I loved this book. I've heard a lot of people saying that it started slowly, but I was hooked from the first chapter. I'm not sure exactly what it was that was putting people off, though I think it might have something to do with the slightly 19th-century style of the writing, and the presence of the narrator in the text. That's not something people necessarily expect outside a first-person narrative, though I, for one, have always enjoyed that kind of thing. Maybe it's just that the book isn't your standard fantasy book, that it's not what people expect -- but again, I think that's one of its great strengths. Anyway. Great book. I'm a little annoyed at the ending, though it was satisfying in its own way -- I was just indignant on certain characters' behalves (it's actually a good sign, that indignation). And there was a bit of deus ex machina in the person of John Uskglass toward the end, too -- but not enough to prevent me from giving this book a solid *****.
2) Colour: Travels through the Paintbox (Victoria Finlay)
This was a very good book, too. I learned many interesting things (most memorably that one of the colouring agents in Cherry Coke is insect blood), but this is really more of a travel book than a scientific or factual account of where the colours of paints and dyes come from. I felt that a bit more science and fact would have been a welcome addition -- a lot of the "how" was glossed over-- but as a travel book and a "journey of discovery" it was generally succesful. The prose was relaxed and enjoyable, and the travel stories fascinating, although the apparent fixation on paint to the exclusion of all else was occasionally a little disturbing -- it just doesn't quite feel right to focus so much on the pigments used on the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan without dealing just a little bit more with the regime that destroyed them. Despite these complaints, I do recommend the book. ****
3) The Well of Lost Plots (Jasper Fforde)
Laugh-out-loud funny in places, this is a good one. This is the third book in a series; the first, the Eyre Affair, was absolutely brilliant. The second, Lost in a Good Book, while still very enjoyable, seemed to slip a little (perhaps precisely because the first was so very good), but the Well of Lost Plots is very nearly as good as EA. The mechanics of BookWorld don't entirely make sense, but it hardly matters, because the jokes are great. ****
4) Daredevil: Guardian Devil (Kevin Smith et al)
Disclaimer: I'm not really into superhero comics. My comic reading started with Sandman, and I'm still partial to series with a limited number of creators and a limited run. This is part of fairplaythings' attempt to convert me. So grain of salt and all that. Let's see. It was pretty good, though I wasn't entirely convinced by the storyline. Religious elements don't automatically turn me off, but I thought this was a little bit heavy-handed, and that some of the denouement was a cop-out. And the whole "villain's explanation" thing is still lame -- why do people still try to pull that one off? I also (and this is part of why I've yet to really get into mainstream/superhero comics) felt that there were a lot of pieces of backstory (etc) that I was missing, and that as a result, some of the emotional impact was lost on me. The art was generally good, but occasionally veered in the direction of "cartoon", and not in a controlled way. This seems like a very harsh review, but that isn't entirely fair -- it was generally a good read. ***