Archive for the ‘Saturday Recs’ Category

Happy St Dwynwen’s Day! Also known as National Cwtch Day in this neck of the woods so today I’ve decided to offer cwtches to some authors who have brightened my week.

New books in the offing from K J Charles [Jackdaw will be available from Samhain on 17th February], Alex Beecroft [Trowchester Blues will be availale from Riptide on 9th February] and Sue Brown [there are lots so watch this space] and Dorien Grey is having all his old Dick Hardesty mysteries rejigged and released anew over the next year or so.

But today I want to squee a bit about a new series, kicked off in fine style with Restless Spirits by Jordan L Hawke.

This book is genuinely scary – for my tolerance of scariness – with masses of plot and a slow burn romance. I think it’s set in the Widdershin’s universe but has a different set up, the business of the protagonists being the careful guiding of the spirits of the dead from post-death limbo to the afterlife. Ghosts are REAL, and potentially dangerous, so ghost hunter is a profession that is regarded, if not highly, as essential.

Henry Strauss is the first protagonist – an earnest young scientific type of a progressive turn of mind. Despite being thrown into poverty by a fraudulent psychic, he has taken in his cousin, a young woman of colour [one of my favourite characters], which has put him at odds with the rest of his family. She assists him with his experiments to build a machine capable of catching and dismissing ghosts. He has absolutely no time for pyschics, all of whom he regards as fakes, and is desperate to prove that science is the way to go. Offered a substantial sum of money to prove the worth of his machinery he accepts the invitation of a millionaire to exorcise a haunted house. The only problem is that he will be competing with a ‘genuine’ psychic, Vincent Night. Vincent is a very troubled young man due to a terrible event in his recent past, with a whole bunch of secrets and an immediate attraction to Henry.

There’s a good cast of supporting characters – Gladfield the millionaire, his niece, Elizabeth, Vincent’s partner – offering tensions between male and female, divisions of class and race and, of course, the pervasive sense of self righteousness felt by the straight and narrow for those of a different orientation in that Victorian age. The author doesn’t spare us any of the verbal nastiness of which people of that time were capable, and I applaud her for that, while wincing at the terms used.There’s a lot of discussion about updating historicals so that the horrors of the past don’t appear on the page, and it’s very tempting to give ones historical heroes a modern and politically correct mindset and turn of phrase, but then you wouldn’t be writing historicals. I don’t know what you’d call it? Historical Fantasy? Anyhow, this strikes the right note with me in that while the sentiments are expressed, we are left in no doubt that they are repugnant and should not have been said.

The romance is edgy – Henry is very deep in the closet and Vincent, while freer, knows he has to be careful, plus they are very much on opposite sides until put in a position where they have to join forces. As I’ve said the scary bits are scary, the antagonists – and just about everyone is an antagonist at some point – pose believable threats within the context of the world.

I loved it and can’t wait until the next instalment. Highly recommended.

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Saturday Recommendations

readingI’ve been burning the post-midnight oil again. With a brain whose Hamster Wheel of Doom has been taken over by lemmings, 3 am is a time to catch up on reading.

Traditionally the first post of the New Year should be a round up of my favourite reads of the year but there have been so many of them – books written by boys or by girls , by dear old friends, by people of whom I’m in far too much awe to presume to call them friend and by people who, frankly, I have no idea who they are – and, ya know, I don’t really care! Oh I wish them well whoever and wherever they are, but most of all I’m grateful that they have written such fucking brilliant fiction. If ever I’m lucky enough to meet them I’ll go pink and mumble hello and wish I could give them a huge hug without being viewed as inappropriate or pushy [I’m a lot braver on paper or online than I am in person] then file them away in my head as “This is XYZ, who wrote A, B and C, and a really lovely person”.

Anyway, where was I? Yes, yes … I’m not looking back, I’m looking forward.

