104 in 2014: 2. whole lotta love

Here are the next ten books for my year of reading and yes! there’s a definite theme of love. This is partly because I have been continuing with my re-reading of Georgette Heyer’s Georgian era novels, in chronological order – and with the three below I have passed the halfway point both numerically (18 of 34) and chronologically (at 1951 in a writing career that spanned from 1921 to 1972).

So, passionate or platonic, unrequited or unconditional, maternal or memorialised, here’s a whole lotta love:

#11The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon cover The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith (Read 16/01/2014) This is another of the Number 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books, and, like its 13 predecessors it moves slowly, and is not so much about the mysteries being solved by Mma Ramotswe, as about the characters, the country of Botswana, and gentle pondering on life. At times it felt almost too slow for me, but the author’s charming turn of phrase kept me reading. I laughed out loud at the awkwardness of the course for modern husbands, and sighed over the shared, wordless moment of maternal love felt by Grace and Precious, so I have no real cause for complaint. I would not recommend starting with this book, though – to appreciate the character dynamics and development they really need to be read in order.

#12Curtsies & Conspiracies cover Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School #2) by Gail Carriger (Read 17/01/2014) This series is wordy, witty, and whimsical. It’s wafer-thin, plot wise, but I defy you to care. I know I didn’t – I was too caught up in the amusing antics, the gentle mockery of society manners by juxtaposing them with assassination and espionage. I was a little disappointed by the recycling of the villain from the first in the series, and by what seemed to be a reduction in the mad science and machines (the general feeling of Steampunkiness, I suppose), but these are minor quibbles to raise against a book that is unashamedly more style than substance – but what great style!

#13 Loki’s Wolves (The Blackwell Pages #1) by K.L. Armstrong and M. Marr (Read 18/01/2014) I love Norse mythology, and the character of Loki is particularly appealing. He is such a difficult, ambivalent figure, and always an agent for change – good or bad. I wasn’t entirely swept up in this book – I really like Armstrong’s adult and YA books, but the target market here is probably 11 to 13 year olds, and I found the pacing a little uneven. I guess you could summarise it as doing for Norse mythology what Percy Jackson did for Greek mythology. It is the start of a series, so I will probably pick up the second and see where it’s going.

#14 Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak cover Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by Writers Famous and Obscure (Read 19/01/2014) I was not as charmed by these as I was hoping to be. The idea is certainly clever – get people to write their memoir (in this case, their memoir of their love life) in six words. Unfortunately, I am not a minimalist, and I found myself dissatisfied that six words was all the insight I was getting into the story. So I guess I could start writing six word book reviews, because if you can write a memoir in six words, why not a review.

How about: Feeling cheated that there wasn’t more.

Or: Turned the page. Still not enough.

#15Arabella cover Arabella by Georgette Heyer (Read 20/01/2014) The central conceit of this Regency romance is that the poor but genteel heroine lies about being an heiress. Why would a Heyer heroine do anything so vulgar? Well, because she overheard the hero assert she must be a fortune-chasing harpy trying to trap him into marriage, of course. Some of the dialogue in this novel is so scintillating you need to wear sunglasses whilst reading, and you can’t help but laugh. It gives more insight into the hero than is usual – Beaumaris is a Nonpareil, a paragon of manly virtues for the time, and Heyer would not normally allow him to stoop so low as to explain himself, or give any hint of his inner thoughts or emotions. But, through the medium of conversing with a mongrel dog that Arabella rescues and then foists on him, he manages to appear human. It is also interesting that, written in 1949, this is one of the few times that Heyer acknowledges the existence of poverty, squallor, child labour and cruelty in the Regency world.

#16The Library of Unrequited Love cover The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divry, translated by Sian Reynolds (Read 21/01/2014) At only 95 pages this is a very quick read. The whole contents are delivered as a monologue from a French librarian to a reader she finds in the basement rooms of the library, who may have been locked in overnight. She is a stereotypical, old-school librarian – spinsterish, bitter, une femme d’un certain age, resentful of the mess that the readers make of the books. I have no doubt her shushing technique is exemplary. Her chief enjoyment in life seems to be obsessing about a young researcher who sometimes uses the library basement room to study. It’s … odd. There were a few descriptions I thought quite clever, but I’m afraid that the majority of the references to making assumptions about class and intellectualism via favoured French philosophers and authors were lost on me.

#17The Grand Sophy cover The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer (Read 22/01/2014) This is a favourite Heyer novel, mostly because of the number of delightful scenes where Sophy fails completely to conform to other peoples’ expectations. The dialogue is witty, the characters beautifully drawn, and there are so many bits that make me laugh out loud. I can’t, quite, bring myself to believe the romance between, well, any of the paired off characters, really, but that doesn’t overly trouble me. Much more troubling is the quite nasty little scene with a Jewish moneylender. It boggles my brain that Heyer wrote this in 1950, in what I would have thought to have been a period of history which was highly sensitive to anti-Semitism.

#18The Quiet Gentleman cover The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer (Read 25/01/2014) I love the irony in this book. Gervase, the quiet gentleman in question, has returned from the Napoleonic wars relatively unscathed and ready to take up his title and estates, to the enduring disappointment of his step-mother and his half-brother. And they are so rude about it! It’s priceless. I also like the mentions of the literary and radical circles that the heroine Drusilla grew up in. What I don’t like about it is the half-baked mystery, where there are not nearly enough suspects to allay suspicion, and the sheer idiocy of characters who seriously believe someone is trying to kill the Earl, but don’t think it’s quite the done thing to communicate their suspicions as to who that someone is.

#19The Dream Thieves cover The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (Read 27/01/2014) Having loved The Raven Boys I was keen to read this sequel and see what the gang was up to. Awesome. They are up to awesome. The first book revealed some major secrets about Noah. This one lifts the lid on Ronan and his family, and their ability to manipulate dreams. I found it quite unexpected how Stiefvater managed to make a hitman into a sympathetic character, and I love the way she uses language. I can’t wait for the next in the series.

#20Sewing in a Straight Line: Quick and Crafty Projects You Can Make by Simply Sewing Straight cover Sewing in a Straight Line: Quick and Crafty Projects You Can Make by Simply Sewing Straight by Brett Barra (Read 31/01/2014) Straight sewing – I love it. I have flashbacks to making a pillowcase in Home Economics circa 1981. This is a nice little book, with achievable projects, which are perfect if you are a sewing beginner and don’t want anything too tricky.

And that’s it for the moment – I’ll have the next batch of ten along soon, I hope, since they are well and truly read. I hope there’s something here for you to try, and, if not, I guarantee some five star reads in my next set of reviews.