104 in 2014: 6. it’s not what you do

It doesn’t matter what you’re reading, just that you are reading. We’re an egalitarian bunch here at book coasters with an insatiable passion for the written word – classics, popular fiction, award-winners, children’s books, genre fiction, non-fiction, teen reads, graphic novels, pulp fiction – bring it all on.

Here are my next 10 titles, which put me over the halfway mark in our reading challenge of 104 books for the year:

#51Brazen cover Brazen by Kelley Armstrong (Read 24/03/2014) Several updates ago, I reviewed another of these illustrated novellas that fit in between the novels in the Women of the Otherworld series. I did not love that one, so my expectations had been lowered for this one. Just as well. This is not a stand-alone story, it is a teaser for another book that will probably never be written – something with a plot that allows for the character development and world building that Armstrong does well. Instead, there are glib references to one character’s reputation as a stud muffin, an unconvincing and rushed start to a relationship, cardboard cut-out villains, one nasty psychopath making a cameo appearance and absolutely no resolution. Nope, not recommended, except for diehard fans of the series who need to collect the full set.

#52The Cardinal's Blades cover The Cardinal’s Blades by Pierre Pevel (Read 26/03/2014) I was quite excited by the premise of this book. It promised The Three Musketeers, but with dragons. With my imagination full of Naomi Novik’s exceptional Napoleonic dragons (ooooh, I thought Temeraire, but with added swashbuckling!!) I dove in and….. no. Sorry. It’s not like that at all. It’s got all the trappings of the period and lovely historical details, and it should be good, but it falls very, very flat – mostly because the characters are so poorly realised. Again with the cardboard cut-out  routine – the affable drunk, the embittered swordmaster, the shadowy agent, the evil femme fatale – and because the point of view moved around so much it was impossible to understand what was going on in their heads. Plus, you know, I get that times were hard and life was cheap, but there is no honour at all in these guys – they betray their friends, backstab their employers, work as double agents. Intrigue and betrayal are the coins of the realm and no-one can be trusted. This also meant that I didn’t like anyone much, and since I didn’t understand them, I didn’t care what happened to them.  And the dragons? Sigh. What a disappointment.

#53The Janus Stone cover The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths (Read 3/04/2014) This is the second in a series, and again I come away from reading it with an odd ambivalence. The ideas are good, the characters are engaging. But the pacing is so weird – it slows down over inconsequential stuff and then goes galumphing madly across the denouement. There is less of the Norfolk landscape in this one, and I missed it. I still have a feeling of potential, as though the story and the characters are on the cusp of being really good, but not quite there. Frustrating… or is it just me? Maybe it’s me. OK? OK. You convinced me, I’ll try the third one.


#54Mirror, Mirror cover Mirror, Mirror: a book of reversible verse by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Masse (Read 3/04/2014) This is cute. Reverso poems read the same down the page as up, and the clever conceit for this book is to tell fairy tales from the point of view of two characters such as Sleeping Beauty and rescuing prince. The words are the same for both, only the order, punctuation and line spacing changes. It’s fun for word nerds, that’s for sure, as you read and re-read to get the subtle changes in meaning.

#55Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! cover Mr. and Mrs. Bunny — Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath (Read 4/04/2014) Mr and Mrs Bunny are kind of disturbing in that “is this really a kid’s book?” way. Farce, social commentary, subversive beasts, bunny Jane Austen, bunny hat shops, bunny spaghetti houses, bunnies driving Smart cars – I don’t know. Just how stupid are the people supposed to be? I almost really liked it. Almost. It made me laugh and weirded me out, so I suspect I would have loved it on another day. Just not today, not today.


#56The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches cover The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches (Flavia de Luce, #6) by Alan Bradley (Read 5/04/2014)
I adore Flavia, so I was very excited to get this latest hot off the press, unsullied by any other reader’s perusal. Mmmmm, new book! Plus, it was great to see more of the De Luce past being made clear, and a resolution of what happened to Harriet. The contemporary murder mystery fell a little flat for me, and for Flavia as well, I suspect, but I was pleased by the promise of change in the air, and a new direction for Flavia’s talents. The series was supposed to end at six, but has been extended to ten. Fingers crossed that this will work out, and is not just a commercial cashing in on the series popularity (I’m recalling the Southern Vampire series here – Flavia is also set to become a TV series). Well, we’ll see.

#57Untamed cover Untamed by Anna Cowan (Read 6/04/2014) Wow. This novel won the Australian Romance Readers Award for Favourite Historical Novel and garnered it’s author the award for Favourite New Romance Author. It’s an impressive debut. The language she uses! Some of it is just breathtakingly lovely. Cowan seriously, and deliberately, messes with the usual Regency romance tropes, in a way that I found both entertaining and worthwhile. It is not perfect, there are flaws in some of the plotting and characterisation, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in reading a romance with a dmaged, but delightful, non-Alpha male and a devastatingly blunt female. In fact, even leaving the romance aside, it is worth reading just for the climactic scene of two strong female characters facing off in an exceptional battle of skill and psychology.

#58American Vampire, Vol. 5 cover American Vampire, Vol. 5  GN by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Rafael Albuquerque (Read 7/04/2014)  Well, I’m not entirely convinced that a series with Skinner Sweet and Pearl and all the other nasties really needed a guest appearance by Dracula, but that’s where this issue goes. The London base of the Vassals of the Morning Star is attacked by a Russian submarine, because for reasons unfathomable (although stupidity is my guess) the Russians think that if they free Dracula, they can use him as a weapon. Meanwhile, Pearl and Skinner are busy in 1950s California, hunting out the bloodthirsty kind of Red Menace. Overall, nice and creepy, and not too spoiled by the Carpathian’s presence.

#59Cemetery Girl cover Cemetery Girl, Book 1: The Pretenders GN by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden, illustrated by Don Kramer (Read 8/04/2014)  Oh…meh. I just didn’t believe any of this one. The art was nice enough, but the writing, from two authors with their amount of experience, was disappointing. The main character has been left for dead, and wakes up with no memories other than that someone tried to kill her. She hides in a cemetery while trying to work out what she should do. What should she do? A bunch of teens mess around in the cemetery with the occult and someone dies. Then they kill someone else.  Cemetery Girl sees all. But what should she do? What should she do? What should she do? The spirits are talking to her but what should she do? What should she do? It’s kind of annoying isn’t it? FINALLY, she does what she could have done forty pages earlier for resolution of the murder plot. Sigh. First in a series, but I can’t see myself bothering with the rest.

#60The Winter Bride cover The Winter Bride by Anne Gracie (Read 9/04/2014) The second Chance Sisters romance. Really, Anne Gracie writes a lovely story. I love the way she pulls back the layers on her characters, makes you believe in them, and makes you 100% behind their getting a happy ever after. The lead characters here were introduced in The Autumn Bride, and if I have a complaint about this book at all, it is that the sisters and the indomitable Aunt Bea are much more in the background. BUT, instead we get to find out the stories of independent-minded Damaris and foppish, marriage-shy, Freddy Monkton-Coombes, and that is compensation enough. And we get to meet Freddy’s horrible parents – oh, that part of the book is just priceless. Definitely recommended for fans of Regency romance – put Anne Gracie on your must-be-read list.

And there you have it – another 10 reviews, a kind of mixed assortment of books, and more inspiration, I hope for you to get reading and get busy telling us about what you’ve been enjoying. Go on now – back to your books!