Book log 2015: 16) James Runcie — Sidney Chambers and The Shadow of Death

First of the Grantchester Mysteries series, about a Church of England vicar who solves mysteries in collaboration with one of the local police detectives. The first book is a set of six short stories, each a standalone about an individual case, but with an overall arc running through them. I bought it because I’d seen and enjoyed a couple of episodes of the tv adaptation. This doesn’t always mean I’ll like a book, but in this case I’m very glad I bought it. It’s an excellent period cosy mystery, written by someone who knows the minutiae of Anglican clerical life. The ebook for this one is often low price as a hook for the series, and well worth getting.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo

book log 2015: 15) Luke Young — Friends with partial benefits

Sweetly funny milf erotic romance novel – but be warned that the characters spend an awful lot of the book being interrupted before they can actually do something about their attraction. Successful romance writer Jillian divorced her no-good husband a while back for cheating on her, and hasn’t had much luck in the dating game since then. So when her son comes home from unversity for vacation and brings his friend Brian with him, Jillian can’t help but notice that Brian’s very nicely put together. He’s also her son’s friend, which puts him off limits.

Brian thinks Jillian’s pretty hot, even if she’s old enough to be his friend’s mother. In fact, she *is* his friend’s mother, which puts her off limits…

While some of the situations they end up in are frankly implausible, the lead and supporting characters are well-written, and Jillian and Brian’s ever more frantic efforts to first hide and then give in to their attraction are entertaining. This isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste; but if it appeals to your sense of humour, it’s a lot of fun.

This is the first of a series, but there’s closure at the end of the book. The ebook is free as a hook for the series, and I think worth downloading to try it out.

Amazon UK
Amazon US
Kobo

Book log 2015: 13) Sarah Pinborough — The Death House

This is my nominee for the 2015 novel Hugo.

Yes, I liked it that much. I bought this YA speculative fiction novel when I saw Gollancz tweet an opening day offer, because I’d greatly enjoyed one of Pinborough’s tie-in novels and wanted to read more by her. I started reading it that day, and was bowled over. It is a stunning portrayal of life, love and growing up under the shadow of death; a bittersweet coming-of-age novel about children and teenagers who know they will never do so.

It’s set in a near future very much like our present, save for one thing – there is an illness so terrible that all children are tested for the signs that they are carriers. If they test positive, they are taken to the Death House. There they will be cared for and given as normal a life as possible, right up until the time the sickness activates. It may be a few months, it may be years, but one thing is certain – they will die. And they will never be allowed to leave, or have contact with anyone other than each other and the staff assigned to care for them.

Toby has been in the House for long enough to have found ways to cope with the separation from his family and the knowledge of what awaits him, but the arrival of a new girl disrupts both the interactions between the Death House inmates, and Toby’s coping mechanisms. Through his eyes we see the different ways the children deal with what their lives have become; all the emotions of a lifetime compressed into a few short years, with the teenagers like Toby finding themselves being surrogate parent figures for the younger children. There’s a mystery plot as well; and the whole is a slow-burning build to a resolution where the older children decide exactly what is worth fighting for with their foreshortened lives.

Moving and beautifully written, this was one of the best things I read all year.

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Amazon US
Kobo

book log 2015 – February

Yes, I am slow at my book log, which is why some of these have only brief comments…

7) Cecilia Tan — The Siren and the Sword
Previously reviewed. I liked it a lot, enough to buy the series box set when it came out recently.
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Kobo

8) Doranna Durgin – Barrenlands
Reviewed earlier this week. A short fantasy novel offering an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.
http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/barrenlands/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/barrenlands

9) Helena Newbury – Dance for Me

Natasha’s a ballet student who uses dance as one of her ways of coping with her demons, not always successfully. Darrell’s an engineering genius who designs weapon delivery systems as a way of coping with _his_ demons. Darrell’s stuck on his latest design, and then finds inspiration in watching a ballerina dance – so much so that he hires Natasha to dance for him privately at his workshop. They fall for one another, but they’re very damaged people and the road will be hard, even without someone deliberately trying to break the relationship up before it really gets started. Cue much angst before the happy ending. That happy ending acknowledges that True Love doesn’t magically fix everything, and Natasha and Darrell have a long way to go before their demons are vanquished. That the characters recognise this make it much more believable that they really will make it work in the long run.

