104 in 2014: 4. so I’m a fan

My reading journal for the year continues with another ten books, towards the goal of 104 in 2014. I’m a fan of most of these titles, but my favourite book out of these 10 would have to be Fangirl. Read on for more details:

#31Toll-Gate cover The Toll-Gate by Georgette Heyer (Read 18/02/2014) This is the 20th book in my re-reading of Heyer’s Georgian romances, and it has…. issues. According to her biographers, Heyer wrote the first chapter and subsequently abandoned that whole plot. The reader is introduced to all these interesting characters for a romantic comedy of manners, only to have the hero ride off into the countryside and into a completely different book in a different genre – a murder mystery, in fact. Ah well. It certainly has its charms, if you are interested in things like how toll-gates operated… OK, so not for everyone, then.

#32The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable: A True Tale of Passion, Poison and Pursuit cover The Peculiar Case of the Electric Constable: A True Tale of Passion, Poison and Pursuit by Carol Baxter (Read 21/02/2014) This is a non-fiction book about a Victorian murder trial. It’s not a mystery, because there’s never any real doubt about the killer,  but I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history. It details the development of the electric telegram, and its use in capturing the murderer, it talks about the Quaker religion and how members of their community lived, it discusses the convict career of the killer and the fledgling industry and society of the Australian penal colony. I enjoyed it very much.

#33Lost Lake cover Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen (Read 23/02/2014) I really liked the first three of this author’s novels, and the fourth not so much. So I was a little hesitant to try Lost Lake. But it’s delightful – full of quirky characters, a dash of magic realism, love, redemption and alligators. I was about to say I couldn’t ask for more, but then I realised that this would be a lie, and of course I could ask for dirigibles, necromancers, and a blunderbuss. That would make it an entirely different book, by a different author, so instead let’s stick with what we have and be glad of it. Very glad indeed!

#341,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop cover 1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop by John Lloyd (Read 25/02/2014) This is a succession of bizarre facts – just the sort of thing you can’t help reading out to people. Or you could memorise some of them – they are bound to come in handy when there are odd lulls in a dinner party conversation. Did you know that the Norwegians have a word that means “anything that could conceivably be put on a sandwich.” (It’s på˚legg.) Did you know that Agatha Christie was a keen surfer? Did you know that the Moon is actually shaped like an egg, but it looks round because the pointy end points at the Earth? Clearly this is, most assuredly, quite interesting stuff.

#35Fangirl cover Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (Read 28/02/2014) I loved it! This is a clever, endearing, coming of age story about Cath, an American girl who, for her first year at college, is basically dumped by her identical twin Wren, worried about her bipolar dad, and obsessed with her fan fiction writing. She’s a huge, huge fan of a fictional Potteresque series and writes slash fan fiction about the hero Simon Snow, and his room-mate/antagonist/vampire Tyrranus Basilton Pitch, known as Baz. Our world is so weird – there really is now Simon Snow fan fiction out there. Anyway, I was surprised by some online reviews, which basically say they want to slap the main character for being spineless. I thought she was a sympathetic and well written portrait of someone who, along with her likes and dislikes, quirks and talents, happens to suffer from crippling anxiety. It makes her growth as a characters all the sweeter.

#36You're All Just Jealous of my Jetpack cover You’re All Just Jealous of My Jetpack cartoons by Tom Gauld (Read 2/03/2014) Oh, these are great. Gathered together from material printed in The Guardian these cartoons are literary, clever and sometimes absurd. If you are at all bookish, or find humour in odd juxtapositions and the vagaries of human nature, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this collection. I liked it very much, especially the street that Tom Waits grew up on, Dickens’ lost novel (A Megalosaur’s Progress), and Mr Shakespeare breaking the bad news about his revised script to Romeo, Juliet and Mr Wibbly Wobbly. Laugh? I did.

#37BIBLIOcraft cover BIBLIOcraft: A Modern Crafter’s Guide to Using Library Resources to Jumpstart Creative Projects by Jessica Pigza (Read 2/03/2014) This is such a wonderful book. Not only does it have a slew of marvellous little crafty projects to make your fingers twitch, it has what is possibly the best ever explanation of how to use libraries to get your crafty geek on. By this I mean that if you are into embroidering 17th century designs onto cushions, or making Steampunky Victoriana shadow boxes, or using Russian folk art as the inspiration for your handmade brooches, it tells you how you can use not just your physical library to help you find patterns, illustrations and much more, but also the amazing online resources of libraries of the world. The author is a librarian and she explains the Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classification system in a way that doesn’t just make sense – it is actively helpful for anyone who wants to find stuff. Even if you never want to craft a single thing (ever) borrowing this book and reading all this fabulous information may well help you geek out in a non-crafty way.

#38Brenda and Effie Forever cover Brenda and Effie Forever by Paul Magrs (Read 3/03/2014) I really loved this series when it started, and the first couple of books were fun. But I felt as if the author had used up all the great shlocky horror stories and movies early on, and was then just treading water, stretching increasingly thin plots out to make up the pages. Although I thought this one started well, in Paris with the Phantom of the Opera and Quasimodo, I felt it lost momentum back in Whitby and the whole Bronte sisters thing just annoyed me. I’m glad this is the end of the series, although Brenda remains one of my favourite examples of a re-purposed character.

#39Bad Houses cover Bad Houses GN by Sara Ryan, illustrated by Carla Speed McNeill (Read 4/03/2014) Any story that begins in the rain in a town named Failin is off to a good start. The town is dying, local industries have closed down, and the older residents remember better times. For young people, like the two teenagers that the story centres on, the past hides secrets that will help them make sense of themselves. With hoarders and estate sales, love, bitterness and old beer bottles, this is a graphic novel with considerable depth.


#40Rolling Stones cover Rolling Stones 50×20 by Chris Murray (Read 6/03/2014) A 50th anniversary is a always a good excuse to celebrate and to look back. So there’s been quite a few books, CDs, documentaries and what have you about The Rolling Stones. This book collects images and opinions from 20 photographers who have worked with the band, across that 50 year period. It’s an interesting study – it must be hard to separate true memories of the 1960s and 70s from myth, and recall what really happened, or how you really felt about them before these musicians became legends. I got the feeling that some of the stories had been retold and polished so many times they have had any rough edges well and truly knocked off them. There’s also not a lot of room for the photographers to reminisce – most of the space is taken up by the images. But, wow, most of the images are great. Definitely, borrow this book if you’re a fan, even if it’s just for the details and photos of the Beggar’s Banquet shoot.

I’ve got many more reading recommendations in the wings, but I hope that something from amongst these 10 makes you think, “ooh, that sounds like fun!” Happy reading!