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Books I’d Recommend

This page was created on 2019-01-15. There have been updates, most recent at the top. Where a book has an “[Amazon UK]” link following the series or book title, this is an affiliate link. If you like the look of these books, you may also want to track them on eReaderIQ, which tracks book prices and notifies you when the book prices drop.

I make extensive use of GoodReads (please feel free to follow me there), but I can’t really find any way to flag specific series of books as things I’d endorse as good books, so here are some of the books and series that I’d recommend:

Recommendations from 2021-08-26 to 2021-03-24

  • Book: The Future of Another Timeline [Amazon UK] These are two stories which eventually intertwine, the first is where a group of girls become boy-killers where the boys are dangerous towards women. The second is where a diverse group of time travelling women and non-binary people are fighting back against a group of men from the future who want to ensure that women stay as home-makers with no influence or power. It’s a great story and I really loved it, particularly how the two stories ended up intertwining.
  • Book: The Ardent Swarm [Amazon UK] A parable-like story about a bee keeper where his bees are being attacked by imported hornets, set in an unnamed Middle-Eastern country where the swing of power between one democratic leader (all style, no substance) to another (all religion and bribery) impacts how the people around him behave and react in a crisis.
  • Series: Lord Hawkesbury’s Players [Amazon UK] (or, at least the first two books, third is currently bought but not yet read!) This romance (with sex, no less!) series, set in Elizabethan England, follows one of several members of the cast of Lord Hawkesbury’s theatre (featuring, no less, William Shakespeare himself!) who finds themselves awkwardly falling in love with someone they shouldn’t. The first story features Minerva, a lady playwright who, due to the cultural norms, is unable to get her plays performed… so she asks a random stranger, Robert, to imply he wrote them, which he does, even though Robert has his own reasons for wanting to become more familiar with Lord Hawkesbury. Towards the end of the book, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Minerva realises that Robert must not be in love with her, and she pushes him away (I think it’s fair to say that for this style of book, this is not a spoiler, but a fairly common beat in the book). The second book follows Robert’s half-brother Leo, who is searching for a wife, and hating it. Instead, while following the path that Robert followed to Lord Hawkesbury, he finds Alice, the seamstress to the players, and the same sort of story occurs. While it may seem like these books might be a little repetitive, I quite enjoyed the (probably quite inaccurate) historical setting and the characterizations of the lead characters. The background characters are a little weak, but generally OK.
  • Book: The Matildas [Amazon UK] TW: Suicide, critical illnesses (inc. Cancer) The protagonist, Matilda, leads two lives, one on their native side of “The basement” – an inter-multiverse-dimension portal to another version of Earth, located in the basement of a “publishing firm” (I’ll explain more about this in a minute), one on the other side of the portal. Some people get to cross the portal – if their corresponding alternative has died in the past, while others can’t. Some people who cross get weird dreams, some get illnesses… and some people find their true loves over there. The protagonist is asked to investigate a mystery – who left a book on the car park of the firm, and why… you see, that book came from the “Other side” of the portal, and didn’t come through the basement. I was gripped. The lead character is very believable and most of the supporting cast are quite well rounded. Towards the end of the book, things chop-and-change quite a bit, and there were a few moments when I wasn’t sure where the character was, or who was around them… but… maybe that’s a concious decision on the part of the author.