I’m looking forward to reading the next in Sue Brown‘s Sapphire Ranch shifter series, and to reading about the next  Melusine’s Cats book from Chris Quinton. Aleksandr Voinov has finished ‘the Bird Book’, a bit of which I was lucky enough to see a year or so ago and which I have been waiting for with fingers crossed. I can’t tell you anything about it until he’s ready to talk more about it but OMG I’m looking forward to the finished article so much. K J Charles‘ Jackdaw, where the obnoxious antagonist from Flight of Magpies becomes the protagonist, is out in February!! Not long to wait. J P Kenwood is cracking on with her next raunchy Roman story, The Lion of the Lucky Fourth, and I don’t even have to wait too long because sh’s posting bits on Tumblr!! Jordan L Hawke has started a new series of historical paranormals – first one called Restless Spirits – that I’m looking forward to starting. It’s not on my Kindle yet but it soon will be. There will soon be a new Thirds Book from Charlie Cochet. Alex Beecroft has a new series of crime novels coming out from Riptide! I’ve just bought A King Undone by Cooper Davis – looking forward to that too.

These are all new or recent things, but I need to catch up on some classics. Dorien Grey‘s Dick Hardesty novels are being re-released over the next year or so and I have some catching up to do there. I’ve read the first 3 of the Rifter series by Ginn Hall and they were terrific so I plan to read those as well.

Those are all things to make my heart soar, but there will also be all the unexpected treats, the authors as yet unknown to me whose books will delight and astound and inspire me, just as I have been delighted and inspired by people like E E Ottoman, Angel Martinez, Bey Deckard and Alexis Hall, and I’m looking forward to those just as much.

What are you looking forward to reading this year?

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readingYep a day late and a shilling short, as they say. But no, no missing shillings because today I have just finished something rare and wonderful.

I’m ploughing a hard furrow at the moment with a mule that’s on three legs and a swinger, and with Christmas coming up it’s enough to drive a body to drink. But I don’t drink so instead I mine the M/M pit for gems and take my mind of the situation by reading a lot.

This weeks gem is a softly glowing pearl of a book – Like Fire through Bone by E E Ottoman.

I’m a real history nerd and feel that some periods and places are unjustly neglected, so it was a HUGE treat to find this book set in something very much like the Eastern Roman Empire. Byzantium/Constantinople is never mentioned and the geography has been fiddled with a bit, but the world was familiar, lush, horrifying and complex. I loved that.

Then there are the characters. Firstly Vasilios, the MC, a castrato who was captured in war and mutilated. Rather than falling into despair he worked hard and has made himself indispensable to his master, a merchant whose health is failing. These eunuch bureaucrats, highly educated, highly motivated, cultured and competitive, were the driving force behind the Roman Empire, both east and west and the Ottoman Empire that followed, in government, th military, financial institutions, the church and right down to household level. Vasilios runs his master’s household, directs his business, disciplines the other servants and has more or less given up on doing anything other than serve others. He’s a sweet, gentle, intelligent man who is appreciated only as a valuable asset rather than a person in his own right. His one little self indulgence is a wistful crush on General Markos, confidant of the Emperor.

Then Vasilios begins to have horrifying dreams and realises that they have a bearing on a task that the General is trying to accomplish. This provides the excuse fr him to meet the General more often and the crush blossoms as he realises that the General too may be harbouring feelings for him. Markos is a tough guy but benign who has attained his rank through competence and loyalty rather than birth or connections. As such he’s a very good match for Vasilios.

Their gentle and careful courtship forms part of the story. Other themes are a dark paranormal tale concerning devils and murder and the utter vulnerability of slaves in a world where they have absolutely no rights and can be killed, discarded, used or brutalised at their owners whim.

I read this book almost at a sitting and enjoyed every word of it. Very highly recommended. If you want a standard romance structure you might be a little disappointed in the slightly ambiguous ending but for me it was perfect for Vasilios and an ending that is good for the character has to be better than one that panders to readers tastes doesn’t it? Get it, read it. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as I did.

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Saturday Recommendations

Happy Saturday.

