Reading List by Sirius
Reading List by Sirius
“The Rubber Band” by Rex Stout. (A Nero Wolfe mystery, book three)
What do a Wild West lynching and a respected English nobleman have in common? On the surface, absolutely nothing. But when a young woman hires his services, it becomes Nero Wolfe’s job to look deeper and find the connection. A forty-year-old pact, a five-thousand-mile search, and a million-dollar murder are all linked to an international scandal that could rebound on the great detective and his partner, Archie, with fatal abruptness.
Strictly speaking this is a reread – I read it before in Russian translation. I think I have read all the Nero Wolfe mysteries by now, some of them multiple times. Most of them were Russian translations, but those that I had not already read I bought in the original and have now reread multiple times too. These books are the only mainstream mysteries I reread on a regular basis. There is Sherlock Holmes too, but I actually have not reread those for several years. Speaking of the great detectives and their sidekicks, while I adore Holmes and Watson together, I think if I were to compare Watson and Archie, I prefer Archie. I know Watson is not stupid, but in order to show off Holmes’ genius, he often came out as such to me. Archie – not so much, this one is sharp as a whip and funny to boot, and without him Wolfe often does not want to get his lazy brilliant self from his chair and start working. Archie challenges him, and often gets the solution almost as fast as Wolfe and before Wolfe does his great explanation spiel.
I keep talking about series as a whole, but I truly think that this one is one of the best. We know that Wolfe usually does not like women much, but this one features a female client whom Wolfe did not just tolerate, but dare we say liked and even respected a little bit? Baby steps, baby steps.
I actually read the books out of order before and did not realize that this is one of the earlier efforts (third book in 45 books series). Apparently Inspector Cramer’s appearance here is the first one in the series. Recommended.
To Love a Traitor by J. L. Merrow
Wounds of the heart take the longest to heal.
When solicitor’s clerk George Johnson moves into a rented London room in the winter of 1920, it’s with a secret goal: to find out if his fellow lodger, Matthew Connaught, is the wartime traitor who cost George’s adored older brother his life.
Yet as he gets to know Matthew—an irrepressibly cheerful ad man whose missing arm hasn’t dimmed his smile—George begins to lose sight of his mission.
As Matthew’s advances become ever harder to resist, George tries to convince himself his brother’s death was just the luck of the draw, and to forget he’s hiding a secret of his own. His true identity—and an act of conscience that shamed his family.
But as their mutual attraction grows, so does George’s desperation to know the truth about what happened that day in Ypres. If only to prove Matthew innocent—even if it means losing the man he’s come to love.
Warning: Contains larks in the snow, stiff upper lips, shadows of the Great War, and one man working undercover while another tries to lure him under the covers.
I really struggled with the review for this book. JL Merrow’s books are hit or miss for me – this one was definitely a hit, but the review just did not want to be written and these few sentences (instead of a longer review) are all I could manage. Sometimes this happens even with good books. I am really partial towards books which talk about young veterans of WWI or WWII coming back and adjusting to living in peacetime. This story has such a strong background – I hurt for George reading about what he endured as a conscientious objector and I cannot imagine how hard it was for real people who had the courage of their convictions to state that they would not go to war. George did so much for the government later in the war, but he is still haunted by what guys may have thought about him.
One of the reasons JL Merrow’s stories do not always hit home for me is because I do not always feel tension between her protagonists (and I do not necessarily mean UST, although I certainly enjoy it when it is present in the story). Here there was plenty of tension because the underlying stakes were so high. George is investigating whether Matthew betrayed his brother and the men who died with him to Germans. If Matthew is a traitor, then of course there is no way they can be together. Matthew indeed ends up being connected with what happened to George’s brother although not in the way you may suspect. I thought the story was very touching, well researched, painful to read (not because it has detailed description of violence, but just because what was on page felt so real), and at the same time very sweet. Highly recommended.
Requiem in Leather ( A Deputy Joe novel book 5) by James Buchanan
Life, Death, Love, Pain, Addiction and Redemption: Joe finds them all when he tracks the missing lover of Kabe’s former Dom in San Francisco.
The wilds of San Francisco are a long way from the rural-Utah beat of Deputy Joe Peterson.
