book log 2015 – January summary

Summary of the books read in January, posted only a month or so late… All were reviewed in more detail earlier in the blog.

1) Ben Goldacre: Bad Pharma
Excellent non-fiction analysis of the problem of biased research in the pharmaceuticals industry.
Kobo, Amazon US, Amazon UK

2) Gemma Halliday – Spying in High Heels
Chicklit mystery, not to my taste.
Kobo, Amazon UK, Amazon US

3) Christmas in the Duke’s Arms
Regency romance anthology with linked novelettes by four authors, set in a small village one Christmas.
Amazon UK, Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, Kobo

4) Pati Nagle — Dead Man’s Hand
A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.
direct from Book View Cafe, Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia

5) Summer Devon — The Gentleman and the Lamplighter
Gentle and lovely Victorian m/m romance.
Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Kobo

6) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett — Good Omens
Yes. Well. I mentioned on Twitter while reading the book and when I wrote my review that it coloured the book to be re-reading it for the first time since Pterry announced The Embuggerance. I posted the review two days before he died. It’s no bad thing to be reminded of why he was so special.
Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon Canada, Amazon Australia, Kobo

book log 2015: 6) Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett — Good Omens

Usually I make a note when I happen to know the author (or in this case, one of the authors). It doesn’t normally affect my review much, but in this case — I last read this book before Terry went public about The Embuggerance. That’s coloured my recent re-read, putting an edge on the humour that wasn’t there last time round. Nevertheless…

This is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read, and yes, that includes Terry’s other output. The Bible is true on a literal level, the Antichrist has just been born and Armageddon is coming, and a somewhat shopsoiled angel and demon would really rather it didn’t, thank you very much. Aziraphale and Crowley have spent the last six thousand years doing their jobs on Earth, after that unfortunate incident in the Garden of Eden, and in the manner of undercover agents everywhere, have discovered that they have more in common with each other than their masters. They like humans, and they like the human lifestyle. They don’t at all like the idea of returning whence they came. And so they decide to do something about it.

All of which was predicted by Agnes Nutter, Witch, who left a set of prophecies for her descendents. Very, very accurate prophecies written by someone who saw things but didn’t necessarily understand what she was seeing. Her present day descendent knows that Armageddon is coming, and sets out to do something about the Antichrist.

Who just happens to be a perfectly normal English boy with a gang, and a dog. The dog is from hell, but the gang isn’t, in spite of the collective opinion of the adults of the village. One too many swaps in the nursing home left the Antichrist as a cuckoo in the nest of a completely normal middle class family instead of the American diplomat’s, and completely untended by satanic nursemaids to guide him in the wrong path. And thus the stage is set for a satire that mercilessly dissects all manner of things about modern life, and has enormous fun along the way.

Very much recommended.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
Kobo

Book log 2015 – 5) Summer Devon — The Gentleman and the Lamplighter

It’s Victorian London, and wealthy young gentleman Giles Fullerton is still grieving a year after the death of the man he loved, his grief made worse by the need to conceal it. He deals with the emotional pain by walking the streets through the night, until he can face sleep. Young lamplighter John Banks knows a thing or two about grief himself. He loved his wife dearly, even though he’s gay, and has missed her each day since her death. The young gentleman who wanders his route on so many nights may have attracted his attention with his good looks, but John can see that something drives him into the night. Enough so that at last John speaks to him, concerned for his safety. Curiosity about John’s job of lighting and dousing the streetlamps provides something for Giles to focus on outside his grief.

There’s companionship of a sort in a stranger to speak to, and gradually the two young widowers reveal more about themselves to each other in their conversation each night; first in coded and deniable references to their grief, and then more openly. Enough so that they finally act on their attraction. But this is Victorian London, and a relationship is barred by more than their being both men; the social gulf between them would be every bit as shocking to society, and moreover puts them at far greater risk of exposure than if they could meet as equals. Will they both have the courage to find a way through to a chance at happiness?

This is a gentle, slow romance, and all the better for it. It’s a lovely short novella with a pair of well drawn, appealing main characters and some good secondary characters, and a sex scene that adds to the emotional development rather than being there to make up the word count. One for my re-read list.

Available free to members of the Heroes and Heartbreakers website, or you can pay a modest sum to get a nicely formatted ebook with a gorgous cover.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia
Kobo

booklog 2015 – 4) Pati Nagle – Dead Man’s Hand

Five murdered poker players from different eras are brought back from the dead for one last tournament. The prize is life itself.

The book opens with Wild Bill Hickok finding himself pulled from the grave, his bones clothing themselves with flesh and the flesh with clothes. The reader follows along with Bill as he tries to work out what’s going on and why he feels an urge to go to Atlantic City, although the reader has an advantage over him in being able to recognise the present day and just how much time has passed. Another four men from different time periods have the same experience, although one is so recently dead that he is able to convince friends and family that he’d been kidnapped and held incommunicado for several years. As they gradually assemble, they discover that they have been revived for the greatest poker tournament in history – between the greatest players, no matter when they lived.

The result is an atmospheric blend of ghost story and mystery, with some superb world-building going into the strange casino that has revived the men. The characters are well developed, and it’s a joy to watch their interaction, and their different reactions to the present day. Those reactions are driven in part by their different reasons for wanting the prize; not just a new life in a recreated body, but what they want to do with that life. A chance at love, a chance at revenge, fascination with this new world they find themselves in… Even for the four losers, their short time walking the earth again allows them to do at least a little of what was left undone.

A lovely short ghost novel for Halloween, with the emphasis on the human soul rather than on horror.

direct from Book View Cafe, with excerpts available
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon Australia

booklog 2015 – 3) anthology — Christmas in the Duke’s Arms

Regency romance anthology with linked novelettes by four authors, set in a small village one Christmas. The Duke’s Arms of the title is the village pub, but there is a real duke as well, plus an earl or two. I’ve left it too late to write a proper review of this one, alas, but Azteclady’s written a good review. I don’t agree with her ratings on each story, but that’s a reflection of the variety in the stories – if you like historical romances, there’s a good chance at least one of these novelettes will work for you.

Amazon UK
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
Kobo

Musa Publishing closure

Musa Publishing announced yesterday that they were closing shop. The impact for me is minor, as I had only one short story with them, my m/m fantasy short “And if I offered thee a bargain“. The Musa edition will be going away on 28 February, but there’ll be a new edition at some point.

In the meantime, all Musa titles are 80% off until they shutter the website on 28 February. I am in two minds about this, because it damages the reprint market for authors. But if there were any titles from Musa that caught your eye, go and get them now, because even if they reappear from another publisher, it may be a while.

booklog 2015 – 2) Gemma Halliday – Spying in High Heels

Chicklit mystery set in Los Angeles. Maddie Springer is a young fashion designer who tries to track down her lawyer boyfriend when he goes missing, and finds herself in the middle of embezzlement and murder. I nearly stopped reading on the first page, wherein Maddie describes her behaviour on the freeway when she’s late for a meeting with her boyfriend. Almost causing an accident by cutting into lanes and doing her make-up in the mirror at high speed was presumably supposed to make her look adorably ditzy, but I simply found it loathsome. I did keep reading, but it coloured my view of the character for the rest of the book.

It’s an odd one for me. The mystery plot was enjoyable if predictable, and there were things I liked a lot, with some good supporting characters; but it was hard work getting to the end and if it had been a paper edition I would have probably been high-speed skim-reading. No more than a two star for me and I’m not inclined to try anything else by this author, even if I can see why other people were bowled over by it.

Kobo
Amazon UK
Amazon US
ARe