Reading really is the BEST thing to do when it’s a bit dreary and miserable outside and you can’t summon up the enthusiasm to do much inside.

This week I’ve been dipping into old favourites again – Harry Dresden ftw. Then a pre-ordered book popped up on my Kindle which was a terrific surprise. I always forget preorders and have sometime pre-ordered copies from the publisher and Amazon AND bought one on release day from ARe as well. But this time there was just one – sorry, Charlie – The Best Corpse for the Job, a cosy British murder mystery from fave autobuy author Charlie Cochrane.

Isn’t that cover brillant? Thanks Riptide.

This is one of those books that doesn’t categorise easily. It has the murder, but it’s not gory. There’s a mystery but not very many potential murderers to choose from. There’s some romance between two young men but none of the usual heaving, moaning and spurting that’s almost obligatory in M/M romance. Also it’s very very British and, again, thank you Riptide from the bottom of my heart for not moving it to that watery mid-Atlantic grave inhabited by UK-set books who are trying to cater for readers who can’t cope with odd words like curtains, crumpets and trainers.

I smiled all the way through this examination of the petty rivalries and quirky competitions between characters in a small closed in community. Village life can be cut throat emotionally and sometimes I think it’s just as well that we don’t ‘do’ guns or the local PTA meetings would be a blood bath. There was so much here that I recognised, empathised with or laughed at with a wince.

The lead characters are very sweet and some of the secondaries almost deserve their own stories. It was a very relaxing read and great fun as well.

Highly recommended.

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Saturday Recommendations

55c46-1868508I have been mostly comfort reading this week – sometimes you just gotta – but I have dipped into a couple of books whose authors were new to me though I have seen them both around the social media sites.

First of all I tried Infected: Prey by Andrea Speed. I’ve followed Andrea for a while on Twitter and was impressed by her ready wit and good humour. I have no idea why I’d never picked up one of her books before. I guess there are just so MANY new releases – there must be hundreds each week now. Anyhow, I’m very glad I bought this one.

The Infected series is an exciting combination of the type of hard boiled PI genre fiction that I love with an interesting take on shape shifters. In this world all shifters are varieties of cat and the ability, or rather affliction, is passed on in the form of a virus. Rarely a child is born already infected and such a one is Roan, the main protagonist of the series. An ex-cop, caustic, sharp tongued and cynical, his toughness is nicely balanced by the softer more manipulative approach of his business partner and lover Paris. However, Paris is also infected but with the deadly tiger strain of the virus and he is a man for whom the clock is ticking.

In addition to the romance sub plot [or can one call it a romance when a couple are already established?] there’s an edgy plot about a shifter committing a series of gruesome murders that may or may not be connected with a very shady cult celebrating the infection and those infected. As the story progresses Roan’s own infection begins to show in surprising ways that bode very well for the next books in the series and Paris’s physical condition complicates their relationship.

Highly recommended.

My second new experience was Sarge by Bey Deckard.

Now this might seem an odd choice for me because the book is advertised as being unashamedly erotic, with a sizeable dose of kink to boot, and that sort of thing tends to whizz over my head leaving me a bit puzzled what all the fuss was about, but Holy Moly this book was good!

It had plot pace and great world building, and superb characters inhabiting an increasingly untenable situation. I just love military stories, in space or out of it, futuristic or historical, and this won my heart right from the first paragraph where a gory and gruesome wound is suffered by one protagonist and treated by the other. The connection between hard as nails Sarge and Murphy, his apparently slow and thuggish but actually sensitive subordinate plays out against a war that probably can’t be won, though not for want of trying. That the relationship is expressed through a quasi-BDSM series of encounters where Sarge teases, humiliates and uses Murphy seems perfectly reasonable within the context of their situation and is actually depicted in very touching terms. The author himself describes it, perhaps snarkily, as “When you get down to it, it’s a sweet love story” but I found it to be far more than that and hope that the sequel will be available soon.

Highly recommended.

