Caveat: I had the privilege of editing this book on behalf of Manifold Press, so that may make me biased... On the other hand, as anyone with editing,...moreCaveat: I had the privilege of editing this book on behalf of Manifold Press, so that may make me biased... On the other hand, as anyone with editing, proofing or betaing experience would know, if you can still whole-heartedly love a book after working through 98k words of it again and again, then surely that means something good!
This is a terrific story, fully immersed in the medieval world. It is chock full of detail about how it must have been to live back then - and yet the details never detract from the story, which forges steadily on. Indeed, the details serve only to bring to vivid life the characters and their world.
You will know Hugh mason inside and out by the time you're done. At times, you will know him better than he does himself. The elements of his life assemble themselves around him at an early point, but he doesn't always realise their true significance, and he has a long road to travel before he does. I loved him for being a good man at heart, and stubborn, too. Stubborn isn't always attractive; here it is.
Hugh is joined by a truly lovely range of characters, each brought to three-dimensional life by Jay's masterly story-telling. They are all as vivid as Johanna's red hair, as fascinating as Arnaut's tales and songs, as real as Godric's heartfelt faith.
Hugh is a stone mason, and his (often unsung) task and vocation is to build cathedrals. Even these days that would take years; back then it took decades. I loved how Jay took a cue from that steady pace in telling the story. It never feels slow; there is always progress. But the stately 'dance of stone' is measured throughout years.
An excellent book, in short! Recommended for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and for anyone else who'd like to try it at its best.(less)
I received a free copy of this novella from the author - the wonderful Relle - in return for an honest review.
I've read a number of Relle's stories a...moreI received a free copy of this novella from the author - the wonderful Relle - in return for an honest review.
I've read a number of Relle's stories and novels, and I know I can always count on her for a good yarn. This was no exception.
Jack Burns comes home from a tour of duty overseas, and is disappointed, annoyed though not overly surprised to find that his best mate Elliot Talbott isn't at the airport to meet him. By the time Jack finally tracks Elliot down, they are both deep (pun intended!) in a dangerous mystery set in suburban Melbourne. Their adventure prompts the two men to at last take their relationship to the next level - and we finish with a definite sense of many stories yet to come as the new investigative duo 'Talbott and Burns' are called on 'to explain the inexplicable'. While their evolving relationship isn't inexplicable, there's an edge to it and also plenty of differences between the two friends - all of which suggests further stories resolving more personal puzzles as well.
I always enjoy Relle's Australian settings, which are fair dinkum while remaining distinctly urban. There's always a real feel of life as it is lived in Australia today. Her characters are interestingly layered as individuals and well juxtaposed as a pairing. Her plot, meanwhile, keeps the pages turning.
Homecoming was a great start to what I hope will become an intriguing series once Talbott and Burns really hit their stride together. (less)
I received a free copy of this book from one of the authors in return for an honest review.
This collection of stories manages to get that tricky balan...moreI received a free copy of this book from one of the authors in return for an honest review.
This collection of stories manages to get that tricky balance right, of providing variety while cohering to a theme. All the stories, and the one poem, have something to recommend them - but I will, if I may, focus on the ones that stood out for me.
The Flooded Streets, by Julie A Pollard: This is futuristic fic set in a permanently flooded Brisbane, where two women meet while scavenging in the abandoned office blocks. The story seemed straightforward enough at the time, but it really stayed with me - to the point that when I was later writing something set in present-day Brisbane, I had to force myself to remember that it's not currently flooded! Anything that evocative is a winner, I reckon.
I Blame the Cat, by Alison Evans: Another evocative story, this time due to the immersion in Lucy's point-of-view as she is slowly brought out of her shell by Emily, a young woman she meets one night while clubbing. This is all aided and abetted not only by the cat but by Simon, Lucy's gay flatmate. A nice tale of emerging possibilities.
It's So Very Lonely ..., by Kerry Greenwood: An intriguing sci-fi story about Sebastian, lost in an escape pod with only one hour of air left, encountering a rather unexpected alien. This one provoked a great deal of thought, I have to say, about what's acceptable under what circumstances.
Late Bloomer, by NM Harris: I particularly loved this story about a judge and his gardener. The story is set in Launceston, in the judge's large house and gardens. This was interesting, as we rarely see this sort of setting in Australian stories, instead associating such things with English manor houses and the like. It really worked very nicely indeed. I loved the detail of the gardens, and the deftly told love story was delightful.
As well as these gems, we also have Aussie teenagers being their full-on selves, a poem beautifully evoking an unforgettable moment, and various queer encounters both natural and supernatural. All in all, a darned good read!(less)
I very much enjoyed this lovely tale set during and after World War One. The settings were refreshing: a stage and a dressing room rather than the tre...moreI very much enjoyed this lovely tale set during and after World War One. The settings were refreshing: a stage and a dressing room rather than the trenches during the war; and then professional offices and various clubs in London afterwards.
