Tag Archives: reading

Xmas 2019 Gift Recs for Readers and Writers

If you’re hunting for last minute gifts for the lovelies in your life (or your lovely self) I’ve brought together some recommendations of books I’ve reviewed throughout the year.

Crime for all tastes

Emma Viskic’s Caleb Zelic trilogy began with Resurrection Bay then And Fire Came Down, and the fabulous Darkness for Light came out in December this year. It’s a great triple-hit for the crime lover in your life.

Another set of trilogies for crime lovers that are also suitable for YA readers are Ellie Marney’s “Every” series (Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move) which are a kind of Holmesian YA reworking set in Australia, and the “Circus Hearts” books (All the Little Bones, All Fall Down and All Aces).

I love a cosy crime set in a place I know, especially when it’s full of delicious recipes and delicious Scottish men, so let me throw confetti over Livia Day’s whole Cafe La Femme series. One short (The Blackmail Blend) is an ebook but the rest: A Trifle Dead, Drowned Vanilla and the latest, Keep Calm and Kill the Chef, are all available in paperback!

Science Fiction

I remain delighted that LynC’s superb Nil By Mouth was re-released this year, and even though it’s harrowing in places it’s also filled with compassion.

Alison Evans’ Highway Bodies is the zombie apocalypse for today’s diverse YA reader (and I’m very excited to have their latest, Euphoria Kids, on my review pile – it comes out in February).

Of course, Twelfth Planet Press continues to bring amazing work to the world, and their Mother of Invention anthology, edited by Rivqa Rafael & Tansy Rayner Roberts, is something special for the SF reader in your life.

Sherlock Holmes

Improbable Press is settling in to its new home with Clan Destine Press, but has put out a few books this year: Tessa Barding’s The Case of the Misplaced Models and another of its 221b series (short stories of exactly 221 words, the last of which starts with the letter B) in A Question of Time by Jamie Ashbird with illustrations by Janet Anderton.

And, while it’s a few years old, Joe Ide’s interpretation of what a Holmes and Watson might be like if they were born in a tough black LA neighbourhood, IQ, is fantastic and I’ll be looking up the rest in the series in the new year.

Travel

For armchair travellers, Lonely Planet has some lovely books for both adults and children. You can explore the monsters of the world in The Atlas of Monsters and Ghosts or travel to the stars in The Universe: A Travel Guide. Two more Lonely Planet Kids books have recently arrived for review (Wild in the City and Myths and Legends of the World), so I’m looking forward to reading more sumptuously illustrated and quirky travel books this month.

Support your local blogger

If you’d like to support this writer, there are of course the books I released this year: paperbacks Kitty and Cadaver and Scar Tissue and Other Stories, and the anthology War of the Worlds: Battleground Australia.

Ebooks

I have a other recommendations for your summer reading, but as many of these are ebooks and so not as well designed for gifting, I’ll cover those in my next post.

Narrelle’s summer reading reclist

While not everyone gets a break over summer, it’s always a good time for a reading recommendations list. And given I managed to read (as of 24 December) 159 books and novellas in 2018 (let’s see if I can make it 160 by NYE), I thought I’d share some of my favourites with you!

Seasonal delights

I don’t generally make a point of reading seasonal tales, but I’ve read a few that delighted me in different ways this year. If you’re looking for something a little different, may I present:

Merry Happy Valkyrie: A Holiday Novella by Tansy Rayner Roberts. It’s Christmas, Jim, but not as you know it. Norse mythology, Tasmanian snow in summer, secrets and a movie studio making Xmas schmaltz. What could possibly go wrong apart from, you know, everything? TRR never fails to be delightful, and she’s particularly and vividly charming with this gorgeous story!

Unchaining Krampus by JP Reedman. It’s Christmas. It’s a fairytale. It’s horror and demons and goblins and self rescuing princesses. It’s a hoot.