Recommendations from 2020-11-18 to 2021-03-24

  • Series: Little Brother [Amazon UK] Marcus Yarrow is a “regular” school-aged child from San Francisco who happens to be AWOL from school when an explosion brings down the Golden Gate Bridge. He’s rounded up as part of the arrests because he’s acting suspiciously, and this story, set 5 minutes in the future of ~2008 (and it’s sequels) show the descent into authoritarianism of the US government, and how the “Little People” can fight back. There are lots of sensible and YA-appropriate explanations on technologies like Public Key Cryptography, “hacking” (the not-criminal sense of the word) and how your tools can be turned against you (and how you can turn your oppressors tools against them). I don’t recall that much of the second book (and, in fact, rated it 3/5 stars), but the third book tells the story from the other side – what happens inside the oppressor’s world – how they correlate who is a leader in a movement, how they tap and track who is doing what inside their countries, and what happens when the conscience of an oppressor demands that they fight against those things too!
    If you’re likely to think that the Government is trying to oppress you, then this book will be right up your street. If you want to know about protests or internet security, these are probably good books for that. The first two books feature some sex scenes which are probably unnecessary, but… shrug, the third does not, but refers to events and characters in the first two books… so, it’s probably worth reading the first two anyway. There are two novellas set between the second and third books, but I don’t recall anything about the first (which I’ve read) and I haven’t read the second of those (which was only available as a kickstarter bonus).
  • Series: The Chronos Files [Amazon UK] In this series, time travel is real! In the 2300’s there’s a historical society called “CHRONOS” who have developed a capability to send people back in time to observe history, in person. There’s all sorts of checks and balances and you must jump back and forth to a specific spot… except one man figured out how to change that, and he’s corrupted this tiny religious order to make it his engine for change… and then blew up the society and stole all their CHRONOS keys (which, in combination with a genetic marker, lets you travel through time). Later in the books, you see the impact of fracturing timelines and having “splinters” of time. There’s also a sequel set of stories (set in the 2200’s) about the people who developed the technology getting an unintentional headstart by finding one of the CHRONOS keys. Ugh, timey-wimey indeed! It’s a well written set of books, and the series definitely improves once there’s less explaining each thing that’s happening. There are a few novellas which aren’t as strong, but still good and there’s a graphic novel which was quite sweet too.
  • Series: The Magic Misfits [Amazon UK: Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4 – Fix your series linking, damnit Amazon!] Six children, all interested in magic, all linked to one town by a former troupe of magicians, who solve crimes orchestrated by one of those former magicians. Very much a YA book, and if you like magic, you’ll love this book. Each book is threaded with tricks for you to learn, secret codes and cyphers. Definitely get these books in paper-or-hardback variants, if only so you can work out the codes!
  • Series: The Saint of Steel [Amazon UK] There are several gods in this realm, and when one of those gods dies, his berserker paladins go crazy and massacre each other and those around them. The few who are left are constantly fighting against “The Black Tide” – which constantly threatens to rise up and turn them back into undirected berserkers again. They’ve been adopted by another god, The White Rat, who’s followers are not so much religious, as … well, axle greasers. They send their lawers to court cases to support those who are oppressed or without support, their doctors and medical practicioners care for those who are sick and need care, and everyone trusts them (which considering they also have a healthy spy network, is… um, interesting). The White Rat sends their staff out to more dangerous areas with the support of these recouperating paladins. These stories each follow a different paladin making their way in the world, and learning to trust and be trusted again. Oh, and OMG they’re all so tortured and just need a bit of love to make them whole again, so the stories also follow the (thus far, both) women who fall for them, who are (both, I’m sure it’ll be all) a bit tortured too.

