104 in 2014: 5. coincidentally yours

What’s not to like about our reading challenge? Aim for 104 in the year, read whatever you want, and just journal it regularly. The more reading records you read, the more books you find that pique your interest, the more books you read, the closer you get to target! Sweeeeet!

Of course, the more you read the less you write and, like me, you might find yourself slipping behind in your reviewing. Curses! Here are the next 10 titles for my tally – I read these back in March and some of them are completely fabulous and deserve to slip unobtrusively onto your To Be Read list:

#41 cover The Coincidence Authority by J.W. Ironmonger (Read 10/03/2014) I saw a review for this novel in a NextReads newsletter and was intrigued by the premise. It’s a clever, thought-provoking story which I really enjoyed, although I felt it floundered a little at times. The authority is statistician and lecturer Thomas Post, and the coincidences are mostly to do with Azalea Lewis, whose past is littered with one unlikely juxtaposition of events after another. Seagulls on the Isle of Mann, a commuter accident in the London subway, and the horrific brutality of Joseph Kony’s abduction of children in Uganda, all raise questions of free will, fate, destiny, evil, and choice.

#42Broken Homes cover Broken Homes by Ben Aaronovitch (Read 12/03/2014) Oh, this series is magnificent! This is the fourth in the Peter Grant and the Folly series, and it is box-it-up-I’ll-take-it awesome! Lots of fascinating threads are spread out at the start, following straight on from the third book. I loved the magic resonance architecture stuff around the neo-brutalist Skygarden Estate (based on the Heygate Estate in Southwark) – there had to be a reason why they made those places so ugly! I was also ludicrously delighted with a huge slap ’em down and drag ’em out battle between Nightingale and one of the Faceless Man’s allies. Any fight that starts with the side of a building being torn off certainly has my full attention. Unfortunately, the ending a cliffhanger and I can’t find a release date for #5. You may like to plan that a little better than I did. Don’t begin with this book, seriously – it won’t make much sense. Go back and start with number 1 – it’s worth it.

#43Crossing Places cover The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths (Read 15/03/2014) I saw a very positive review of the sixth of this series and thought I would start at the beginning. This is a flawed story, but I found the characters interesting, so I will persist with the series and see if it improves. The narrative voice was jarring (it’s third person, present tense), and I was irritated by the main character’s excessive references to being single and overweight (get over it, woman!). There is no mystery to guess whodunnit. I thought that the setting on the Norfolk salt marshes was the best part of the book and the archaeology was interesting. Having seen the feeble “preserved” wooden sea henge at Flag Fen, in its plastic wading pools, I found I had a lot of sympathy for the druid character who had protested against moving the ancient timbers from their marshy site.

#44Eleanor & Park cover Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Read 15/03/2014) I started this novel in the late afternoon and simply had to keep reading until I was done. (cough)3am(cough) And that’s what weekends are for, right? Anyway, this is a YA romance about two misfits, neither of whom want attention from anyone. They manage to connect, tentatively, on the school bus, when Park realises that Eleanor is reading his comics as he reads them. Initially without much speaking they share comics and music. The third person narrative shifts from Park’s point of view to Eleanor’s, sometimes for pages, sometimes just for a sentence to two. It’s pretty cute and gets you under the skin of the teen characters. There’s a lot to like with this one, especially if you are old enough to have been a teen in the 1980s.

#45Fairest cover Fairest: Volume 2 The Hidden Kingdom GN by Lauren Beukes (Read 16/03/2014) An interesting addition to the Fables world, this is the story of Rapunzel, covering not just the well known “let down your golden hair” tower palaver, but her exile years spent in Japan. Apparently. Unfortunately, for my reading enjoyment at least, when she revisits the land of the rising sun and of scary gash-mouthed demons and giant talking cats, she takes Jack with her. Urgh. He really irritates me. But the art, especially of the Hidden Kingdom’s homeland, was sumptuous, and the modern day stuff had the very definite compensation of Frau Totenkinder. She’s such a wicked witch.