Christmas Miracles of a Recently Fallen Spruce by Brandon Witt. I discovered this author through the Facebook MM group I haunt. It was cute and a lot of fun to follow Paxton Peterson’s meticulous planning all go to ruin through a snowmobile accident and the delicious advent of a handsome neighbour.

The Miracle of the Lights by Cindy Rizzo. Christmas isn’t the only festival that can fall this time of year. Rizzo’s sweet story is about two Hasidic Jewish girls in love, losing each other and finding each other during Hanukkah in New York City.

Patreon Novellas

One of the reasons my count is so high is that I’ve been reading lots of wonderful shorts and novellas from the writers I support on Patreon. I love Seanan McGuire‘s fantasy work and every few months I get a new one.

Another joy is the work of Tansy Rayner Roberts – and I’ve sung songs to her before in this blog. For those who listen to podcasts (I never had time) Tansy podcasts many of her books before releasing the ebook, so you can get in ahead. A recent absolute gem is Tea and Sympathetic Magic, a sassy, smart, funny, brilliant regency-style story of. Well. Tea and sympathetic magic. Read an excerpt on Tansy’s website.

I don’t restrict myself to her Patreon stories – I’ve also this year loved to pieces her Creature Court prequel Cabaret of Monsters (backed through a Kickstarter), Girl Reporter (the latest in her superhero series), the  and all the parts of the Belladonna University series.

Basically, you will never go wrong with a Tansy Rayner Roberts story.

Young Adult fiction

This year I finally got to Ellie Marney’s Every series, and tore through Every Breath, Every Word and Every Move. Set in modern Australia, the stories are a clever reworking of Sherlock Holmes influences while also being their own thing entirely. Of course I love them.

Alex Marchant (who edited the recent Richard III collection, Grant Me the Carving of My Name) first came to my attention as the author of the very fine Ricardian YA adventures The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man. I’m looking forward to a third in the series, and recommend the first two very highly.

Romance! Adventure!

I’ve adored Emily Larkin‘s work for a while now and loved The Spinster’s Secret, My Lady Thief and Primrose and the Dreadful Duke.

In a similar vein, I’ve discovered Erica Ridley – more sassy Regency heroines, thank you!

Rohase Piercy’s My Dearest Holmes was recently re-released, after being one of the first officially published Holmes/Watson love stories, back in 1988.

A twist on canon-era Holmes/Watson has just come out from Improbable Press – K. Caine’s A Study in Velvet and Leather. Holmes is a queer woman, Watson is a queer man: bisexuality is a thing, and so is BDSM in the Victorian era. I loved it.

Non-Fiction

I also read some wonderful non fiction –  the account of the Burke and Wills expedition is thoroughly examined in The Dig Tree by Sarah Murgatroyd.

Vikki Petraitas’s The Frankston Murders is an account of the murders that took place in Frankston in 1993 – compassionate and thorough, with a focus on the women who died and their families and communities.

Transgender Warriors : Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman by the late Leslie Feinberg and Strangers: Homosexual Love in the 19th Century by Graham Robb are both a little difficult to get, not being available in ebook form, but I learned a huge amount from both of them for current and upcoming books, and I recommend them thoroughly.

That’s probably more than enough to be getting on with! If you have any recommendations of your own, please let me know in the comments!

Wherever you are, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, my very best wishes to you all, and my hopes that this whole planet has a happy, hopeful, sunshiney new year.

Queer Victorian London

In preparation for working on a short story collection set post-The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I’ve picked up some books to give me insights into late-Victorian queer culture and society’s attitudes towards it.

Victorian attitudes to sex and sexuality (and to a whole bunch of things) is usually deeper and more textured than a cursory glance would indicate. And while it’s true that terms like ‘gay’ and queerness as it’s currently lived and experienced were not how Victorians understood them, that doesn’t negate the fact people who would probably now identify on that spectrum were managing their lives, one way or another.