Recommendations from 2019-08-13 to 2020-11-17

  • Book, potentially series: The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind [Amazon UK] (I read the first book, the sequel is a bit pricy right now!) A girl was the result of experiments performed by her parents. All she wants to do is start a restaurant, but instead she works for a government department who are prepared to disavow her if she gets caught. She can’t tell the guy she likes most in the world about it, because if she does, they’ll both get locked up. She does a Mission: Impossible job at the start of the book, and then spends the rest of the book on the run, because someone was in there just after her and killed the guy they went in to tap the communications on… by bending a thick piece of metal around his throat, which only psychokinetic can do (apparently). It’s a good romp, and I really enjoyed it.
  • Book, potentially series: Enola Holmes: The Case of the Missing Marquess [Amazon UK] As seen as a film on Netflix, I was inspired to read the book. It’s a much shorter story than the film, and much better all round. There are 6 books in the series, but only the first is on Kindle, so I’ll wait for the rest to appear before a make any judgement calls. Enola Holmes is the significantly younger daughter than Shirlock and Mycroft Holmes, who has been raised by her Suffragette leaning mother. When Enola turns 14, her mother abandons the house, and Enola sets off to find her. Unlike in the film, where Enola finds the titular Marquess on the train and then discovers more about him later, in the book Enola instead finds where the Marquess has gone first, then goes to find him, while escaping the clutches of her brothers. A great book, well worth a read!
  • Book: The Lies of Locke Lamora [Amazon UK] Locke Lamora was a child thief, raised by a Fagin like character who portrays the role of a priest on a world, in a city that feels like a cross between Victoriana England and Mafia Italy. Locke and his gang steal as much money from the aristocracy as possible by deceit and outright cunning.
  • Series: Legion [Amazon UK] Stephen Leeds has a multiple personality disorder, but they don’t cripple him, they enable him. One persona provides him with a military guidance – allowing him to shoot, and fight, if necessary. Another is a psychiatrist, while another has a diadectic memory. Between Stephen and his personas, projections or … whatever you call them, he solves mysteries, crimes or just helps people. Oh, and the personas all think they’re real, but Stephen knows they aren’t… but his house is big enough to house all 50ish of them, and he tends to be driven around in a limo, so as many of them that need to come with him, can do so. It’s a great concept, and a good series, albeit short lived.
  • Book: The Dream Daughter [Amazon UK] Totally not my usual story. A woman is pregnant with a child with a heart defect in 1970. Very sad, and unfortunately untreatable in 1970, until her husband reveals that, in fact, he’s actually a stranded time traveller, and to get the condition fixed, she needs to travel into the future. The threads of the Vietnam War, and 9/11 are subtly woven in. This is, at its heart, a story about a woman who will do anything for her daughter, and wanders through time travel to get to the end. The time travel was the initial hook for me, but by the end of the first quarter, I was in it for the story about how that poor mother was coping, and then what happened when she went back.

Recommendations from 2019-01-15 to 2019-08-13

  • Series: The Ministry of Curiosities [Amazon UK] (I’ve read up to Book 4) In Victorian London, a girl can summon the spirits of the deceased and ask them questions. Her father, a church minister, disowns her when she raises the spirit of her mother, and she flees to the streets, where after 5 years she’s picked up by a member of the Ministry of Curiosities, who are tasked with finding and neutralising any mystical things. On the whole it’s a good concept, although the author “borrows” characters from other stories (like Victor Frankenstein), and the lead character has a tendency to run off to investigate things without the support of the rest of the team, in particular without her love interest…
  • Series: The Naturalist [Amazon UK] Slightly like the TV series “Bones”. A university doctor discovers a pattern to the targets of a series of murders, and then gets arrested at the scene when he thinks he’s found the next spot. Very comprehensive story, using tech and patterns found in nature. The sequels are after he’s left academia, but still very interesting.