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As seems to be becoming a habit, I’d left this post as a draft instead of scheduling it, so please forgive me if my saturday recommendation comes out on the Sunday. But whichever day it is, it’s the weekend and that’s a good thing. There’s something about weekends! A bit of a lie-in in the morning, a liesurely breakfast, a good book to read throughout.

I’ve read a lot of books this week, probably because I have a story to write and am scared of it, and most of these books are worthy of being mentioned here. Some were re-reads [for the comfort of it], some were for beta [and those are always so exciting], some were new to me authors [also exciting] but my choice for this week is the third book in a series because I know how much you all like series.

So – THIRDS by Charlie Cochet combines action adventure, police procedural and para-military muscle with shifters, which seem to be EVERYWHERE, and M/M romance in an entertaining melange that adds up to hours of romping reading.

So far there are three titles, starting with Hell & High Water, going on to Blood & Thunder, and continuing in the latest release Rack & Ruin. Exercise some caution in reading them and be sure to start at the beginning because they aren’t like some of the other series, where each book has it’s distinct story arc and resolution. No these are more like th way Dickens released his novels a long chapter at a time, each one ending with a considerable note of uncertainty. One assumes the characters we care about will be ok but there are, as they say, no guarantees.

The main character is Dex, an ex-cop who blotted his copy book by testifying against another cop who murdered an unarmed shifter child. He is inducted into THIRDS – the Therian-Human Intelligence Recon Defense Squadron where humans are paired with shifters, who seem to be mostly of the cat variety in this universe – to provide the muscle during investigations. Therians – the shifters – are faster, stronger, more aggressive, more robust, than humans and while in their shifted state enjoy the benefits of the instincts of their animals. Humans provide a steadying force and also support for when the Therians shift back and enter a very much weakened state. I really enjoy the world building in the books and the variety of characters. It’s very much an ensemble cast with a lot of people to keep track of, rather than a simple boy meets boy and shag a lot romance and there’s PLOT, my dears, oozing out of every pore. Also Charlie’s trademark humour. Highly recommended as a series and there’s more to come – soon I hope because that last chapter almost made me infarct.

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This week, guys, oh this week has been such a good one.

I’m a bloody picky reader, as I expect you’ve realised, and could easily fill up my reading week with releases from my regular list of autobuy authors, but fangirling autobuy authors has another big advantage in that they recommend books that they rate highly. And that’s what happened this week.

I’ve been one amongst many fans desperate to get my paws on the latest, an it turns out to be the last, instalment of A Charm of Magpies series by K J Charles.

Oh dear lord, where do I start with this series?

Victorian society, corrupt and exploitative with huge gulfs between the lavish lifestyles of the rich and the cramped and fetid existence of the have nots, further complicated by the existence of magical practitioners, some of who can suck the essence from a man to increase their magical calibre.

In the first book Lord Crane, Lucien Vaudrey, was under attack and had to enlist the help of Stephen Day, a magical policeman with a HUGE grudge against Crane’s family. In the second book Lucien and Stephen had to deal with that old Sherlock Holmes problem, the giant rat of Sumatra, while negotiating their tense association into a into a truly loving relationship. In this book, a horrifying series of murders puts that relationship under intolerable strain, and other relationships too as Lucien’s henchman Merrick, members of Stephen’s justiciar team, the regular non-magical police and the Practitioners Council end up at odds with the heroes.

The tension racks up, the relationship looks to be doomed, Merrick [oh MERRICK] and Lucien come to blows, and they fight deliciously dirty, and KJ introduces a total shit of a protagonist who is having his own book next year! If you haven’t read A Charm of Magpies yet but if you like history, magic, truly witty banter, somewhat kinky sex and a tinge of horror then I think you’d LOVE the series.

That’s my recommendation and this week I also picked up a recommendation from K J Charles. Prosperity by Alexis Hall.