This wasn’t a bad read, but it did need rather a lot of willing suspension of disbelief regarding a lone genius being allowed to work on a a secret defence contract in his garage. It also leans heavily on the Evil Brit trope for the plot’s antagonist; which doubtless appeals to many not-British readers, but was merely irritating to me. I’m glad I read it and would happily read the next, but I’m not desperate to rush out and buy it.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

10) Mindy Klasky – Perfect Pitch (The Diamond Brides series Book 1)

Contemporary romance starting with a baseball star who is unwise enough to publicly sneer at the local beauty queen, only to find that a) this is bad PR with the team’s supporters and his manager is not amused, b) the beauty queen is no dumb blonde, and she’s not amused either. They soon realise there’s more to both of them than meets the public eye, but they’re also very much in the public eye, and Samantha’s contest contract includes a morality clause…

A pleasant enough read. Currently on offer as a start-of-series freebie.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/perfect-pitch/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/perfect-pitch-1

11) Margery Allingham – A Cargo of Eagles (audiobook)
Abridged audiobook of the last Campion novel, read by Phillip Franks. Enjoyable, and as usual with this series of Hachette abridged CD sets, can be enjoyed even if you aren’t already familair with the novel.
Amazon UK

12) Ashley Gardner — The Hanover Square Affair
First in a Regency-set mystery series. Excellent historical mystery, and on my list of series to pursue when I’ve made some headway on Mount TBR. Currently free as a series promo.
Amazon US
Amazon UK
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/the-hanover-square-affair

Book log 2015: 9) Helena Newbury – Dance for Me

Natasha’s a ballet student who uses dance as one of her ways of coping with her demons, not always successfully. Darrell’s an engineering genius who designs weapon delivery systems as a way of coping with _his_ demons. Darrell’s stuck on his latest design, and then finds inspiration in watching a ballerina dance – so much so that he hires Natasha to dance for him privately at his workshop. They fall for one another, but they’re very damaged people and the road will be hard, even without someone deliberately trying to break the relationship up before it really gets started. Cue much angst before the happy ending. That happy ending acknowledges that True Love doesn’t magically fix everything, and Natasha and Darrell have a long way to go before their demons are vanquished. That the characters recognise this make it much more believable that they really will make it work in the long run.

This wasn’t a bad read, but it did need rather a lot of willing suspension of disbelief regarding a lone genius being allowed to work on a a secret defence contract in his garage. It also leans heavily on the Evil Brit trope for the plot’s antagonist; which doubtless appeals to many not-British readers, but was merely irritating to me. I’m glad I read it and would happily read the next, but I’m not desperate to rush out and buy it.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Book log 2015: 8) Doranna Durgin – Barrenlands

Prequel fantasy novel which works well as a standalone. The Barrenlands of the title are a magical wasteland that forms an almost impassable border territory between two countries. But where there is a border, there will be crossings, and people who make a living bringing things across that border, whether it is with or without the blessing of the governments concerned. Ehran, head of the King’s Guard, will end up tangling with it more than once in his quest first to find the murderers of his beloved king, and then to find and dispose of the family of the king’s brother. He’s been sent on the latter mission supposedly to prevent the exile trying to seize the throne from the king’s young son, a mission he rightly sees as a means of getting him out of the way of an unknown traitor within the court.

Some nice world-building here, with appealing characters and a worthwhile mystery. It’s obvious from the first who the villain is, because Ehren’s not stupid and already has his suspicions. But means and motive are another matter, and untangling those make for an entertaining story. A short novel offering an enjoyable way to pass a few hours.

http://bookviewcafe.com/bookstore/book/barrenlands/
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon Canada
https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/barrenlands