The English characters were vividly evoked - as indicated by the jolly spiffing title! The era was all too sharply evoked, too. Sam wasn't only made cautious by his situation as a gay man in such a time and place, but was fearful to the point of paranoia. It takes a lot to trust someone when even a fellow gay man might be more interested in blackmail than in love. But of course if you can find a way beyond such limits, then the reward is all the greater.
As many of you know, I am Adam's #2 fan, and he is published (as I am) by Manifold Press... despite which I know he trusts me to write an honest revie...moreAs many of you know, I am Adam's #2 fan, and he is published (as I am) by Manifold Press... despite which I know he trusts me to write an honest review. You may of course judge the results for yourself!
I very much enjoyed reading this tale, both the romance and the mystery/adventure plots, as well as the urban and rural settings in London and on the Wye. Lovely stuff!
As another reviewer has mentioned, there is a terrific dose of reality to be found in all aspects of the story, and I really appreciated that. The organic farming, for example, is an idealistic and inspirational business, and yet it's also exhausting and occasionally soul-sapping work. The attraction and connection between the two main characters is palpable, and yet they both have good cause to be cautious. Rupert is willing to devote a truly heroic amount of time and energy to the friendship and the farm, but maybe that's partly to make up for not being quite sure yet about throwing his heart into the relationship along with his body. In many ways, this realistic approach makes the novel all the more intriguing than more fantastical fare might be. I became very concerned that things would work out well for these characters who I came to care about.
As can be expected from Adam, there is also some masterly storytelling happening here. There is a reason for everything that happens, a reason behind everything, though the reader doesn't always find out right away. I always feel I can trust Adam to know what he's doing.
Really enjoyed this tale of two men who meet (and part) while on an archaeological dig in Tajikstan, and then meet again in Avebury, England. These ar...moreReally enjoyed this tale of two men who meet (and part) while on an archaeological dig in Tajikstan, and then meet again in Avebury, England. These are two very cool locations - and if Avebury was perhaps more vividly written as a setting, the half set in Tajikstan contained the more vividly written adventure, so that balanced out rather well.
The sex scenes were hot, the romance evolved nicely, and the characters (both main and otherwise) were engaging. I particularly enjoyed 'That Bloody Cat' who features in the Avebury half, with plenty of well-observed feline detail.
I had a few LOL moments on public transport while commuting with this book on my Kindle... The funniest line was 'Bugger the cat!' but I'll have to let you work out the context of that for yourself...
I really enjoyed this lovely tale of a pair who are very different as individuals but very well-matched as a couple. Robert and Chris are great togeth...moreI really enjoyed this lovely tale of a pair who are very different as individuals but very well-matched as a couple. Robert and Chris are great together, and I enjoyed their developing relationship. As a bonus we also get to read about Robert's relationship with his early-teens daughter Chloe. There are terrific set pieces, including visits to an ice cream parlour and a tattoo parlour, and a house-hunting episode.
This is definitely one for those of us who appreciate teacups as well as tattoos! Well worth the read, if so.
There are three reasons why I loved this book. The first is that I very much enjoy fiction in our genre that features older characters, and Sarah Blac...moreThere are three reasons why I loved this book. The first is that I very much enjoy fiction in our genre that features older characters, and Sarah Black delivers once again. Hurrah!
The second reason (aptly) is that I love the trope of second chances. We don't always 'deserve' or completely earn our second chances - or maybe we do always deserve them, but they require a compassion not always to be found. In any case, Colin and Lucien finally get the opportunity to renew their relationship - whether as friends, potters or lovers - and they are wise enough to take it.
The third reason I loved this is all the lovely details included of working as potters. It all felt very real and utterly authentic - in ways I've only found elsewhere in The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. Not that I'm a potter myself, but the detail here - without ever straying into indulgent irrelevance - obviously goes far beyond the casual hobbyist.
Well done, yet again, Sarah! Please never stop doing what you do.(less)
This is a terrific action-drama-adventure of a book set in Tunisia, featuring a whole range of vivid and interesting characters.
In terms of fascinati...moreThis is a terrific action-drama-adventure of a book set in Tunisia, featuring a whole range of vivid and interesting characters.
In terms of fascination, however, the General out-does them all. Sarah has created a unique and wonderful character in John Mitchel, the warrior-philosopher, and I don't think I could ever tire of reading about him. He's not perfect - there are times in this tale when things don't pan out the way he anticipated, and he makes a decision or two that might be considered questionable. But he is always brave, thoughtful, wise, fiercely loyal, and full of love.