I had heard of this book – steam punk, I was told which sounded fun – and had seen the superb cover so had put it on my TBR list. But KJ was so excited about it that I bought it on release day and read it and Flight back to back with very little sleep and all other activities begrudged.

Prosperity has a bit of everything – smart alecy heroes, personable psyhopaths, doomed loves, unrequited passions, a most unusual governess, dangers both human and totally off the wall bat shit crazy, and SO many wonderful protagonists. It’s not what I would describe as a M/M romance, there’s far too much going on for that. And the language!! Oh my that’s a magnificent experience. Excellent, excellent story and another one for my best books of 2014 list.

Try it, I bet you’ll love it.

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Today is my birthday 😀 I’m sure you’ll allow me to gloss over exactly how old I am but the date means that I have been a Kindle owner for a whole year [and a ereader owner for 3 years]. I thought it might be fun to look back through my files.

I’m a bit shocked at how many books I have in my archive, and I am by NO means as fast a reader as some of my mates. Altogether it comes to approx 650 separate titles – assuming a mean average of one centimetre per book that would mean double shelving my two largest book cases to the peril of my floor. Some of the books have been sexy, some bizarre, some glorious, and some very few had their good parts but, for reasons due more to me than any lack of skill on the author’s part, left me cold. No names no pack drill for those, but I do want to say thank you to some writers who have been an inspiration, whose characters have become dear old friends I greet with delight each time there’s a new episode of their adventures, or revisit between times to tide me over.

PLEASE NOTE: This list is by no means complete and if you’re not on it it’s because my train of thought is taking a very complicated route

The first book on my old Sony ereader [still kept charged just in case] is The Charioteer by Mary Renault, followed by the whole of the rest of her ouevre, then the Brits in a big way with books by dear friends like Charlie Cochrane, Clare London, Erastes, and Alex Beecroft. Alex led me to Lee Rowan, Lee to Donald Hardy, Donald to Josh Lanyon and Josh to Harper Fox. Jordan Castillo Price! Aleksandr Voinov, on his own and with L A Witt! L A Witt on her own too! Tamara Allen! Sue Roebuck! Dianne Hartsock! Amazing authors who were giving their work away for free, or for pennies, like M Chandler, Bruin Fisher, Sam Starbuck, and Rolf and Ranger. Amazing authors whose work I read through my fingers, like Lisa Henry and Amelia Gormley. Authors who make me howl with laughter like Jo Myles and J L Merrow. Sci fi writers like Anna Butler and Angel Martinez. Fantastic contemporary romance writers like R J Scott, Lisa Worrall and Sue Brown. Historical writers like J P Kenwood, Parhelion, S A Meade, Sarah Granger and Joanna Chambers. Blokes who write sweet or sexy romance like Damon Suede, Alan Chin, Ben Thomas, Jon Michaelsen, Liam Livings, Adam Fitzroy, Hans Hirschi, Chris Delyani, Larry Benjamin, Ulysses Dietz, Neil Plakcy, Greg Hogben and OMG Edmond Manning! Ladies writing about ladies like Stevie Carroll, Shira Glassman and Jean Earhardt. Newbie blokes like Emmett Skipper and Rafe Haze, veteran writers with oodles of experience like Dorien Grey and Elliott Mackle. The wild and wacky but oh so good like K J Charles, Jordan L Hawke, Charlie Cochet, Sarah Madison and Kay Berrisford. The folk who move effortlessly from one genre to another like Chris Quinton and Julie Bozza. Oh and let’s not forget the grphic novel writers/artists like Joe Glass, Tab Kimpton, Alex Woolfson and Dale Lazarov!

And there are new and wonderful things to be discovered every day. Just this week I have read ‘new to me authors’ N R Walker, Diana Copland and OMG Alexis Hall.

So no specific recommendations this week, just a heartfelt THANK YOU to all the authors who have made the last few years so much fun and have kept me company on dark nights and cold days. You lot really are the best.

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55c46-1868508OMG it’s been a long week and once again I’m thankful to all the authors out there who are so diligent in providing books to take my mind off stuff.

