Archive for the ‘Saturday Recs’ Category

It’s been a tense week for all kinds of reasons, some personal and tense for the wrong kinds of reasons and some book related because Midnight Flit flew the nest. Naturally I have been reading to calm myself down. This week it has been crime drama and I have 2 recommendations, because I enjoyed them equally for very different reasons.

The first was Murder of a Straw Man, book 1 of the Dancing Detective series by Robyn Beecroft. Not a romance, though there is potential, it very much falls within the genre of very very British cosy/quirky mysteries but this one has a more then usually engaging and diverse cast. At the end of the story a few threads are left dangling, but that is FINE as it’s book one of a series and good series need through plot, don’t they. Book 2 is available, which is nice.

The second was Kill Game, book one of the Seven of Spades mysteries by Cordelia Kingsbridge. This is very much an American book – hard boiled characters walking mean streets, and the murders are MORE, more plentiful, more graphic – but the characters are differently engaging and equally diverse. Like the Straw Man there is a through plot but this one is more of a cliff hanger and I’m looking forward to reading the several other books in the series when my book budget allows.

Morris dancers in rural scene bloodspattered seven of spades
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I’ve been a bit on the blink the past couple of weeks so I haven’t read much at all, but what I have read has been really good. It’s hard to choose when it’s all good but a choice has to be made so here’s my pick.

Kip’s Monster by Harper Fox has her usual blend of social interest with a hint of paranormal in this story of 2 young men, both with problems, taking a second chance at their relationship while facing down various monsters, some of which are of their own making. I loved it to bits. Especially the cover that harks back to stories I read when I was a kid.

green book cover with drawn sea serpent monster with big teeth

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I forgot to post this yesterday but hey it’s never too late to share something good, is it?

My recommendation today is for something I saw recommended on Twitter and it’s just delightful – historical, but with everything tweaked a bit, a little mystery and not one but two love stories. I enjoyed every second of it.

Blurb: On a night when the whole city is looking for love, two foreigners find it in the last place they expected.

The famous Psobion festival is about to begin in the city of Boukos, and the ambassador from Zash has gone missing. Marzana, captain of the embassy guard, and Bedar, the ambassador’s long-suffering secretary, hunt for him through the streets and taverns and brothels of Boukos. There they find unexpected help from a beautiful widowed shopkeeper and a teenage prostitute. Before the two Zashians learn what became of their ambassador, they will have to deal with foreign bureaucracy, strange food, stranger local customs, and murderers. And they may lose their hearts in the process.

One Night in Boukos is a standalone romance featuring two couples, one m/f and one m/m.

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I used to enjoy doing this so I think I’ll start doing it again – though not necessarily on every Saturday.

What I’ve read:

Hunger Makes The Wolf Blood Binds The Pack

Two books telling one excellent story. Sort of Dune meets Firefly plus some really pointed references to historical abuse of workers that made me cringe with anticipation because I’d recently read some articles on the US Coal Wars in the early 1900s. There are some LGBT relationships but the most important thing is friendship, mutual trust, and cooperation. At the heart of the story are two women – hard-nut Hob and initially-domesticated Mag who discovers a diamond core after a horrific experience. Best friends and nearly-sisters, their support for each other spills over to the community around them. Then there are the Wolves, the mercenary gang Hob belongs to, who perform tasks for pay up to and including murder, if they feel it justified. Some of the wolves are so memorable that I desperately want to see another book about them.

The story isn’t a romance, although there are romantic elements, but it ticked every single box on my checklist of what I hope for when I open a sci fi or fantasy novel.

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It occurred to me earlier this week that I haven’t done one of these for a while. The thing that jogged my memory is that the long awaited second book of a series is just out and I thought it might be nice to give some love to the series as a whole.

It’s called Melusine’s Cats and it’s by Chris Quinton.

I think we are all familiar with romances that features fuzzy animals, or babies or cutie poo toddlers, as a bonding device to bring the protagonists together. Well you don’t get much of that here. 😀 The cats are well rounded characters with their own agenda and can go from cute and fuzzy to OMG are we in the Pleistocene in the blink of an eye.

