28 March 2014

Reading report for February 2014

I read only 10 books in February. One was non-fiction and two were what I like to call half-fiction. The rest were fiction, one murder mystery and six M/M romances.

The two half-fictions were collections of short narratives. One was a cute little book of anecdotes about famous and once-famous musicians, composers and conductors. I picked it up years ago in a junk shop in Denmark and only got around to reading recently. The other was the sometimes funny and always amusing Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, a perfect example of the storyteller’s craft.
I call them half-fiction because anecdotes are often completely made-up and even when they are true they are more often than not impossible to corroborate, even if they are based on real people and ring true, while some may be true but have had the not-famous people they happened to replaced by famous ones because it makes the story more interesting. 
Starlite Motel is supposedly about real people, but one can tell it has lots of lovely little embroideries of the kind that make true ordinary stories into good ones and good ones into great ones.

The month’s highlights were Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, The Road to McCarthy and His Name is John. The romances ranged from clumsy to pretty good, but none made it into stand-out territory. The anecdote book contained just too many stories about people who were famous when it was published (1948) but I had never heard of, besides which I found the writer's style a tad annoying.

The first is, as I mentioned before, a collection of narratives, some of which I would call anecdotes and others I would call essays. White writes skilfully and with humour and insight about herself, friends, relatives and neighbours, places and events, drawing out the extra-ordinary in ordinary people and the quirkiness in everyday things and making insightful observations on human nature.

The Road to McCarthy the second book I read by Pete McCarthy. In the first, McCarthy's Bar, he drove around Ireland and stopped at every bar that had his name on it, and visited various interesting places and met all sorts of people. In this one, he chases the Irish heritage all over the world, from Australia to Alaska, with various stops in between.

The third favourite of the month is His Name is John, an interesting take on the paranormal mystery genre, with an engaging lead and an intriguing story-line, even though I quickly figured out some of the mystery. This is one of those "the less said, the better" stories, so I will not mention what it's about, except that there are three mysteries involved, two murders separated by decades and whether or not "John" is real and if he is, who he was in life.

The Books:
  • Mary Calmes: Tooth & Nail. Urban fantasy romance, M/M.
  • Anah Crow & Dianne Fox: Driven to Distraction. Contemporary romance, M/M.
  • Diana DeRicci: A Fated Love. Contemporary romance, M/M.
  • Cat Grant: The First Real Thing. Contemporary romance, M/M.
  • Dorien Grey: His Name is John. Murder mystery, paranormal.
  • Helen L. Kaufman: The Little Book of Music Anecdotes. Non-fiction, Anecdotes.
  • Josh Lanyon: Icecapade. Contemporary romance, M/M.
  • Pete McCarthy: The Road to McCarthy. Travelogue.
  • Various : Reflections of Love. Romantic short stories, M/M.
  • Bailey White: Sleeping at the Starlite Motel, and other adventures on the way back home. Vignettes/Essays.

17 March 2014

Reading report for January 2014

Here it is, finally: the reading report for January. (February‘s report is in the works: I have it entered into Excel and I just need to transfer it into Word, edit the layout and write the preface. It will either take a couple of days or a couple of months).

I finished 26 books in January, although admittedly a number of them were novellas. As I mentioned in my previous post, I delved into a new(ish) type of genre: gay (or M/M) romance. I found everything from genuinely sweet romance to hardcore BDSM, in sub-genres like fantasy, suspense and mystery and even a quartet of entertaining (and unlikely) rock star romances. Other books I read in January include the highly enjoyable memoir of cooking doyenne Julia Child, two straight romances, and Jennifer Worth‘s trilogy of memoirs about her experiences as a midwife in a London slum in the 1950s. I also watched the first season of the TV series based on these books and may (I say 'may') write something about this when I have finished the second series (I'm off to the post office tomorrow to pick up the DVDs).

The standouts of the "also reads" were Julia and Jennifer (especially the first book in the Midwife trilogy), and of the gay romances my favourites were the four rock star romances by Jet Mykles (Heaven, Purgatory, Hell and Faith) and Adam and Holden by L.B. Gregg. Both were well plotted and had fun and/or interesting characters and the storyline of the latter also included a juicy murder mystery. Love You, Loveday was notable for the creepy stalker storyline and the interesting twist on the “damsel in distress” trope. I can also recommend the two Tere Michaels books, especially Love & Loyalty, the style of which reminded me of a Nora Roberts novel.

The Golden Boy/Golden Man duology by Clare Thompson was admittedly well written and plotted, and while I will never, ever understand the attraction of BDSM, I don‘t regret reading them because they gave me an insight into that culture. (I must, however, admit I have no idea how representative it is of reality. Doubtless there is some poetic licence involved).

There were also some fairly bad books among the M/M romances. Since I hadn‘t done much research on the subject before being (rudely) handed a Kindle and ordered to start reading (I know, I‘m a pushover) it was hit or miss whether I picked something good or something I had rather not finish, and in fact there were three DNF stories among the ones I started reading in January (not included in the list) and a couple more I did finish but wouldn‘t recommend.

The Books:
  • Katie Allen : Private Dicks . Romantic mystery, M/M.
  • Mary Calmes : His Hearth . Romantic fantasy, M/M.
  • Julia Child & Alex Prud'homme : My Life in France . Memoir.
  • L.B. Gregg: Men of Smithfield: Adam and Holden. Romantic mystery, M/M.
  • Jean Haus : Ink My Heart . Romance, contemporary.
  • G.A. Hauser : Love You, Loveday . Romantic suspense, M/M.
  • Amy Lane : Christmas with Danny Fit . Romance, M/M.
  • Carol Lynne : Rough Ride . Romance, M/M.
  • Angel Martinez : Boots . Romantic fantasy, M/M.
  • Tere Michaels : Faith & Fidelity and  Love & Loyalty. Romance, M/M.
  • Jet Mykles : Heaven, Purgatory, Hell and Faith. Romance, M/M.
  • Terry O'Reilly : One Night in December. Romance, M/M.
  • Lucius Parhelion : A Faint Wash of Lavender.Historical, romantic, M/M.
  • Marty Rayne : A Master's Love. BDSM romance, M/M.
  • Nora Roberts : Secret Star. Romance, contemporary. 
  • Katrina Strauss : Sleight of Hand. Romance, M/M.
  • Clare Thompson : Golden Boy and Golden Man. BDSM romance, M/M.
  • Lori Toland : The Replacement Guitarist. Romance, M/M.
  • Jennifer Worth : Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse and Farewell to the East End. Memoirs.