#46Fever Moon cover Fever Moon: The Fear Dorcha GN by Karen Marie Moning (Read 17/03/2014) It’s a bit of a thing, urban fantasy/paranormal romance series having graphic novel adaptations/prequels/origin stories made about them. While this one is touted as a stand-alone story it’s clear that the assumption is that the reader will already know, and care, about the characters. I had a lot of difficulty getting past the art. The illustrator, AL Rio, died while working on this project, and the author’s intro makes it clear she was loving his work, and plenty of fans have reviewed this GN positively… BUT Rio’s style of Good Girl Art is the main reason why I don’t like most superhero comics: the female characters are all bursting out of their skin tight clothes, moving from one porn pose to the next and looking like they spend every waking moment trembling on the edge of la petite mort. I found it hard to follow the story in this GN because of the art – the main female protagonist, Mac, looks almost identical to a 14 year old street urchin, Dani, and a random woman who becomes one of the monster’s victims – i.e. they are all curvy, pouty Barbie dolls whose toes point downwards even when they are not wearing heels. The author’s website includes a post with a couple of sketches the artist did, one of Wonderwoman and an homage to it using Moning’s character – they make me want to send them to Jim C. Hines for his gender-flipped cover posing, because there’s just no way they are anatomically possible.

#47Bandette cover Bandette, Volume 1: Presto! GN by Colleen Coover and Paul Tobin (Read 17/03/2014) Oh my giddy aunt! Bandette is adorable. A cheeky comic cross between Tintin and Nancy Drew, with a pinch of POW! WHAM!! 1960s Batman crime capers thrown in, I challenge you to try and read it and not love her. She has style, she has wit, she has a gang of street urchins, ballet dancers and pizza deliverers as resources to draw upon, and she has a chihuahua named Pimento. When she isn’t stealing art, she’s helping the police with their enquiries – to the disgust of the grouchy Police Inspector Belgique. It’s the graphic novel equivalent of a pain au chocolat – perfect if you are in the mood for something light, that’s chock-full of sweet, amusing banter.

#48The Property cover The Property GN by Rutu Modan, translated by Jessica Cohen (Read 18/03/2014) I enjoyed this graphic novel as well, although it is vastly different to Bandette. It’s a modern tale about a young Israeli woman who goes to Warsaw with her elderly grandmother, who has not been back to Poland since she fled in 1939. It is clever and engaging, emotional and beautifully drawn, funny and heartfelt. I very much recommend it – I can’t do better than echo the review from Salon.com which describes it as resembling “an excellent independent film.

 

#49Cinder cover Cinder: Lunar Chronicles Book 1 by Melissa Meyer (Read 19/03/2014) This is a science-fiction retelling of the Cinderella fairy tale, aimed at teen readers. I saw a positive review for the third in the series and thought I should start at the beginning. And, really, even though you know how things are going to go here (because you’re familiar with Cinderella, right?) Meyer does an excellent job of staying true to the tale, but making it fresh. Cinder is a hard-working cyborg in New Beijing, and I liked that she does actually work hard and get greasy – not just sit around whining about how hard she has to work like some other YA heroines (yes, America Singer in Kiera Cass’ The Selection, I’m talking to you). So, it’s not perfect, but good enough that the rest of this series is now on my To Be Read list.

#50bath tangle cover Bath Tangle by Georgette Heyer (Read 23/03/2014) Things are dragging a little in my ongoing, chronological re-reading of Heyer’s Georgian/Regency romances and this book is partly to blame. This one was published in 1955. Oh, if ever two characters deserve an unhappy ending it is the hero and heroine of this romance. Pompous, aggravating, rude, abusive – Rotherham is not worthy of the title hero. There’s a fantastic review of it, over on Tor.com,  which articulates all of my problems with this book, and especially with Rotherham, but if you can’t be bothered following the link, I noticed an astute reviewer on Amazon has summed up the book in seven words – “spoilt brat and rude guardian behave selfishly”. I don’t recommend this one.

And that’s my 10 titles for the moment. Lot’s to like, and only a couple of misses – plus, more from me soon.