  • Series: Jack Reacher [Amazon UK] has been made into two films staring Tom Cruise, but don’t let that put you off. There are two types of books in this series – the long-form novels (which range from generally above par to fantastic) and the short stories. These generally are rubbish and I wouldn’t bother with another one. Jack Reacher, who was a Military Police officer, when he left the military became a wandering odd-job man. He earns enough from his pension to not have to work, but doesn’t want to be penned in with a house and family, so wanders the US, replacing rather than cleaning his clothes every few days, and apparently being the target of every woman’s desire. Sometimes police procedural, sometimes private investigator, sometimes a flashback to his military days (or earlier in some of the short stories) and usually all action. On the whole, glad I’ve been reading them, but I can’t really tell you which ones I’d miss out if I were to re-read them.
  • Series: The Laundry Files [Amazon UK] One part “BOFH“, one part Cthulhu story, and one part “Yes Minister” then mixed well. Bob starts his career in “The Laundry”, the occult version of MI6 as a recruit after his rendering engine accidentally nearly triggers an “incursion” from one of the nether realms… after all, you know the phrase “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”, it unfortunately was the wrong way around… magic basically is advanced calculations, and the more computing devices we have, the closer we come to “CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN” – a full-time incursion from the nether realms. Towards the more recent books, Bob gets married, splits up, encounters more than his fair share of mystical beasts and generally moves up towards a senior role at “The Laundry”, even when they threaten to close it. Strongly recommended to anyone working in IT.
  • Series: The Golden Arrow [Amazon UK] There’s a superhero on the loose, which is a bit odd, as superhero’s are from the realm of TV and Cartoons. MG works for the publishing house that created “The Golden Arrow” series, which was rebooted after the sad demise of the founder… but now, someone is replicating the scenes from the comic – tying up drug dealers and mob bosses and marking the scenes with golden arrows. MG is brought in by a cop who gets her sense of humour and needs her expertise on the character from the comics. Little does the cop know who else he’s bringing on board – her best friend is a Drag Queen (who may know more about The Golden Arrow than we thought) and her room-mate has suddenly started working out more (to improve his LARPing abilities, honest). Throw in the cast of the writing team at the publishing house (who, to be fair are mostly a bit paper-thin in their characters) and you have a fine story about superheroes.
  • Book: The Phoenix Project [Amazon UK] Anyone who worked in IT for a large company is likely to read the first few chapters of this and wince, a lot. It’s a parable about adopting Agile culture into your firm, with the mystical “old man in the corner of the inn” (from D&D fame) who will send you towards your foes and gain your party maximum experience points. The existing “Unicorn” (from memory) project has gone over budget, is out of time and everyone is pointing fingers at everyone else. The paranoid security guy is saying “no” to everything, and there’s a guy who is SO CRITICAL to the success of the project that any absence from him causes blockers everywhere else. It’s a reasonably good story and well worth a read if you’re “going DevOps” or “going Agile” any time soon – just to match up what you’re doing with what the people who started the craze thought you should be doing :) Late edit, this becomes a series, with The Unicorn Project released in November 2019. Well worth a read, and a great sequel.
  • Book: Transgression [Amazon UK] I wrote a review on this book in 2016 “An unexpectedly great book. Ari, a Jewish theoretical physicist who has lost his faith, Damian, an American experimental physicist who believes faith has destroyed civilisation, and Rivika, a Messianic Jewish archaeologist are transported through time to kill (or save) a lynchpin in humanity’s history, and potentially save the Jewish tribes from 2000 years of persecution.” That said, I held off from adding this to my list when I first authored it, because I didn’t find the subsequent books in the series to be quite as awe-inspiring as this book. That said, if you like Religious Fiction, the rest of the series (to date) are really good books, just not to the same standard as this one.

