When I was a kid finding something to give me for birthdays and Christmas was easy – just buy me a book. I loved to read and would often lie in bed after lights-out reading a book under the blankets with a torch.
Actually, even when I was much, much older, buying me a birthday present was easy. Until his death a few years ago, a new Terry Pratchett book would be published each year in about October – just in time for my birthday in November. Quite often, I would buy the book myself (always a hardback), but when it was delivered Peter would hide it until the Big Day. Sometimes men are bastards.
Anyway, with Christmas just sixteen days away, if you have a reader in your circle of friends, ebooks can make great, inexpensive presents. So, here are a few books I enjoyed reading this year.
Mrs Pargeter is a wealthy widow in her late sixties, plump and white-haired. We hear stories about the late Mr Pargeter and the way he provided for his clearly much-loved wife. We are never told exactly what Mr Pargeter did for a living but he was sometimes away for extended periods and he had a collection of friends who could offer various services which may have been considered illegal. Not that Mrs Pargeter had anything to do with that sort of thing, of course.
What’s wonderful about these books is the author’s dry wit. His descriptions of the various characters in the novels are often hilarious. They’re lots of far-fetched fun. Here’s the link to the first book on Amazon (A Nice Class of Corpse)
Evan Evans is a young police constable who has traded in the violence of city life for idyllic Llanfair, a Welsh village tucked far away from trouble.
Before Evans has time to sort through the complicated relationships and rivalries of his new home, he’s called to the scene of a crime as brutal and fearsome as any he encountered in the big city. Two hikers have been murdered on the trails of the local mountain, and Evans must hunt down a vicious killer.
Although the main character is a policeman, a police procedural this is not. I found I had to put my credibility meter on hold here and there. However, the cast of characters is entertaining, with the murders interwoven with less serious events like the school dance and the lascivious barmaid’s designs on Constable Evans.
And, of course, there’s the mountain, Yr Wyddfa, or Snowdon to you English speakers. It plays an important role in the story. The first book in the series is free. Here’s the Amazon link.
Relatively Risky is set in New Orleans where the author lived for a number of years. I’ve never been there, so can’t attest to the accuracy, but the settings worked for me. I could feel the steamy climate, see old Man River oozing past, smell the frangipanis, nod understandingly at the parking problems, and lust after the luscious food.
The story revolves around New Orleans’s gangster families and their relationships with each other. There’s even a nod to Romeo and Juliet in the plot. With rival crime families, there’s always disputed turf and people with scores to settle and ambitions to achieve. And guns. All of that bubbles through this book via well-drawn characters from the mob families. Why is an author of kids books of interest to the New Orleans gangs? Now that’s an interesting question.
I found myself smiling often and reading other passages with my heart pounding. I loved Alex Baker and his Baker’s Dozen of siblings. His father was a cop and just about all his brothers and sisters are also in law enforcement in one way or another. Several of them are involved in the events surrounding Nell Whitby and the New Orleans mob families. Sort of the good guy family versus the bad guy families.
This is no fluffy romance. There are plenty of dead bodies, plenty of moments wondering what was going to happen next, plenty of heart-in-mouth moments. In many respects, the romance complicates the crime scene. In case you’re wondering, there are no sex scenes. That’s not the author’s style, although she’s good at sketching sexual tension. She leaves it to the reader to work out what might have happened next in that respect. And that question – why is the author of kids books of interest to the New Orleans gangs? – is brought to a satisfying conclusion.
This was book one of a series. I quickly gobbled up the rest, all involving one of the Baker kids and therefore involving them all.
You can get Relatively Risky for free by signing up to Pauline’s mailing list. What you do from there is entirely up to you.
Lady Emily Hardcastle is an eccentric widow with a secret past. Florence Armstrong, her maid and confidante, is an expert in martial arts. The year is 1908 and they’ve just moved from London to the country, hoping for a quiet life.
But it is not long before Lady Hardcastle is forced out of her self-imposed retirement. There’s a dead body in the woods, and the police are on the wrong scent. Lady Hardcastle makes some enquiries of her own, and it seems she knows a surprising amount about crime investigation…
I started with the first book and kept reading the whole series.
These books are simply a lot of fun. There’s always a murder mystery in the plot, but the interaction between the two leading ladies and their circle of friends is just as important to the story. Set in the early 1900s in rural England, the class system was alive and well at that time and the idea of a lady’s maid and a lady having a real friendship is unlikely. But that’s all part of the charm of this series. Find it at Amazon here.
And here’s one for the SF fans.
This book is just the sort of romantic science fiction (science fiction with a romance arc as opposed to a romance in an SF setting) I like – lots of fast-paced action, a sex scene that doesn’t read like a how-to manual – and a cat.
Catalyst is set in a distant future where a whole planet is given over to being a garbage tip. That’s why it’s called Garbage Planet. It’s a hostile environment where only the tough survive, making a living by recycling. Wil Tango, a dance teacher, finds himself there against his will. Su Abfall takes Wil under her wing – and with him comes Pumpkin, a smart-mouthed, arrogant, totally up himself cat – who can talk, amongst other things.
The romance is, of course, between Su and Wil. They’re both great characters, well drawn, as is the villain, casino boss Casada, who has found out how Wil and Pumpkin won all that money – and he wants revenge and the cat.
Here’s the link to the book on the author’s page. Jody Wallace It’s the first book of a series, so you can read more about smart arse cats in subsequent books.
If you’re looking for any other books at reduced prices, don’t forget to take a look at the Smashwords end of year sale. Thousands of books will be offered for free or at a substantial discount. It’s on from 15 Dec – 1 Jan 2024
And, of course, you could always try one of mine. My latest book, The Admiral and the Rebel, is due for release on 18 December, but you can pre-order it. Find out all about it here.
For any of my other stories, press that menu item up there that says BOOKS. I’m sure you’ll be able to work it out from there.
Happy last minute shopping to those who participate.