Kabe’s former Dom, the man who protected him in prison, dies and Kabe, along with Jack’s other boys, returns to The City to pay their respects. Joe wonders where he fits in after seeing Kabe at home, with the family and friends he left behind. When he agrees to help track down one of the missing boys he can’t understand Kabe’s aversion to his getting involved.
I like this series. I especially liked the first two books. I believe I have not read “Laying Ghosts” (the book before this one?) – apparently lost interest, but I did want to know the end of Kabe and Joe’s journey. Joe was such an appealing character – he is a deeply religious gay man who slowly discovers his interest in all things BDSM when Kabe, eh, walks into his life in the first book. I really liked how these two guys were connecting more and more strongly with each book while dealing with issues and complications of the past and present. And there is usually a mystery which Joe investigates, and Kabe of course gets involved one way or another. This book continues the trend – as the blurb says, the guys go to San Francisco to pay their last respects to Kabe’s previous dom. We get a chance to look at what ghosts were still haunting Kabe and how much better he had become at dealing with them, with and without Joe’s help. Joe moves further towards realising what he wants and needs from BDSM games and how being a Dom is not about him going into clubs or even knowing the proper names for things and rituals.
Why I am not grading it very high? Because the mystery was *so boring*. I feel bad saying this because the issue of what happens to our veterans when they come home resonates with me deeply, but I was bored out of my mind. I also get that the author probably wanted to compare that with Joe and Kabe’s situation and show what could have been, but once again I was used to Joe doing much more interesting investigations. Oh well.
“Ansel of Pryor House” by Hayden Thorne
Fifteen-year-old Ansel Tunnicliffe has lived a harsh life. Abandoned by his mother and his siblings to a drunk and abusive father, Ansel knows nothing more than hunger, fear, pain, and loneliness in his short life.
One evening, a wealthy stranger appears, challenges Mr. Tunnicliffe to a game of cards, and easily wins. The prize? Ansel. The terrified boy is whisked away to a remote and mysterious house, whose stern and aristocratic mistress takes Ansel in for a purpose that remains elusive to him.
Little by little, however, Ansel discovers additional secrets in every magical room of Pryor House — secrets that are somehow linked to him and Miss Peveler’s strange interest in his welfare. One of those secrets also turns out to be a young boy who haunts Ansel’s lonely hours and who may very well hold the key to Ansel’s future and the shadowy history of Pryor House.
Hayden Thorne used to be one of my favorite YA m/m writers and I still enjoy her books. The reason I kind of moved away from them is not because they are bad, no, but how to put it? She writes for teenagers (and that’s awesome, we need more books for gay teens, for teens who struggle to figure out their sexuality), and I started to find her books too simplistic. They are well written, they have important messages, they’re whimsical (she does fantasy, fairy tales retellings), but they’re just too simplistic for me. This book is a great example. We have an abused boy who is saved from his father’s abuse by a mysterious stranger who brings the boy to a mysterious house. Basically he is given a chance to heal while he is here (I won’t tell you how) and to be able to move on with his life as he becomes stronger and happier. And there is a possibility that his first love will be with him for a long time. It is very sweet and well written, but it is simplistic and maybe for some teens it is a good thing. If this reaches its target audience, it is a good thing.
Nothing much ever happens to Heather, until the day she’s innocently minding her own business when a bomb goes off – and she’s precipitated into the kind of adventure which in her world only happens to people on TV! Thankfully she’s about as prepared and resourceful as a girl can be, because all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a road movie along with an extraordinary woman named Natalie – the two of them running for their lives into and out of a mess of complicated situations in which nobody is ever quite what he or she might appear to be
I read this book a couple of months ago. I was so excited to see Manifold publish an f/f romance with an action/adventure storyline. I liked that an ordinary woman got thrown into an extraordinary situation and was interested in how Heather would handle the stuff that got thrown at her when all she wanted was a smoothie. I get that the author wanted to show just how ordinary Heather was, but I wish she had stopped calling herself fat and telling us how many extra pounds she needed to lose (I am saying this because I also have extra pounds to lose! It became just painful to read after a while). Now for the more serious critique. Lady, this chick kidnapped you. I get that without you wanting to go along there would have been no story, but come on now, falling in love that fast, really? This was a story where I just did not buy into their love. At all. I liked how Heather dealt with other things though – surprisingly badass in an everyday, believable way – she did not become an action hero, thank goodness, but she reacted fast.