I wish I had him in my life for real (and I wish I had the confidence to think he might want me in his life, too!) but for now I have these two wonderful books from Sarah - and hopefully, in time to come, perhaps further tales of the General, the Horse-Lord, and their Jedis-in-training.(less)
Interesting tale, featuring Owen and Kerry, two older main characters - which you probably all know by now that I appreciate. I also enjoyed Owen havi...moreInteresting tale, featuring Owen and Kerry, two older main characters - which you probably all know by now that I appreciate. I also enjoyed Owen having an adult daughter who is definitely an intrinsic part of this not-quite-a-family. And the setting on a farm, with 'cottage industry' yarn-making was terrific, as was the part where we find out more about Kerry's family.
However, I have to admit to feeling a bit unconvinced by the miscommunication / misunderstanding that drove the conflict here - if only because the ending, in which Owen and Kerry come to a better understanding of each other and their relationship, felt so very right and natural. Total kudos for the ending. I suppose it isn't unexpected, really, that these two men didn't find themselves there already by 'natural' instinct. And maybe my quibbles actually say more about me and my writing than it does about Layla and hers... Things to ponder.
Well! This is a lovely tale about three interesting and engaging characters, in an interesting setting. Recommended!(less)
"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" Thus spoke George Eliot, a woman of wisdom - thereby perfectly describ...more"What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?" Thus spoke George Eliot, a woman of wisdom - thereby perfectly describing the feeling I took with me from this lovely book by another wise woman, Con Riley.
The novel's title is entirely apt, and turns out to be a verb as well as a noun. The main character Gabe has somewhat reluctantly returned home to support his father while the old man is recovering from a serious illness. Gabe helps by running the family business which deals in architectural salvage. That is the literal source of the word, and the noun.
But Gabe, his father, his sister and their neighbour all have troubles threatening to wreck their lives. Which isn't to say that the characters or their situations are melodramatic - quite the opposite. They are all facing very human problems, and doing so with whatever measures of cheerfulness, courage and resilience they can draw upon that day. As they slowly begin to work interdependently, they manage to each salvage the best bits from what could have been a series of small yet tragic disasters. And there is the verb.
Salvage is a well-written tale of real people facing real-life problems, and rising to them, and occasionally failing, but then finding the strength to rise to them once more. I loved it. I reckon there's a good chance that you might, too.(less)
This is a delightful and fun book to read, tackling large issues with a deft light hand. Cam and Sunshine are loveable characters, and make a truly en...moreThis is a delightful and fun book to read, tackling large issues with a deft light hand. Cam and Sunshine are loveable characters, and make a truly endearing couple. I thought Sunshine's characterisation was particularly well handled.
As refreshing as an iced coffee on a hot day! (less)
A well-told romance about two men, neither of whom are expecting to find love, with a terrific setting in the narrow boat community around Bath in Eng...moreA well-told romance about two men, neither of whom are expecting to find love, with a terrific setting in the narrow boat community around Bath in England. I enjoyed learning about both characters and watching them grow closer together, and also enjoyed their relationships with their families - especially Robin's with his mother. The details of the setting were thorough and vivid, so it was no surprise to learn that the author once lived on a narrow boat herself.
The whole thing was really quite excellent, especially for a first novel! I shall have to look into what else Jo Myles has on offer. :-) (less)
Taking this in order, the first obvious thing to say is that I LOVE the cover! Just gorgeous. I was sold as soon as I saw it.
The next thing to say is...moreTaking this in order, the first obvious thing to say is that I LOVE the cover! Just gorgeous. I was sold as soon as I saw it.
The next thing to say is that I LOVED the prologue. It was short, snappy, charming and funny, and set up the story nicely. And this is coming from someone who intensely distrusts and dislikes prologues - though, yes, I seem to recall I've written one myself! Every now and then a prologue comes along that shows me how it should be done. :-)
And then we are into a lovely long story about Henry and the manor house he's renovating on behalf of his great-grandmother Nell. Henry is out, though he's suffered for it. He meets Ryan, who is not only closeted but confused. The chemistry they share is strong enough that Henry needs to not only reconsider his reluctance to get involved with a man who hardly even knows what he wants, but also needs to find the patience to let things develop at a pace that Ryan can cope with.
Which is where the cricket comes in. Like other reviewers here, I was expecting the game of cricket to feature more in this novel, and I was a little disappointed that it didn't. The scenes that were there were very well written, and displayed a real feel for the game.
However! I think the game also works perfectly well as a metaphor for Henry and Ryan's slowly developing relationship. I mean, this is a game that, in its 'traditional' form, might take five long days of play and still not end in a result. Such is very much what Henry faces when deciding to commit himself to seeing things through with Ryan: a long slow, hopefully steady match, which may or may not result in a win. But commit he does. Whether that was the right decision, I'll leave for you to decide. ;-)
Recommended for anyone who enjoys English tales told at an English pace. Like me!(less)