to either spoil it for you or spare you) that she elected not to be kidnapped by ruffians, on the streets of 1830s London, when she was 10 – saying her brother should go with them instead. I simply could not read on! No wonder her mother, whose debilitating migraine was the cause of the children being abandoned in the street, completely blamed her daughter!! Unnatural child!

#9The Inheritor's Powder: A Cautionary Tale of Poison, Betrayal and Greed cover The Inheritor’s Powder: A Cautionary Tale of Poison, Betrayal and Greed by Sandra Hempel (Read 12/01/2014) And speaking of unnatural children, this rather short non-fiction title is an enjoyable cross between a true-crime recounting of an 1830s murder mystery and a history of the early days of forensic science. It starts with a poisoning crime, and the prosecution of it, and mentions a number of infamous early 19th century poisoning cases and the difficulties in distinguishing between death by natural causes and death by poison. The discussion of the development of scientific tests for arsenic is interesting, although it has more to do with the role of the medical profession in legal proceedings than with science. I enjoyed this book, but found the ending quite abrupt.

#10The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane cover The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (Read 14/01/2014) Also in the catalogue as The Lost Book of Salem. I know I’m a fussy thing, and I don’t really understand the American university system, but in the strange world inside my head I believe that a character, about to undertake her doctorate at Harvard University, in American History and focusing on the early Colonial period, ought not to be surprised by women’s virtue names like Patience, Prudence and Deliverance. She ought not to ponder, trying to fathom FOR PAGES what a witch’s bottel could be, only to realise it is a bottle. A bottle that is used by a witch. Oh yes. She ought not to be obliged to wonder “what is going on here?” when she reads diary entries that say the diarist has been visiting her neighbours, coincidentally at the time that they are “delivered of a boy/girl”, and then have a Eureka moment that causes her to shriek “Oh, she’s a midwife!” in an almost empty library. She ought not then be shushed by the librarian. She ought to be put out of her misery as she is clearly TSTL. There was a lot wrong with this book, for me, despite great promise. It did have heavy metal poisoning. But even that was unconvincing.

So there you have it – my first ten books for the year. With some ranting. But not, I hope, too much.