This is just as well, as the books are set in a place where our own familiar modern world intersects with something older and far more dangerous. Melusine of the series title is an ancient power in the Celtic pantheon, defeated in battle and bound to the river through a small village in Devon. After centuries of impotence the chains upon her have loosened enough for her to start building a power base again and her first step is to acquire some triads, fighting units made from two pair-bonded warriors plus an enormous animal familiar. Her first choice are Will, the highly respected village policeman and incomer Jesse Adams, a rugby player punished with suspension after being found guilty in an assault case, who are brought together by Greymalkin.

Part crime drama, part otherworldly adventure, this book sets the scene perfectly, describing the village and nearby port town and introducing characters, both human and cat, to look out for in future volumes.

Book two, which released on Monday, is Tawny.

Here barman Hal fears for his sanity when he begins to hear voices – or rather one specific voice. Also the pub cat, an enormous ginger tom, is looking at him funny. Then a red headed stranger in need of help arrives and Hal is swept up into a terrific adventure that spans this and the other world. Gryffydd is wholly of the other world, a dedicated enemy of Melusine and is determined to defeat her once and for all. Cue a struggle of wills between Hal, Gryffydd and Tawny with a lot more at stake than the two young men’s hearts. I particularly enjoyed a better look at the world inhabited by Melusine and her peers and the additional information on how the whole state of affairs came about. Seeing a conflict from a different point of view is always enlightening.

Very satisfying as a series, these books are also well rounded off. Each has its own complete story arc within the larger plot. Reading them in order is an advantage but I think that if you picked up Tawny first by accident you would still enjoy it, and go and get Greymalkin. I’m happily trying to guess which of the human characters will pair off in the next book and which of the many cats mentioned with get the starring role.

Highly recommended.

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I hope you were all able to take advantage of this weird and wonderful weather. Being able to stroll around outside in a tee shirt in April has been a real treat but today the lazy wind is blowing and we’re all glad we haven’t put our winter woolies away.

So if you’re chilly and have decided to stay inside it might be a good idea to have something to read, yes? And so it might be an idea if I posted a recommendation.

Right then. This is a book I bought some time ago but managed to lose in the depths of my Kindle. It took me a while to realise that if I don’t tag and add books straight away they disappear into the largely inaccessible files and never appear again. So it was a pity that I couldn’t read it and appreciate it straight away but it gave me a heck of a treat this week.

The Bridge on the River Wye by Adam Fitzroy

I get a real kick out of reading books set in places I recognise, even more of a kick when I know from the start that I’m unlikely to find those weird assumptions – like every tiny English village having its own tea shoppe – that can jolt one out of a narrative. I knew I was in safe hands with this author so just settled down to bask.

Bridge tells the sometimes sad, sometimes edgy, but generally good humoured tale of sous-chef Rupert who has returned from Australia leaving his fraudulent partner in jail, his dog in kennels and his money lord knows where. Luckily for him, charismatic TV chef Ren is glad to employ him again and Rupert looks about him for old friends. One person he particularly wanted to see again was market trader Jake, whose organic fruit and veg is beyond par and the rest of him was pretty juicy too.

What has happened to Jake, why he left the market and what Rupert can do to help him and his beleaguered family make up the rest of the story.

This is such a British story, but I suppose there are parallels to be seen in every agricultural district. Small time operators who wish to sell ethically produced high quality wares are bound to be pushed around by the agri-giants. Town dwellers often under-estimate the isolation of country dwellers and in this case Jake etc are made even more isolated by the presence of the Bridge in the title, the scene of a personal tragedy.

If you like the more cosy sort of mystery and heroes more at home with kitchen tools or a trowel than a Glock and nicely drawn portraits of kids and dogs that aren’t the least bit cutesy-poo, then I think you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

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Late again but – ah well. Better late than never.

This week I have read a lot of non-fiction – boning up on stuff for work plus a couple of those terrific serendipitous finds on a market stall – but I have fitted in a couple of fiction titles too. It’s one of those I want to wax fulsome about today and a rare and fabulous thing it is too.

Gyrfalcon by Anna Butler

Oh look at that cover!! What a thing of beauty. This book is published by Wilde City Press, rapidly becoming my go to place for finding books with LGBTTQ protagonists that are a bit out of the ordinary. And this book too is something a bit different. What I found here is genuine old school military science fiction, every bit as good as the Vorkosigan Saga, and promising to be as long and as enthralling.