Which all brings me to this reading matter, designed to help me understand more about how queerness was experienced and lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, so that I can translate those experiences for Sherlock Holmes and John Watson in a world where they have declared their love and physical desire for each other.

I tend to read books on these topics with a block of sticky notes at hand, so I can mark ideas I want to get back to.

The book pictured in the header, Catharine Arnold’s City of Sin: London and its Vices, is already festooned with notes for me to return to when I do the next round of research, which will be to go over marked passages and decide what to use and how.

One note in City of Sin refers to the pornography people could obtain in Holywell Street, including homosexual and lesbian representations. William Dugdale is noted as a “prolific publisher of filthy books” and further on, Arnold refers to the practice of pornographers having to smuggle their books into the UK, risking fines and imprisonment.

I have made a note that the unexpurgated copy of Richard Burton’s The Arabian Nights is very probably in John Watson’s private book collection. He’s an earthy man, after all, with a penchant for gambling and whisky. Why not a little saucy literature?

Further on I’ve marked the pages about the ‘telegraph boys’ who made extra money by having sex with men. The role of the Turkish baths (which Holmes and Watson frequent in canon) in homosexual liaisons is discussed 25 pages on from that.

I expect to read more queer-specific details of London life in the three other books pictured above, and will doubtless leave those pages bristling like a paper-based porcupine in due course.

I’ve already started with Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century by Graham Robb, and even the introduction has provided some valuable insights.

How will these snippets and suggestions be used? Will they become significant plot points or background detail?

At this point, who knows? But by filling up my brain with some of that colour, texture and depth, I hope to introduce just enough research to make the stories feel authentic and engaging without presenting them as a series of lectures of What I Learned About Queer Victorians This Summer.

NB: A version of this post originally appeared in my Patreon on 2 February 2018.

Review: Faerie Apocalypse by Jason Franks

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the mind of people who set about pursuing quests in the worlds of magic? Potential lovers seeking the fairest of them all; mages seeking further power; sons seeking fathers; daughters seeking vengeance; those seeking simple distraction and escape from their everyday lives.

Jason Franks has. And he doesn’t think very highly of them.

Faerie Apocalypse plays with the tropes of quests and fantasy violence. He twists the old storytelling standards of cycles-of-three, cunning humans outwitting faerie malevolance, all the same-old-same olds.

Franks isn’t afraid of being pretty damned gruesome with it, either. Many encounters end not merely with violence but with gore so extreme it’s less horrific and more a form of nihilism. If Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus in a spirit of ‘I’ll show YOU a revenge tragedy!’, Franks has said, ‘I’ll show YOU a tide of pointless butchery!’.

Except that it’s not pointless. The purpose, mostly hinted at throughout the brutal excapades of the mortals, the mage, the daughter of the warrior queen and the Bad Little Dog is very pointed, but it’s a spoiler to say what it is.

I loved how the inklings that supposed mortal questers aren’t as noble or heroic as they’re cracked up to be turn into certainties that they’re all pretty awful people with little regard for the consequences of their actions. Where they go, death follows, on a scale that humans in the mortal world have wrought with such horrific abandon.

The level of butchery is a bit much at times, but it’s a deliberate choice that is less gratuitous than it seems, by the time you reach the end and learn why. Though the hint is in the title. It is a faerie apocalypse, after all.

I’ll admit that I have a fonder spot in my heart for the wild and wickedly funny Bloody Waters , but it’s good to be reading Franks again and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

About Faerie Apocalypse.

Over the centuries the Faerie Realms have drifted away from the mortal world. But for some, the Doors will open. For some, there is a Way to travel there, if they want it badly enough.

If they dream it hard enough.

In this era, only lovers, poets, and madmen can access the Realms of the Land—and for good reason.

A succession of mortals travel to Faerie: a veteran seeking beauty; a magus seeking power; an urchin seeking his wayward father; an engineer seeking meaning. These mortals bring the horrors of our age to the Land, and the Folk who live there respond in kind.

Buy Faerie Apocalypse