The book that caught my eye is The Last Wolf by Sue Brown.

Sue usually writes serials, rather than series. Each book will have its own story arc, brought to a satisfying conclusion but will set up a situation that needs resolving in the next instalment. Usually this involves characters who are introduced as potential romantic partners and it’s always fun trying to work out which ones will be the stars of the next book. Sometimes it involves an unashamed cliffhanger that leaves you gagging for the next title. So be warned – you can read The Last Wolf as a standalone, but only if you have nerves of steel [or in my case a pretty fair grade of arsenical bronze].
Pretty cover, isn’t it? Another of Meredith Russell’s.

The plot?

Joe Lowther. a college teacher, has returned to his father’s ranch to keep it going while his father is in hospital undergoing treatment for a serious, possibly terminal illness. Raised on the ranch, Joe has a level headed, stock raising attitude to wildlife. As far as he’s concerned there’s only one sensible reaction to spotting a wolf on his property and that’s to shoot it before it causes too much harm. Imagine, then, his horror when he shoots the wolf – not particularly efficiently – and when he approaches it to finish it off discovers instead a young attractive man called Callum to whom he is inexplicably drawn and who appears to be able to speak directly into his mind.
So the story kicks off and proceeds along a complex path involving a whole shifter culture across the USA with hierarchies and customs of their own, a team of apex predators who get their kicks hunting shifters and family connections going back decades. I haven’t read much in the way of shifter fiction so some of the time I was having to pick up cues from context about what was going on but there’s some good tension going on, a likeable team of potential candidates to star in subsequent books and plenty of action. If you like shifters I think you’ll really like these. Book 2, The Hidden Wolf, will be available soon.

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55c46-1868508 It’s been a good week for reading – my laptop had a problem and writing hasn’t been possible so I’ve been comfort reading and picking at some recommendations. So this week I have not one but TWO books for you.

First of all I had best come clean that my first rec is a brand new release from one of my dearest friends – a book that I read in first draft mode – but I still think that I Knew Him by Erastes is superb and very unusual, as you will see.

Young Harry Bircham, up at Cambridge, seems at first sight to be our traditional historical hero. He’s handsome, intelligent and is desperately in love with his best friend. But there’s SO much more to Harry than that. Perhaps his wit is a little vicious? Well it was the fashion of the time. Perhaps he’s a little possessive? One can excuse his anxiety when one reflects that the object of his devotion doesn’t seem quite as into Harry as Harry is into him. Maybe he’s inclined to cut corners to get what he wants? But then Harry is moving in top drawer circles without a lot of family money to back him up. Harry does what he has to and is always going to come out on top – unless it’s his whim to be on the bottom. Pushy? I should say so.

The book is filled with delicious 1920s set pieces, from Cambridge student life, to country house parties to polo matches and Harry sails through it all, doing his own thing. What his thing is would be a spoiler, and I don’t want to do that, but I remember when I first read it that my eyes got wider and wider.

This is absolutely NOT a M/M romance so shouldn’t be read as such, but it is a riveting and exciting story – one that you’ll read alternately cheering Harry on, then saying “Oh no he DIDN’T!” I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

And I promised another, didn’t I? I saw this book recommended by S. A. Meade, whose work I think is cracking, so I took a chance.

So what if you’re a retired spy, a faithful servant of your masters, now out to grass and enjoying a quiet coffee in a cafe in Britanny? What if, as you tussle with the cross word and look out across the street to the sea, a man sits down at your table – a man you were sure was dead and who you know has every reason to want to end your life in the most painful way possible.

That’s the premise of In the Presence of Mine Enemy by Helena Maeve. I’m wondering why I’ve never read anything by this author before but I fear that it’s because her work is labelled as erotica. Yes, the sex in this book is explicit, but there was some point to most of it and the bits that didn’t seem to have much point plotwise showed character development.

This is another strong, exciting and edgy book that’s not at all run of the mill romance. Give it a go.

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