The first of a proposed six book series, Gyrfalcon follows the adventures of Bennett, a highly trained operative in Shield, a special forces organisation that, in addition to regular armed forces, protects the last remaining colony of long lost Earth. Shield seems to be an amalgamation of the SAS and commandos but with a high level of technical training and the ability to formulate long term strategies against the enemy, Maess – aliens that nobody has ever seen who wage war on the surviving humans with the aid of robotic drones built in a parody of human shape.

As if this ongoing war wasn’t trouble enough, Bennett is undergoing a lot of personal conflict in his estrangement from his family and the impossible demands from his long term partner, Joss, who wants Bennett to give up his Shield commission and come home to share in a life of luxurious academia.

But Bennett has another mission – a really crazy one, it’s his idea and it has taken 2 years to line up all his ducks – and he needs a ship. The massive dreadnought Gyrfalcon is commandeered on his behalf, and there he finds the other thing he needs – a team of superb pilots and the best of the bunch, Flynn, who is nearly as crazy as Bennett.

The world building is terrific but I was left wanting more. I don’t think it’s a bad thing at this stage in a series. I don’t need to know the whole history of the human diaspora and I’m certainly given enough to be going on with. Because this book isn’t a mass of dry exposition – it is action from page one. A glance at the blurb will reassure potential readers that there is a romance component but it is most definitely NOT a Romance. This is action, adventure, military drama and thriller combined with exciting hardware and some nicely judged psychological crises. Not all the good people are nice, not all the bad people are villains. Flynn, in particular has his moments where I was muttering Wheaton’s Law to myself. But it’s a very satisfying start to what I hope will be a nice long and complex series.

All I need to know now is how long I have to wait until the next episode!

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55c46-1868508 I’m so torn this week.

Decisions decisions. I’ve read some terrific stuff, one of which is an autobuy followed by an automatic cry the author’s name to the skies read and another is a first novel of a VERY promising author and then there were a couple of comfort reads. What to do?

Well, since it’s my blog I decided that the autobuy book doesn’t need a blog post – I need a fandom so I can discuss the finer points without having to worry overmuch about spoilers! And since I enjoyed the first novel equally as much, I have decided to give it the recommendation it deserves.

Of course, I’m talking about The Gilded Scarab by Anna Butler which released on Monday last.

For a start it has, hands down, one of the finest most exciting action sequences I’ve read right there in the first chapter as protagonist Rafe Lancaster pilots his aether, phlogiston and petrol-distillate powered biplane in battle over the veldt of South Africa during the Second Boer War. I should maybe mention that this book would probably class as steampunk except that they have done away with all that tedious coal and stoking!

I adore the whole steampunk vibe with shades of Rider Haggard stiff-upper-lippery, men of enormous personal bravery and magnificent whiskers and clothing with buttons and laces enough to slow the between the sheets action down to a delicate pavane before the frantic scramble of consummation. There are manners, there is politeness, there is what should be done and the heroes dance between the expectations of society, each other and necessity to try to achieve happiness.

Add espresso machines powered by cold fusion – something I’ve often suspected as I hurry past places like Costa coffee – and a complex alternative to Parliament, and finally, by God, The British Museum under a slightly different name and I was an exceedingly happy reader.

Rafe is a great hero, charming, witty and not too good, which is as well because we spend the whole book in his head, the other MC is a good complement to him, there are plenty of terrific secondary characters, and oodles of plot interleaved with the romance. Kudos to Dreamspinner for providing a brilliantly apt cover.

Look, just read it, okay? Highly recommended.

The Gilded Scarab

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55c46-1868508It’s been a reading week, hasn’t it.

Well, it has been for me. Cwtching up in the corner of the sofa with tea, chocolate digestives and something a bit different on my ereader is a grand way to while away the time ’til sleep.

Anyway, in my quest to bring you something a bit different I’ve made an unusual choice this week. For a start I bought it purely because I liked the title and cover – and I’m not usually that spontaneous and reckless – and then it’s mainstream fiction not M/M romance, and finally it has no on page sex!! BUT it was very good and I really enjoyed it.

