January reading

 I’ve read a lot this month – but then that’s often true at this time of year when it’s cold and dark and Christmas etc. is all over.
The illustration is an enlarged version of an icon by magic_art used on my LiveJournal and Dreamwidth journals.

The doubly excellent

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman***** illustrated by Chris Riddell*****

Yes, two lots of five stars. This is a glorious book. The story, which twists and weaves versions of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White into a fresh tale with strongly feminist threads, never fails to delight, as expected at Gaiman’s hands. Then there are the illustrations by Chris Riddell. These are stunning black and white pictures with lots and lots of detail and very restrained but breathtaking gold highlights. Get the printed book (I got the paperback as a Christmas present) – you won’t regret it because although the story is not very long you’ll want to re-read and you’ll want to linger over the pictures.

And the ‘normally’ excellent

A Book of Christmas by William Sansom*****

Sansom unpacks Christmas and relates it to all kinds of other festivals of light, birth, etc. He looks at the way it’s celebrated in many and varied places. Fascinating. Although the book has a focus on Christmas it respects other beliefs and shows how festivals of all kinds develop and how humanity celebrates. It’s out of print but there are second hand copies available at a reasonable price.

A String of Lights by Alexa Milne*****

Lovely and seasonal story featuring Dev, an electrician, who travels south to put up the village lights for Henry who is manager of the local ‘big house’. Or is he? Buy it for next Christmas!

Pretty Pretty Boys by Gregory Ashe*****

The title is the name of a bar in the story. I’m not sure how to categorise this. It’s a cop buddy story, it looks at homophobia both within the police force and in a ‘bible belt’ area, and it’s a nail-biting crime mystery. The UST is almost unbearable and I need the sequel soon (as in when I’m allowing myself to buy books again). Extremely well written with excellent world building and character development. Not many mm romance/mysteries succeed at so many levels. Highly recommended,

Gideon by RJ Scott***** (Boyfriend for hire Bk 3)

The concept of the ‘boyfriend for hire’ business is a delightful background to this story where the owner/manager finally finds love despite his inability to understand or meet his own needs. The series is lovely with endearing characters.

Red Dirt Heart by NR Walker*****

A slow burn romance set in the Australian outback. A ranch owner has to come to terms with the way he has internalised his father’s disapproval and homophobia as he realises he cares for an American agricultural student spending time on the ranch. The Australian landscape is evoked in glorious detail.

There were no four star books this month

The readable

Away with the penguins by Hazel Prior***

This had rave reviews and it was a sufficiently intriguing story to keep me reading to the end but only just. This story of an elderly lady dropping everything to spend time in the Antarctic with a group studying penguins was quirky but not stunning. There’s a unexpected romance too (not the ‘heroine’) and of course the penguins are charming.      

New Hope for the Little Cornish Farmhouse by Nancy Barone***

I got very tired of Nina and her inability to form sensible relationships with family, friends and lovers. I think I have less patience with ‘stupid’ heroines than their male counterparts.

Playing it out straight by Andrew McQuinn***

I can’t remember anything about this book other than the names of the main characters so it can’t have been very good.

Bound by Rhys Ford*** Chinatown Demons Book 1

I found this fantasy cop story disappointing. It started well with good world building and character development but the case was unresolved and the UST remained unresolved. I don’t mind some aspects of a tale being held over to volume two but this seemed altogether unfinished as a novel.  

Shatterproof Bond by Isobel Starling*** Boxed set of 3.

I usually like this author but I am not really a fan of spy stories and this alternated almost unbelievable Bond-style spy story with a lot of explicit sex that did not further either the plot or character development. If you’re a Bond fan and you like very steamy mm romance you’d probably enjoy these and I think there are more to come. Just a warning – the proof reading is not up to this writer’s usual standard. Probably not her fault but still something else that put me off.

Narrow Dog to Wigan Pier by Terry Darlington***

I adored the first two books in the Narrow Dog trilogy. I was disappointed in this final volume. The author alternates autobiography (not desperately interesting) with two canal trips in Britain (instead of France and America). The main problems were that as a result I never really got the sense of place that he brought to the French and American trips, and inevitably we saw less of the whippet, the narrow dog of the title.

And the less than stellar

Undermined by Ripley Hayes** subtitle: A Gay Mystery.

I think this is meant to be the first in a cop buddy series. I won’t be reading any more. The characters were two dimensional and the plot was unsatisfactory with an unbelievable solution to the mystery. The writing was technically competent, I suppose, in that the grammar was fine.

I’ll reach short stories etc. and fanfiction in a later post.

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