Recommendations up to 2019-01-15

  • Series: The Frontiers Saga – Part 1 [Amazon UK], Part 2 [Amazon UK] (completed 2020), Prequels (still in progress?) Good if you don’t mind buying each chapter separately. After a “digital plague” that killed most of the humans on Earth, and left us in a Dark Age of over 1000 years, Humans of Earth are starting to recover and re-establish ourselves in space. At which point, we’re now being attacked by the “Jung” – one of the more aggressive factions who fled Earth at the start of the plague. Earth has managed to open “The Ark” – a collection of all the technological advanced we’d made before the plague and use some of that knowledge to build a new technology – “Jump Drives”. During the first test of the Jump Drive on a “Real” ship, the test is sabotaged, and the ship jumps hundreds of light years, across the galaxy only to find another ex-colony in the midsts of a war. Can they make their way back, and recruit some allies on the way? (Yes, yes they can. And it’s a great romp… and still on-going. The first saga is 15 books long, the second is currently at 10, and there are currently 4 prequels, but I expect lots more to follow)
  • Series: Jumper Classic teleportation story. The first half of the first book was made into the first half of a passable film, but they then rewrote the rest of it. The books are much better (although the end of the last one is a bit meh)
  • Series: Nexus Mind linking drugs – pretty tight story too.
  • Series: The Rho Agenda, Sequel and Prequel Two spaceships are discovered on Earth. Scientists can’t figure out how to get into the first, but kids get into the second, “bond” with the ship, and stop the invasion of Earth by the species who lost the first one. Ably assisted later on by an Ex-CIA Assassin who has a touch of pre-cognition (due to… well, something from the Prequels) and his girlfriend (also an assassin).
  • Series: Sandman Slim Not so much Sci-fi. This is a magician who’s sent to hell before he died, and then fights his way back. Later on there’s lots of interactions with the Devil (who, in later books, he becomes for “reasons”), God (or rather, fragments of God) and the denizens of both realms.
  • Series: The Bridge Chronicles Great Cyberpunk stories about an amoral fixer. The full three-book series is available as a single e-book.
  • Series: The Lost Fleet SHIPS IN SPACE! The fate of the last of Earth’s fleet of ships rests in the hands of the legendary “Black Jack” – a captain who was recovered from his rescue pod one hundred years after his “last stand” was made famous for the deaths of all his crew but his destruction of the attacking fleet. Can he bring the fleet home… and at what cost?
  • Series: Spinward Fringe We follow a bounty hunter who lost his memory as he tries to find his past, and rescue most of humanity in the process.
  • Series: Samuil Petrovitch More Cyberpunk :) There was a nuclear explosion in Russia, wiping out most of the cities in Europe. Samuil lives in London, and just tries to survive, until he stops a kidnapping attempt in progress of one of the daughter of one of the most dangerous men in London. At the same time, AI is starting to rise up, and, well, Samuil ends up being one of the few people who’s able to negotiate with them.
  • Series: A Galaxy Unknown Another “Rescued from her life capsule” book, this sees the last survivor of a ship grinding her way up through the ranks and taking on the invading forces from (eventually several) enemies. There’s lots of space battles and miraculous wins. Quite a good romp :D
  • Series: Indexing Indexing is the modern day police procedural where the narrative in Fairy Tails bleed into our current world, where girls with pale skin, blood red lips and dark hair can enchant the birds from the trees just by singing, and sewing or spinning needles can cause you to fall asleep. Really enjoyable but only a couple of books.
  • Series: Rachel Peng (part of the wider “A Girl And Her Fed” web-comic universe, along with Hope Blackwell book 1, book 2 and Josh Glassman book 1) 500 elite members of various government branches were recruited into “The Program” several years ago, where they received a chip in their heads and drastic personality rewrites to make them compliant, with the aim being a force of staff that could be taken over and used for corporate greed. Fortunately, in the AGAHF webcomic one of those program members was able to break his personality reprogramming and managed to stop the program. They formed a new government department called OACET, and now loan their staff (nowhere near the 500 members are left due to how drastic the reprogramming was) to other departments. Rachel Peng is one of those people, and she’s loaned to the LAPD. Rachel can use her chip, not just to join the OACET hive-mind, but also to control technology and, as a side line, to help her see. These books and the Josh books are fantastic, and you don’t need to have read the comics to make sense of the books. I wasn’t that taken with the Hope Blackwell books, but… eh, they’re OK I guess :)
  • Series: Silo (sometimes also referred to as “Wool”) This is a dark, post-apocalyptic story about people who’s whole world is “The Silo”. There are cameras reminding the people inside the silo about how bad the world is outside, but if you resist the law of the silo, you’re sent outside, and the last thing you need to do is to clean the lenses on the cameras before you die. It’s a really really good series and very powerful.
  • Series: Lens of Time Imagine being able to see what happened in the past. All you need to do is to see the light from that far away… But, of course, we don’t have faster than light drives, so to travel that far, we’d have already seen the event happen before we got there… Except, someone’s built a faster than light drive, so now we can! Huzzah. Turns out there’s something coming, and we need to travel 65000 light years away to find out what it is, as it’s been here before! Lots of suspension of disbelief needed here, but, it’s a great series and really enjoyable.
  • Series: Hail DRONE! Vigilante drones that kill! After a 9/11 style event, billionaire energy tycoon recruits kids to kill those who caused the attack.
  • Series: Magic 2.0 Reality has a bit of a glitch in it – there’s a file you can find in computer systems that let you make changes to reality, including having money appear, being able to fly, travel in time and teleport. What do you naturally do? TRAVEL BACK TO BE MERLIN (or find Atlantis)…. same as everyone else who found the file… D’oh! The earlier books are better than the later ones, but… it’s a good concept.

Picture is “Library” by “Daniel Go” and is released under a Creative Commons By-Attribution, Non-Commercial license.