The book – Playing Charlie Cool by Laurie Boris.

This is the third book in a fairly loose trilogy. The second book, Don’t Tell Anyone, was written first and has a female MC. It is a family saga about the effect the terminal illness of the matriarch has on the rest of the family and in particular on the MC her daughter in law. A minor character – Charlie – required his own story told and so the author wrote a short story called The Picture of Cool, as book one of the trilogy, and Playing Charlie Cool is the third and final part. Having no idea the other two books existed I was a bit at a loss for a page or two but OH the story gripped and I soon picked up on the interwoven relationships and backstories.

Charlie of the title is a TV producer responsible for an award winning TV show with a bunch of gorgeous intelligent and charismatic ladies at the helm. I imagine it’s a bit like a cross between the UK tv show Loose Women and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour only with size 4 clothing, Jimmy Choo’s and OMG so much more makeup. Charlie is in love with Adam, though Charlie calls him Joshua, a politician who has recently disrupted his whole life by coming out and who is now being urged to run for congress. Although deeply in love with each other, pressure from Adam’s soon-to-be ex-wife, her family, his family, and the requirements of political life mean that they have to keep their relationship on the down low, meeting furtively and briefly and generally making Charlie feel like a dirty secret.

But the relationship isn’t he only thing that’s impacting on their lives because they both have jobs to do, they both have relationships to maintain apart from each other, they have responsibilities and the joy of the book for me is that neither of them lost sight of those responsibilities. So often in romance we get the ‘all for love and the world well lost’ scenarios where the heroes are so desperate to be together than nothing else matters. Well it matters to me and makes me very annoyed. In this book both Charlie and Adam/Joshua spend time nursing extremely bruised hearts but are shown to be facing up to their problems and making sure that nobody else suffers through their distraction. I gave them both a big cheer and a thumbs up for that.

I also want to give the author a big thumbs up for her female characters. They are delightful. Don’t let the blurb fool you into thinking that you’ll find the usual evil ex-wife, bigotted parent cardboard cut outs. Sure there are ladies who behave less than well, but in the majority of cases you see WHY they behave like that and I found them sympathetic even while deploring what they were doing.

This is such good fiction – also gentle, kind, intelligent Charlie won my heart. Highly recommended.

Playing Charlie Cool

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Saturday Recommendations

It’s been a slow week for reading due to a heaping helping of the winter blues. Do you get those? On top of my normal mind set it means a huge withdrawal from social media and reading my comfort reads where I know I’m safe. But it seems wrong to miss out on promoting other people’s excellent work so I’ve delved back though my “OMG that was brilliant folder” to find one of the books where I tossed a coin and something else got the mention for that week.

It was quite easy to choose when I gave it some thought because there’s a sequel coming up soon and I think people might appreciate reading the first book in preparation.

I’m talking about Santuario by G B Gordon.

This fabulous book has received somewhat mixed reviews but I think that’s because it’s often viewed as a M/M romance when it’s actually far more than that. I’d categorise it was a science fiction mystery with a gay romance component, and as such it was exactly my kind of book.

The premise is that long after the Human Diaspora a ship load of immigrants crash landed on a planet that had already been colonised. The previous inhabitants, all of Scandinavian origin, did not welcome the Hispanic arrivals but kept them segregated in an island colony where they live in poverty and are subject to the over rule of criminal overlords. There is a government and a police force that does it’s best to tackle crime but it’s only petty criminals that they dare catch and punish.

After 200 years of oppression, a new Skanian government decides that the rules about segregation should be relaxed and the borders opened, but only under strictly controlled circumstances. At the height of negotiations a body is discovered and Bengt, a Skanian policeman is sent to lead the investigation. His attraction to his new partner, Alex Rukow, is immediate, but Alex who knows far too much about conditions on the island to dare show his feelings keeps him at arms length.

The story is an absolutely excellent mystery with a lot of meaty and satisfying world building. The romance element is important but takes a lesser role, and I think that may be why some readers have felt a little let down. But as a sci fi mystery it’s supreme and I can’t recommend it enough. The sequel, The Other Side of Winter, where Alex joins Bengt in the chilly but luxurious north, will be available from Riptide in March.

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