104 in 2014: 11. Don’t stop me now

I made it! I’ve reached our reading challenge goal of 104 books read and reviewed in 2014 – but don’t stop me now. These are books I read in July and August, so there’s still months of the year to fill with fabulous fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels and more:

#101Courtney Crumrin #5: The Witch Next Door cover Courtney Crumrin #5: The Witch Next Door GN by Ted Naifeh (Read 25/07/2014) If you haven’t met the adorable, but disturbing in a lovely Edward Gorey kind of way, Miss Crumrin, then it’s probably best not to start here, where Courtney finally makes a friend who is not a creature of the night, but her past (mis)deeds catch up with her. I like the art, and the style of storytelling, in this series very much. More please!

#102The Escape cover The Escape by Mary Balogh (Read 28/07/2014) This is the third in a likable Regency romance series matching up, in turn, a group of friends who were all scarred, physically or mentally, by their involvement in the Peninsular War. Balogh’s writing is pitch perfect for characters struggling to find their way to love not because of some tired romance trope of miscommunication and misunderstanding, but due to well-realised, period-appropriate back stories. If you are looking for a satisfying, historical romance series I highly recommend the Survivor’s Club.

#103Box Office Poison cover Box Office Poison by Phillipa Bornikova (Read 31/07/2014) I had not finished the first in this series before I was scrabbling for the second. It’s a good urban fantasy plot idea – if supernaturally gorgeous Alfar (elves/fae) actors automatically exude glamour can casting decisions be fair, or are human actors being unfairly discriminated against? Linnet Ellery, a human lawyer working for a vampire law firm, is recruited as an arbitrator in the pre-court legal wrangling. I liked that the character is mostly smart and the writing is clever and funny. I didn’t like that, at times, she is astounding clueless and overprivileged, and that her own back story was drawn out in an “answers in the next installment” way. But I will be checking out the next installment, so I guess it’s clever enough, hey?

#104Razorhurst cover Razorhurst by Justine Labalastier (Read 3/08/2014) The book that pushes me over the line to meet the reading challenge for 2014 may just be the best book I read this year. THIS IS AMAZING!! Set in Sydney in 1932, following two characters across the course of one long, horrible day, it is a Depression era, razor-gang crime, young adult, ghost story. Sound unlikely? Never mind – just read it. The two main characters are Kelpie – a street kid who has been largely raised by ghosts – and Dymphna Campbell, who is crime boss Gloriana Nelson’s best girl. It is fast-paced, fabulous writing, with deftly placed interludes filling in just enough character backgrounds and historical information to make the whole an amazing read. It grabs you on the first page, and drags you through the gory, impoverished streets of a just slightly paranormal, all too historical Sydney. Honestly, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Read it – read it NOW!

#105Blood Song cover Blood Song by Rihannon Hart (Read 4/08/2014) Well, whatever I read after that was going to be a disappointment, wasn’t it? I had started this young adult, dark fantasy, first-in-a-series, by an Aussie author (that’s a lot of positives, right there) and set it aside to read other things because I was finding the characters annoying. I got back to it, to finish it off. I understand I’m not in the target age range, but I’m usually rather receptive of stories that tap into the whole fairy-tale vibe. The characters were just so – ugh – irritating, selfish and stupid and why, why, why must authors equate strong female character with willful, pig-headed, rude and abrasive female character? And why does arrogant, pig-headed, rude, brooding, mysterious male character automatically mean sexy love interest man? Damn you, Mr Rochester – look what you spawned! Oh, it’s a debut and lots of people seem to have loved this, and I’m a curmudgeon, so … you know, ignore my dire warnings at your own peril.

#106Once a Witch cover Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough (Read 6/08/2014) This was OK. The main character, Tamsin, comes from a long line of talented witches and is prophesied to be the next big thing, but seems to have no talent, but really is, of course, the most talented little special snowflake of them all. Well. Maybe I’m being a curmudgeon again (I know, quelle surprise) because this is quite an engaging book to read. It just doesn’t stand up to too much scrutiny as characters behave stupidly for the sake of the plot, there are lots of cliches and it has a Disney villain (complete with English accent). I don’t feel compelled to hunt down the second in the series, which is an indictment of sorts.

#107Let's Get Lost cover Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid (Read 7/08/2014) This is another young adult read, aimed squarely at the enormous John Green fanbase. Basically, it’s five short stories about teens across the USofA, the common thread being one character, whose story is finally revealed in the fifth story. Up to this point she has flitted into the lives of the other four characters and been a force of change and wonder and realisation and self-actualisation and all those other things that Manic Pixie Dream Girls are. It has nice bits, and it is well written in an easy to read, engaging style, but there are plenty of cliche resolutions and it sometimes feels a little too much like a movie pitch.

#108Rice's Church Primer cover Rice’s Church Primer by Matthew Rice (Read 9/08/2014) Well, this one is delightful, if not to everyone’s taste. If you are planning a trip to the UK and like looking at old churches, or you just like the history of architecture, then this book should slide onto your reading list in a dignified and unobtrusive way. I’ve never really been a pub-crawl kind of person – I’m more into the odd cathedral-crawl, or castle-crawl. (I know, not much scope for that on the Gold Coast, but anyway…) This book gives you the “basic grammar and vocabulary of church architecture throughout the United Kingdom” and is clearly and charmingly illustrated so it all makes sense. Let’s be honest, most of us wouldn’t know our apse from our aisle, so it’s lovely to discover just what typanums, transoms and triforiums are.

#109Constantine, Vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame cover Constantine, Vol. 1: The Spark and the Flame GN by Jeff Lemire (Read 10/08/2014) I know it’s undermines my credibility as a geek, but I can’t be bothered keeping track of the whole comic worlds of the DC universe / Vertigo reality / Marvel paradigm time/space continuum whatever. So, colour me ignorant. Anyway, it meant I missed the nuance of this being Constantine version DC “new 52” (apparently). Which means it is not John Constantine, not as far as I’m concerned. So, I’m not sure who this New York transplanted, not quite caped (except in a few scenes where he swaps bodies with Captain Marvel) crusader is, but he was rather annoying and had a disconcerting tendency to moralise. Urgh. (And yes, you read that correctly, he swaps bodies with Captain Marvel for goodness’ sake.)

#110Coffin Hill cover Coffin Hill Vol. 1: Forest of the Night GN by Caitlin Kittredge (Read 13/08/2014) Well, I should have listened to Timothy. I’d already borrowed this graphic novel when he reviewed it, so I went ahead and read it, but he was absolutely correct when he said it’s basically full of characters posturing around, declaiming ‘don’t you know how powerful I am?’, and then not doing anything much. Frustrating. The art’s not good enough to save it, and the plot really does lurch along like a badly decomposed zombie. It’s confusing, cliche and, worst of all, boring.

A low note to end on, but that’s ten more books, ten more reviews, and twenty weeks of reading still to report on. Let me know in the comments if you thought Razorhurst was as fabulous as I promised. Oh, go on, you have to read it!