2012 Completed Reading Challenges

 Once Upon a Time VI Reading Challenge 3/21/12 to 6/19/12 – finished 6/17/12

RIP VII Reading Challenge – 9/1/12 – 10/31/12 – Finished 10/24/12

RIP VII Reading Challenge 9/1/12 – 10/31/12

Well, based on the unfinished state of my current read, I think I can safely close out my RIP VII reading now.

I did the first challenge, which was to read four books in any of the challenge categories.    I read:

Considering that half of these books weren’t even in my house when I started the challenge, I’m pretty pleased with how much I did read.     I found several new series I’m looking forward to continuing – all and all, it was a good run.

Changeless – Gail Carriger

Read for the RIP VII Reading Challenge.

Alexia Maccon, Lady Woolsey, is woken up in the middle of the afternoon by the sound of her husband yelling at the top of his lungs.    Considering that he’s a werewolf, and should be asleep at that hour, this can’t be a good thing, especially when he then disappears, leaving Alexia to deal with a sudden plague of human-ness in London’s supernatural community.

In true steampunk fashion, this book involves a tricked out parasol and a dirigible ride up to Scotland.    There, Alexia has to interfere in werewolf pack politics, learning quite a bit about her husband along the way, and managing to figure out the humanity plague.

I’m not sure what to say about this book.   On one level, it’s fluffy fun, and I did enjoy it, but there’s something about this series that kinda irritates me, and I can’t put a finger on what.    I’ll definitely keep reading, partially because I want to figure out what’s bugging me.

Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor – Stephanie Barron

Read for the Once Upon a Time VII Challenge.

So here’s a slightly different take on the proliferation of Jane Austen continuation stories – this is the first book of a series that has Jane Austen herself solving mysteries.   The conceit of this book is that the author is the editor of some letters and journals that were found in a distant Austen relation’s attic in Maryland, that show that Jane was quite the detective.

In this first book, Jane has gone to visit a dear friend who is newly married, and now a Countess.   On the day of the party to celebrate the marriage, the Count dies rather horribly of a dyspeptic fit, but there are some at the household, Jane included, that believe he was poisoned.

Before long, Jane’s friend Isobel, and the new Count (the old Count’s nephew) are suspected in the murder.    Jane is the only one able to put together all the clues to find out who really did it.

This was definitely a different viewpoint of Regency life than you’d get in an actual Jane Austen novel – Isobel ends up in Newgate prison, and the author spares no detail of how terrible that place was.    There are also some interesting details about the court system, and she throws in some interesting footnotes about a whole lot of other little things.    They’re the kind of thing you can get most of the meaning from context, but there were several terms I thought I understood that had a slightly different meaning that’s been lost over the years.

This was actually a pretty interesting little mystery.   If the whole Jane Austen thing turns you off, if you pretend she’s some other Jane, I’d think it would still be enjoyable.

The Infernals – John Connolly

Read for the RIP VII Reading Challenge.

The Infernals continues the adventures of Samuel Johnson, his dog Boswell, and his friend Nurd, the demon.     After the events of The Gates, when the ruler of Hell sent the evil Mrs. Abernathy to Earth to clear the way for an invasion (by way of the Large Hadron Collider), the portal has closed, with Nurd and Samuel on opposite sides, figuring they’ll never see each other again.   That is until Mrs.  Abernathy, in an attempt to win her way back into the Great Malevolence’s favor, opens the portal back up, and drags Samuel into Hell.

Samuel and Boswell are not the only ones brought in, there’s also the local constables, an ice cream truck and its driver, and four dwarfs that happen to be driving through town when the portal opens.

I pretty much have to sum this book up as hijinks ensue, because it’s otherwise really hard to explain.   If you’ve read the first book, you’ll have a pretty good idea of the kind of things Samuel and Nurd manage to get themselves into.   (And if you haven’t read the first book, go out and read it – it’s goofily fun – a la Terry Pratchett – footnotes and all.)    It may be a book about Hell and demon invasions, but it is a hoot to read.

A Morbid Taste for Bones – Ellis Peters

Read for the RIP VII Reading Challenge.

In the 12th century, the overly ambitious head of the Shrewsbury Abbey has been on the look out for the relics of a saint he could bring back to the abbey to increase the pilgrims that come there.   When he hears the tales of Saint Winifred, who’s buried in the tiny Welsh village of Gwytherin, he thinks he’s found exactly what he needs.    In the party the abbey sends to Gwytherin is Brother Cadfael, since he’s a Welshman himself, and will be able to translate for the English brothers.

Once they’re there, it becomes apparent that the villagers don’t want to give up their little saint, and not much later, the leading opponent of moving the grave turns up mysteriously dead, with an arrow in his back.    There are wild rumors that Saint Winifred herself shot the arrow, but Brother Cadfael knows that it was a mortal hand that did the deed, and it’s up to him to find out who.

Brother Cadfael’s an interesting character – only becoming a brother after an interesting life, including going on Crusade.    It’s this real life experience that helps him solve the murder, and also involves him in the lives of the Welsh villagers.   This is a wonderfully compelling mystery – I read it as fast as I could, just to see what had actually happened.

This is another one of those series I’ve had on my radar for a while, and now that I’ve read a book from it, I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner.    I love historical fiction, and this is obviously lovingly researched, and the characters are wonderfully drawn.    Fortunately for me, there’s a ton of them available at the local used book store (I picked up the first two for a song), so I definitely see myself reading more.

The Corpse-Rat King – Lee Battersby

Read for the Once Upon a Time VII Reading Challenge.

Marius is a professional battlefield looter.    He and his apprentice, Gerd, happen upon the aftermath of the battle that has killed the king of Scorby.    Unable to pass up such a rich battlefield prize, they’re looting the body when the Dead come to claim the King as their new king.    Since Marius happens to have his hands on the crown, they take him back to the kingdom of the dead.

Quickly realizing their mistake, the Dead banish Marius back up to the land of the living with the single task of finding the real king, and bringing him back to the Land of the Dead.   If Marius can do that, he’ll get his life back.   Marius, however, is having none of that, and decides to run.    What follows is a journey through a really interesting imaginary land, and since Marius is technically dead, he sees it from some very interesting angles.    (I particularly enjoyed the section that took place at the bottom of the ocean.)

I grabbed the book on the strength of Juliet Marillier’s blurb on the back cover, which included: “With its madcap story, unforgettable characters and fine balance between humour and pathos…”    And I think I was expecting a little more humor because of that.    There are a few glimmers in the book, but it’s mainly the story of Marius’s personal growth when he sees the world from a completely different angle.    So, I have to admit, I was a little disappointed.   Which is a shame, because it’s actually a good story, and I did enjoy it.   But I spent about the first half of the book looking for the funny before I finally gave into the story.    That’ll teach me to always trust blurbs, I guess.