The Broken Forrest by Megan Derr
When women and children begin to vanish, the people of Edge village summon a Huntress. Though she is long due for a break and exhausted from her previous assignment, Adamina accepts the assignment and heads for Edge. But when she arrives, the simple assignment she anticipated proves instead to be complicated—complicated enough she must consult with a witch. A beautiful, compelling witch that makes Adamina sharply aware of her own lonely life, and tempts her to make it less lonely.
Assuming the forest doesn’t kill them first.
Oh, this was so GOOD! Megan Derr’s ability to tease out the darkness of fairy tales and make them her own always impresses me, but I usually prefer what she does with longer stories. But this short was just so good – as another reviewer said, one never knew what fairy tale would be referenced next and in what way. For some reason the “Sleeping Beauty” twist just got to me the most (no, the whole story is not based on that tale – it is not based on any single fairy tale. It just manages to incorporate several themes well known to any fairy tale lover, and it makes them so so dark).
And light still prevails amongst the darkness; we have the beginning of a lovely f/f story with one trans character (which is mentioned in a very matter of fact way, but here you go, don’t say you have not been warned if you are not interested in stories with trans characters). I am always torn about short stories based on fairy tales, because on the one hand it is inevitable for the characters to be sketchy and more of the archetype variety, but on the other I really wanted to get to know them better.
I love the Joe and Kabe books but the editing is appalling. Every time I read them I get yanked out of the story by the spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (no, not Joe’s ‘voice’ but actual errors). They’re more expensive than most m/m romances but that’s not reflected in the editing.
This one wasn’t my favorite because Kabe was a jerk in places, but it was moving at the end.
I don’t disagree about the editing ( some things I see some I don’t , but if people are telling me that it is bad I can only nod my head). I don’t remember Kade being that much of a jerk but four or five months passed since I read it so maybe he was. As I said I was not much engaged with mystery plot.
It was bits like taking Joe to the clothes shop for a makeover and kind of laughing at him with the sneering shop assistant… Sometimes people change when they go back to where they grew up and their loyalties shift to their old circle not their new friends. I felt as if that happened here and Kabe wasn’t siding with Joe enough. But it was a while back that i read it so this is me pulling from memories.
I love the Nero Wolfe books. I devoured them all in middle school, sort of forgot about them for years, and then found my way back to them relatively recently. I never enjoyed Stout’s other books quite as much–Archie’s voice is what makes them sing for me.
@Jane Davitt: Thanks, I vaguely remember this moment but don’t remember thinking Kade was a jerk because of that.
@Floating Lush: I have not even tried reading anything else by him. Or maybe I tried one or two books with prosecutor in it (not even sure, if it was it was years ago) and went back to Archie and never tried anything else.
@Jane Davitt – I agree! I was so annoyed with Kabe’s behavior – I thought he treated Joe badly in front of his old friends.
I read A LOT of Nero Wolf as a teen and haven’t reread them – I honestly am not sure how well they’d hold up so I’m glad to hear you still like them.
@Sirius: Reading your thoughts on the Megan Derr book, I think you might like The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. It’s a full length YA novel (I listened to the audio – which was excellent), a mash up of horror and urban fantasy/fantasy with bi and gay secondary characters and two sweet love stories.
Count me as another who read all/almost all of the Nero Wolfe books in my younger days. (I think I read one of the Robert Goldsborough books, but didn’t continue with them.) I read them out of order since I just picked up whatever was available at the time, but I didn’t mind knowing some of the events/twists in the overarching storyline in advance. I also agree that this was one of the better ones.
If you like Nero Wolfe, have you seen the A&E series with Timothy Hutton as Archie? It ran for a couple seasons about 10 years ago. The DVD’s should still be available. It was a lovely production, back when the “A” in A&E still stood for Arts.
Sandra I heard about the series but have not seen it, kept telling myself to check it out and getting distracted . Will definitely try to find it thanks.
Susan I discovered that Robert Golsborough’s books exist only few months ago. I managed two books – close but no sigar :-), even very good imitation is still not the same to me.
Kaetrin thanks for the recommendation!