Quick reviews (relatively speaking)

March, as you may have noticed, was a busy month for me. A new novel, a new non-fiction books as well, the 9th Harvey, the ide’s, and everything else… Thus I’m a tad behind on general blog related stuff and more specifically reviews.

As you know I have a habit of wittering on when I do a review, generally because books make me think about something and I will preamble along for half a blog before I mention the book that inspired the blog in the first place and actually write a review.

This charming, eccentric approach is what readers of my blogs have come to expect… he says, in the vain hope people find it charming and eccentric, not the ravings of a loony….

However, there is a downside to my charming eccentricity, some would say many, in that blogs take time to write and occasionally I fall behind with books I want to review… At which point I have to do some catching up without long eccentric preambles and just, you know, throw them out there in the way sane people do reviews… This should not be taken as to mean I think any less of the books or that they have not pasted my stringent critia ( ie, I read it and enjoyed it). They are just getting quick reviews so I can get back on an even keel… and nothing more.

So without further preamble… here a few relatively quick reviews of books you should be reading, other than my own, which you also clearly should be reading…

Stephen Palmers, Monica Orvan and Monica Hatherley (Conjuror Girl Books 2 and 3)

I read book 1 of this series Monique Orphan towards the back end of last year, and despite it been a ‘talented child novel’ I loved it. the sequels carry the story forward picking up where the previous one ended. The central character’s ambiguous morality, in a world of moral ambiguates lending it self to a dark brooding series unlike the normal fair of the talented child genre.

In the second book Monique has changed her name and identity having fled the orphanage and taken up life on the streets falling in with a street children gang. This is very Oliver Twist like but compared to the leader of this little gang Fagin was a saint. The world is as dark and nasty in places as it seemed in the first novel. But in many ways more twisted, and darker. Monique, now Monica, faces growing threats to self and the town of Shrobbesbury from her growing list of foes, as do her friends.

In the third and final book further dark plots take Monica to London and the heart of the dark sorcery enveloping this version of a Victorian England that never was. Now Monica Hatherley after a sham marriage she finds herself even more out of her depth and fighting back against a world twisted by heinous men.

There is a lot to unpack in these books, a lot to think about, but the strength and joy of Stephens writing is his characters, both the central Monica and all those around her. There are strange dark twists and unexpected turns and the reader never really knows where he is going to take the tale. Its not simple fare, there are questions you need to ask yourself along the way, and its challenging at times. but challenging in a good way, challenging of preconceptions, of the line between self-interest and selfishness. And in the end its a joy…

Amy Wilson, Vanishing Night

Amy is a fresh and always interesting new voice, who also writes for the Harvey Duckman series, and has occasion written guest posts on this old blog of mine. Last year she released a collection of flash fiction called Micro Moods, that I enjoyed despite micro fiction not being entirely my cup of Darjeeling. With Vanish Night she had moved up from micro fiction to short stories, with luck that means she’ll move on to a novel or two next.

Short stories are far more in my wheel house. I like a good short story and have been known to write a few myself. Having read some of Amy’s stories before I got this collection I knew what to expect. Excellent writing, careful but compelling descriptions, tight plots and the odd nasty little twist towards the end…

I wasn’t disappointed.

By far the best though was The Turning, which is the first story in this collection, which is just beautiful mysterious, evocative and perfectly pitched. When I say this is the best though, its is the stand out story among a wonderful collection, it is just the story that spoke to me personally the most. All the stories in this collection are equally strong and artfully written.

Everything a book of short stories should be.

I look forward to more, and to a novel in the near future.

Professor Elemental & Nimue Brown, Letters Between Gentlemen

I’ve yet to read anything Nimue Brown has written I have not loved, this is no exception. As for the good Professor, aside the fact he is clearly deranged, what he brings to the party is his own unique brand of joyous wonder.

This novel is, if novel is the right word, exactly what it says on the tin, a collection of letters between gentlemen… A format that allows for so much wonderful eccentricity. The letters are been investigated by Algernon Spoon at the behest of Maun, a Victorian fem-fetale, who believes her life is in danger due to the relationship between her brother and Professor Elemental. How much truth lays within these letters and how much of them is the Professor trying to swindle Maud’s brother out of his inheritance… Well thats an open question…

Not that I would question the good character of the Professor. Anyone inventing giant steam powered killer robots, over sized wasps and responsible in part for numerus accidental deaths, is clearly a person to be trusted… Preferably from some distant away, hiding behind a wall, wearing a solid hat.

It’s charming, wonderful, funny., barking mad, and delightfully weird

Frankly a joy, and the Professor, who I have only met once, on a drunken night in Gloucestershire, has in no way bribed me to say this, or threaten me with a badger.

Can you untie me now?

*Also includes art by Tom Brown, which is wonderful as well, as if you needed more reasons to read it….

** Tom also did the covers for the Conjurer Girl novels, which makes me wonder why Amy didn’t ask him to do hers as well if only so I could have had a constant thread through this blog post, honestly writers just don’t think about making my blogs better, really I despair sometimes…

The assorted links to all this joy

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