104 in 2014: 10. Breaking a reading drought

What to do, what to do? I was stuck in a reading rut, overwhelmed with ennui, intimidated by my towering to-be-read stack and uninspired by my choices.
More than a week, a whole week drifted by without me finishing a single book!!
Only one thing could fix it – the reliable remedy of an application of Austen. And graphic novels. Wodehouse can also be quite efficacious, I have found. But more on that soon – meanwhile, here is the report on the next 10 books I read, to take me up to 100 books read and reviewed so far this year:

#91Alabaster Volume 2 cover Alabaster Volume 2: Grimmer Tales GN by Caitlin R Kiernan (Read 20/06/2014) Oh, well. Yep. I didn’t like this as much as the first and since I seem to be slumped in a fit of reading ennui you should pay no mind to my sad attempts to review it. No, no mind at all. It has a nasty mermaid thing. That’s always good. Sorry… let’s just move along I think.


#92Persuasion cover Persuasion by Jane Austen (Read 29/06/2014) It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that the opening lines to Persuasion are not as well known as those that begin Pride and Prejudice. And yet, when I find myself in need of something fabulous to read, it is to the scathing character sketch of Sir William Elliott that begins Jane Austen’s final, posthumously published, novel that I turn. When I am fully in a reading funk, I read on and finish this delightful little gem of a novel and it never fails to cheer me up. Excellent work, Miss Austen. Thank you!

#93Jane, The Fox and Me cover Jane, The Fox and Me by Fanny Britt (Read 3/07/2014) And picture books. Does anyone else like a good picture book when they are suffering reader’s block? Of course, this kind of is and isn’t a picture book – its target audience is certainly not very young children. In it a girl’s confusion over having her former friends inexplicably become mean girls coincides with her reading Jane Eyre for the first time, and identifying strongly with that character. She also, fleetingly, meets a fox. The illustrations and colour choices are perfect.

#94The Mocking Dead cover The Mocking Dead GN by Fred Van Lente (Read 3/07/2014) This graphic novel promised to be a new take on the zombie apocalypse idea but… no. Apart from the fact that the zombies laugh compulsively (and that’s supposed to be creepy and/or horrific?) it didn’t take me anywhere new. It is, however, full of geeky in-jokes and pop culture references which some readers will enjoy finding and others will just be irritated by.

#95Gingerbread Girl cover Gingerbread Girl GN by Paul Tobin and Collette Coover (Read 3/07/2014) I’ve really enjoyed other graphic novels by this husband and wife team (I adored Bandette), but Gingerbread Girl left me a little cold. There were bits that I liked – the narrative switching to different characters, passing pigeons and a bulldog, all breaking the fourth wall, was done well. The art is lovely. I think my main problem was the main character – Annah is self-obsessed and may have serious mental health issues. Or maybe her father really did remove a part of her brain and create her “sister”, a gingerbread girl. There’s no way to tell by the end of the book and I was left feeling like I’d only heard half the story.

#96Hellboy in Hell: Volume 1 The Descent cover Hellboy in Hell: Volume 1 The Descent GN by Mike Mignola (Read 6/07/2014) Look, it’s Hellboy, with Mike Mignola writing and illustrating so it’s fabulous, OK? By the way, I am entirely too much of a fan to give an unbiased review. But, I will say that the title quite accurately encapsulates the whole plot. Hellboy is in Hell. It is part one, in which he descends to Hell. I imagine part 2 or 3 or whatever may involve him leaving Hell. Meanwhile, readers get to enjoy Mignola’s macabre vision of a Hell full of giant ruined statues and twilit caverns, demons and abyssal darkness, crumbling castles and gas-lit cobbled streets. I don’t mind how long Big Red spends downstairs – I’m along for the ride.

#97The Anatomist's Wife cover The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber (Read 13/07/2014) I was quite taken by the promise of a murder mystery set in Scotland in 1830, with anatomists quite out of fashion, due to the notorious 1828 trial of Burke and Hare, who employed murderous methods of meeting the demand for corpses for anatomy classes in the Edinburgh medical schools. And this is the first in a series – hoorah, yes? But… no. No. This had so much wrong with it, where should I begin? Let’s take this in order:
1. The mystery. OK, I kid you not, I knew who the murderer was on the 2nd page. The author tried one of those sentences that are basically “Oh no, a corpse has been discovered and people come running – see them run – here is a clue and here is a red herring and here is another red herring.” And then she flapped those herrings around in my face, trying to distract me from the ginormous, big, obvious clue that wasn’t mentioned again for 329 pages. Not working.
2. The setting. Why even pretend that this is Scotland? It’s not. It’s an isolated castle, near a loch, for the purpose of creating a limited cast, that the amateur investigators can poke at until “the authorities” can arrive. It’s not in Scotland. If it was Scotland it wouldn’t be full to bursting with the cream of London society. If it was Scotland there wouldn’t be raccoons in the woods.
3. The period. Why even pretend this is 1830? It’s not. It’s a nightmare of anachronisms. If it was 1830, and if these characters really were upper class, they would not be shouting things across the dinner table at each other, they would not be discussing their extra-marital affairs in front of a woman, they would not be using American slang, they would not… they just would not!
4. The characters. Why… no, OK, I don’t have the energy for this rant.
Sorry. Let’s just move on, shall we?

#98Discount Armageddon cover Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire (Read 21/07/2014) Oh, I really like the way that this author writes. And the idea has so much charm – basically there’s a secret organisation dedicated to wiping out cryptids (non-human humanoids and other ghoulies, ghosties and monsters) and one family who split from the organisation because they decided that wholesale genocide was wrong. The organisation hates them. The cryptids don’t trust them. They see themselves as scientists – cryptozoologists – with a large dash of crazy vigilante thrown in. So, despite the gaping holes in the fundamentally flawed plot I enjoyed it. It’s a fast-paced urban fantasy romp with fun characters – just don’t think too hard about it, OK?

#99East of West Vol. 1 cover East of West Vol. 1 GN by Jonathan Hickman (Read 22/07/2014) Well, I’m intrigued, which is always a good start. The full scope of this story is not clear from the first volume, but the setting is a kind of alternate history, sci-fi futuristic, fantasy western. America is most definitely not a bunch of united states – instead it has been divided into seven kingdoms and they are on the brink of war. Big war. Three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are helping co-ordinate the end times. Why only three? It appears Death has gone off the rails, has his own agenda and the others are quite keen to bring him down. Can you kill Death? I’ll see how things pan out in volume 2.

#100this case is gonna kill me cover This Case is Gonna Kill Me by Phillipa Bornikova (Read 23/07/2014) Oh this is good stuff! I really liked this novel – the first in an urban fantasy, legal mystery series allegedly by a debut author, but really an established fantasy/sci-fi author using a pseudonym. It’s great fun. Well, of course, the vampires run the big chauvinistic legal firms. Of course the fae are actors, and werewolves run security businesses. It’s what Bornikova does with this set-up that makes for a thproughly enjoyable read. I’ve already put a hold on the second in the series, so the review for that will be in my next update.

And that’s a wrap for these 10 books, taking me within 4 of the total for our reading challenge for the year.
Hope there’s something here that sounds like the sort of thing you’d like to try.
I promise – more reviews from me very soon.