104 in 2014: 3. nobody said it would be easy

How’s the reading challenge going? Still on board?  I slipped though my first 20 books in January, and here are my reviews for the next 10, bringing me up to the reading I was doing halfway through February – so it’s looking good, right?
Actually, it’s looking great, because there are some books in here that are absolute gems. You’ll love them, I promise:

#21forbidden cover Forbidden (Otherworld Stories) by Kelley Armstrong (Read 4/02/2014) This novella is set in between the events of books in the author’s popular series, and will doubtless appeal to fans. It’s definitely not the place to start if you are new to the Women of the Otherworld series, even though the plot does work as a stand alone. A lone werewolf, traveling into pack territory to see if he can join the pack, has to be rescued by them from jail after being found naked in the woods near a small town. Then they start finding bodies, and things get messy. I felt that the book was too short to do justice to the mystery, and that also forced a few clunky deus ex machinas. Also, although it is illustrated, I really didn’t think the drawings added to the story, although, again, they may appeal to fans.

#22A Billion Jokes: Volume 1 cover A Billion Jokes: Volume 1 by Peter Serafinowicz (Read 9/02/2014) Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for a really feeble kind of visual gag, or pun. And if so, this is the book for you. I didn’t recognise the author’s name, although you well might, as he is a famous British actor/comedian/director/writer who played Pete in Shaun of the Dead. He has his own comedy show, which is good because he’s obviously really quite funny. He’ll need a few more volumes to make the billion, but that’s fine by me.

#23 cover Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse by Chris Riddell (Read 10/02/2014) This is a pretty little book, with the author’s delightful illustrations to pore over, and literary puns to keep you chuckling. Ada, the little Goth girl of the title, is the daughter of Lord Goth, who is “mad, bad and dangerous to gnomes” due to his habit of firing at the garden statuary as he rides past on his hobby horse. This book won the Costa Children’s Book Award, but I really think this is a  book that will appeal far more to adults who will enjoy the parody of a gothic novel and the references to all sorts of books – from Frankenstein to Gormenghast to Fight Club and more. So much fun.

#24 cover Australia: 150 Photographs by Rex Dupain (Read 11/02/2014) Hot on the heels of a recommendation from Bibliophile here on book coasters I put a hold on this art book. And I found some of the images just astounding. But I’m such a word junkie that I found myself looking for the images that the photographer had mentioned in his introductory text, and liking them more because I had… I don’t know, their story or their context or something. I know one picture should be worth 1000 words, so this should be the equivalent of 150 000 words …but for me I’d rather the words.

#25longbourn cover Longbourn by Jo Baker (Read 12/02/2014) Such an excellent book. Really, even if you’ve sworn to never, ever read a Pride and Prejudice sequel, prequel, homage, parody, whatever — it doesn’t matter, you should read this book. It is a parallel story to P&P, in the same way that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is a parallel to Hamlet. Longbourn is about the servants at the Bennet household, so the events of Austen’s tale impact on them, a lot, but they live separate, complex lives. I loved this book. I loved that it made me think about servants, class, freedom and slavery. I loved that it made me despise Wickham more, and confirmed my estimation of Mr Bennet. I loved that it showed the hard work and drudgery that went into making the Bennets lives comfortable, the everyday details that the Miss Bennets, and Austen herself, could rise above and disregard, but that the servants could not. I loved the descriptions. I just loved it.

#26unspoken cover Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy, #1) by Sarah Rees Brennan (Abandoned 16/02/2014) I was kind of hanging in there, trying to give this YA mystery/paranormal romance a chance. It was hard work for me. Then someone tried to kill the heroine by pushing her down a well and the hero rushed in to save her and there ensued the most ridiculous dialogue that I have ever read and I thought “Nah.” So that was the end of that – ding, dong, dell, abandoned due to well.

 

#27Cotillion cover Cotillion by Georgette Heyer (Read 13/02/2014) Back to the 19th century, with the latest in my chronological reading of Heyer’s Georgian romances. This is, I think, one of Heyer’s cleverest novels. A cotillion was a popular dance of the time, originally requiring four couples to make up a square, and later danced with more couples. Partners were swapped, allowing dancers to chat, and flirt, while they progressed through the moves. The key to really appreciating Cotillion is to be expecting a traditional romance novel outcome, only to be blindsided by the sudden shifting of the dance. The set up for this comedy of manners is outrageous, but run with it, and you will meet one of the most delightful, unexpected heroes I’ve encountered in a romance book.

#28desert of souls cover The Desert of Souls (The Chronicles of Sword and Sand #1) by Howard Andrew Jones (Read 14/02/2014) Set in 8th century Baghdad this novel has been described as a cross between One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and Sherlock Holmes. It’s an engaging fantasy, with a nice dynamic between the two main characters. It didn’t sweep me off my feet entirely, and there were sections where I felt it lost momentum, but I liked it well enough, especially as a debut, to give the sequel a try.

 

#29Winger cover Winger by Andrew Smith (Read 15/02/2014) Ryan Dean West, A.K.A. Winger, the 14 year old narrator of this novel, is punching above his weight, academically speaking and he is very conscious of it. He’s been accelerated two grades at school and this puts him on the field with hulking football jocks, and in deeply, pitiable, teen crush land in regards to his best friend, Annie, who is 16. And we all know that a year might as well be a decade in high school. Despite my failure to fully appreciate the hero’s tormented, teenaged libido issues, I loved that he learned some very nuanced lessons about life, love, sexuality, masculinity and respect. Plus it had me laughing out loud so loudly I was scaring passersby. And later weeping. Oh, it’s a good one, alright.

#30History Without the Boring Bits cover History Without the Boring Bits by Ian Crofton (Read 16/02/2014) Hmmm, this is not a book to read through methodically. This is a dip into randomly and be astounded by the constancy of human weirdness kind of book. Recently, on book coasters, we were discussing the first goat to circumnavigate the globe twice. As one does. This is the kind of book that provides you with the goat’s date of death. It’s weird. It’s bizarre. It has quite a lot of murder and gruesome deaths. Also, a lot of poop, and other bodily substances, in it.  Amusing, if you are in the right mood.

And that’s a wrap for 10 more titles towards my reading challenge total. I’ll have more reviews soon, because I’ve been reading so many really excellent books: I can’t wait to recommend them!