16 12 2014

Murder OffstageAnother young woman sleuthing in London in the aftermath of the Great War. Posie Potter inevitably invites comparison with Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs and Gillian Winscott’s Nell Bray, and it has to be said that though this is a competently written cosy detective story in the classic early-Agatha-Christie tradition, it is not in the same class as those others I mentioned. Although Posie has been a nurse on the battle field and experienced the horrors of trench warfare at first hand, there is none of the trauma and nightmares here that seemed so right in the Maise Dobbs novels. Nor is the plot comparable to that of, say, the superficially similar Stage Fright by Gillian Winscott. A priceless diamond with a curse on it stolen from a rajah is hardly original.

On the other hand, it was the first in the series, it is very promising, I do like Posie, and I suppose “cosy” should mean just that, “cosy” – so, yes, I will definitely be reading the next Posie Parker Mystery.

40 Famous Authors On Reading

8 12 2014

“When the Day of Judgment dawns and people, great and small, come marching in to receive their heavenly rewards, the Almighty will gaze upon the mere bookworms and say to Peter, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them. They have loved reading.”

Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf

Find all 40 here

SUNFALL by James Austin McCormick

1 12 2014

Sunfall coverThe Prologue sets the scene for this SF novella (100 pages)

Fire raged across the molten surface of the increasingly volatile star. Flames rose incredible distances, breaking free as solar winds before light speeding their way through space.

For the small, airless ball of rock that was Mercury and the cloud covered furnace that was Venus it was little cause for concern. Even the inhabitants of Earth, with their twin shields of ozone and magnetism, had little reason to fear the storm.

Yet for Mars, the fourth planet in the system, and its last surviving colonists, it was a grave matter indeed

A means of saving the planet’s colonists has been invented but the directors of the DAX corp, who own the mines, prefer to seize the opportunity to rid themselves of the rebellious colonists. After a series of murders on Earth, only Sana, the teenage daughter of the inventor of the device which could save the colonists, and Zac, a boy on his own with his dead father’s battered old spaceship, can get the device to Mars in time. But Tanaka, the CEO of DAX sends a raijin, an indestructible cyborg, to kill them and prevent the device from ever getting to Mars.

It needs a bit of editing and there are probably too many switches of PoV for such short read, but the story gets told and the excitement builds up. And I liked the two main characters –would like to see more of them, in a full length novel.

LOCKED WITHIN by Paul Anthony Shortt

1 12 2014

Locked WithinWhat is locked within is memories of past lives.

Nathan, our hero, is haunted by dreams in which he half remembers, sometimes fully remembers, dramatic events that occurred during previous lives, but is unaware when the book opens of an organised group called the Reborn who remember clearly, and benefit from the experience gained during, their past lives. These Reborn are in a war against another, very different, group whose aim is to prolong this one life (as they see it) indefinitely, as vampires or whatever, and who will do anything to achieve that goal.

Needless to say, Nathan gets caught up in the battle which takes place in his home-town of New York, a battle which is just one small part of the on-going war between Good and Evil. And like all reluctant heroes, he has to make painful choices regarding his personal life.

Being a great believer in reincarnation, I loved this particular urban fantasy world with its reborns and its horrifying “soul-eaters”, and would welcome a sequel, preferably featuring Nathan and the witch Candace as partners. I always have difficulty identifying with male protagonists, even one as sympathetic as Nathan, though in this case I was certainly helped by the fact that the earlier self Nathan most closely identifies with himself is a woman, a warrior named Marjorie. We are even there with him while he as her is being gang-raped – and I mean gang literally: she is captured and raped by a group of ruthless professional thugs.

Reincarnation in action - male to female to male

Reincarnation in action – female to male to female to male …

Candace, who only has a very minor role in this book, but on the other hand is still very much alive, is just my cup of tea.

Five Stephen Hawking quotes -

23 11 2014

Five Stephen Hawking quotes that should make us readers (and even more so you writers) think again about some of the SF we read (or write!). The first is copied below. You can find the whole article HERE.

Hawking, without his wheelchair, floating weightless in the air in zero gravity

Hawking, without his wheelchair, floating weightless in the air in zero gravity

When one of the smartest people on the planet says something, it probably pays to listen.

Stephen Hawking, the physics icon and subject of the new biopic The Theory of Everything, has said a lot over the years in lectures and books. And some of them are, frankly, terrifying.

Here are five of his wildest quotes that just might change the way you view the world. 

  1. Hawking really doesn’t want us to meet aliens, because they’d probably destroy us.

We only have to look at ourselves to see how intelligent life might develop into something we wouldn’t want to meet. I imagine they might exist in massive ships, having used up all the resources from their home planet. Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach,” Hawking said in a 2011 Discovery Channel special. “If aliens ever visit us, I think the outcome would be much as when Christopher Columbus first landed in America, which didn’t turn out very well for the Native Americans.”


AVIGNON by Marianne Calmann

23 11 2014

Avignon coverThis is a strange book. There are so many different characters and so many different things going on that it reads more like a soap opera than a novel. But then the same might be said for that greatest of all historical novels “War and Peace”. We jump from Cardinal le Gor with his page and his moral problem (his relationship with his page) to Pope Clement with his sister and his health problems and his moral problem (he had feelings of guilt about what others called “his spendthrift ways”; for instance he had spent billions trying to make Avignon and the Palais des Papes more beautiful and impressive than anything in Rome); to Thoros Bonivassin, the Jewish physician who is summoned one night to the Pope’s bedside then disappears; to Blanchette, Thoros’ beautiful sister-in-law, who is in love with him, not Astruc, her husband, Thoros’ brother; to the high official in the Pope’s household who is obsessed with a Jewish woman (that same femme fatale, Blanchette) and fathers a son on her, then undergoes a terrible penance for this “sin”. And many, many more.

The scene switches from one to the other and back again as we follow their lives and get to know them all and to feel at home in Avignon (and especially in the Papal Palace and the Jewish ghetto known as the Street) during 1347-8, the year leading up to the arrival via Marseilles of the Black Death. The last third of the book shows how they respond in their various different ways to this catastrophe. Should Thoros, the physician, go into Avignon or remain in the Street (which will be sealed off). Should they flee the Street and Avignon?

Great history if not great art (though I’m not too sure about that distinction), well written and, as I say, full of people. Highly recommended to those who feel curious about medieval Avignon, and life (especially life for Jews) under the French popes. After reading this, you would feel at home there.


14 11 2014


No time for a full review, but Desecration has been described as a book that takes the reader on a journey to hell and back. It does, and the hell here is real-life horror, not fantasy horror.

It is the most original police procedural I have ever read (with the possible exception of Mark Billington’s Helpless) and DS Jamie Brooke, whose only real family is a 14-year-old daughter approaching the end in a hospice for the terminally ill, is the police officer / detective I most closely identified with (with the possible exception of Lynda La Plante’s Lorraine Page). Greater praise I cannot bestow.

I shall definitely be reading the sequel, Delirium, and in the meantime am starting on Pentecost, the first book in J. F. Penn’s other series, the ARKANE thrillers, which has been sitting in my Kindle for a while. I didn’t know who the author was. Now I do, and she is a great discovery.


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