A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.
I’ve used a totally unscientific approach in constructing this list of ebooks. I can’t say these are the best ebooks on the market, as quite obviously I haven’t read them all or even 000.1 percent of them, but these are the ones I’ve been reading and enjoying during the past few months. Some are traditionally published, some are indie, and the list includes non-fiction, YA, comedy, historical, sci-fi, autobiography, thriller and literary fiction, so hopefully something for everybody. I might well revisit some of these books in the future with a longer review, but for now, here are a few review snippets:
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.
What if society wasn’t fundamentally rational, but was motivated by insanity? This thought sets Jon Ronson on an utterly compelling adventure into the world of madness. Along the way, Jon meets psychopaths, those whose lives have been touched by madness and those whose job it is to diagnose it, including the influential psychologist who developed the Psychopath Test, from whom Jon learns the art of psychopath-spotting. A skill which seemingly reveals that madness could indeed be at the heart of everything . . . Combining Jon’s trademark humour, charm and investigative incision, The Psychopath Test is both entertaining and honest, unearthing dangerous truths and asking serious questions about how we define normality in a world where we are increasingly judged by our maddest edges. ‘I began The Psychopath Test late at night, tired, dispirited and ill – then found myself laughing like the proverbial loon for page after page’ Will Self, Guardian ‘The belly laughs come thick and fast – my God, he is funny . . . Ronson’s new book is provocative and interesting, and you will, I guarantee, zip merrily through it.’ Observer.
If you are at all interested in psychopaths (and really, who isn’t?) or psychiatry or Scientology or the two Davids (they would be David Icke and David Shayler) then this is the book for you. Written with wry British humour and self-deprecation (the narrative has a touch of the Louis Therouxs), Jon Ronson details his travels around the globe in a quest to learn more about psychopaths and the people who diagnose and “treat” them. I read this book in a day (yesterday. I was trying to finish it for this blog post). A snip at £2.99.
The autobiographical surf story of an uncelebrated Southern California surfer from the sixties, with accounts of his many surfing safaris along the Southern California coast, Florida, Mexico, Hawaii and Europe. The author describes his lifelong love of the ocean, the numerous characters and adventures he encountered along the way, and how he got back his “stoke” after a hiatus of almost ten years away from surfing. He shares his observations of what it has meant to be a surfer for over four decades. As a teenager when surfing exploded after Gidget in the sixties, seeing the transition of surfing into the mainstream of SoCal culture and lifestyle, and finally, being an active “old man” surfer today.
An absolutely brilliant memoir of an unknown surfer who has been riding waves for forty years. I learned so much about the evolution of surfing during the second half of the last century from this book and even though Stoked Again is a quiet, charming tale of one man’s recollections of his travels and time in the water, the book has enough human interest to make it a page-turner. I was particularly thrilled when the author described his visits to my local beach break of Fistral in Newquay. At 77p it’s a not-to-be-missed bargain for surfers and landlubbers alike.
Iain had written a book about The Brethren MC and how powerful they could be.
He knew it was a dangerous thing to have done, whether they liked it or not, and one that had taken him part way into their world.
And now it was his turn.
Now a new President, with big boots to fill, was going to make him an offer he was going to find difficult to refuse, and once in the outlaw biker’s world, would he ever be able to get out again?
And as an outsider on the inside, with serious trouble looming, who, if anyone, can he trust?
The sequel to the gripping Heavy Duty People, which I raved about here. Heavy Duty Attitude takes some literary risks, most notably in inserting the author into the narrative as the novel’s protagonist. Yes, Iain Parke appears in this novel as a journalist investigating the Brethren Motorcycle Club and as the novel progresses, Iain finds himself sucked into a dangerous turf war between rival biker gangs. Just like its predecessor Heavy Duty People, Heavy Duty Attitude is a gloriously addictive thriller. I am eagerly awaiting the third and final installment of this series. £1.97
‘I look up at the dark, unblinking eyes of the house and I get the weirdest feeling . . . It’s the feeling of being pulled into something and being unable to stop it happening . . .’ Tabitha is used to changing schools and moving house. But when her family move into Weston Manor, something is different. It’s as if the house has been waiting for her. There are lavender smells which come from nowhere and the old servants’ bells ring in the night. She can hear crying in empty rooms. Tabitha’s always been imaginative. Even her best friend Gemma knows that. But this time, could she actually be telling the truth?
An eerie YA novel about a teenage girl who moves with her family into stately home Weston Manor, after her father gets a job as Keeper of the premises. This is a dazzling YA novel, awash with fascinating information about the period details of the manor, some painful tension between the mother and father characters, ultra-creepy ghostly encounters and a truly brilliant shock ending. £3.30
Hal Spacejock doesn’t mind navigating to an uncharted planet, landing in a deserted field, dodging customs and loading a suspicious cargo under cover of darkness.
That’s a normal day’s work.
No, the real battle starts when the customer sends a broken-down pilot to fly Hal’s beloved ship …
This is a recommendation from my techie-geek-sci-fi-fan husband who has been banging on about this novel for weeks. It’s apparently a comedy sci-fi novel in the vein of Red Dwarf. And it costs . . . absolutely nothing. It is the first of a series though so be prepared to shell out for sequels. As with all of the books featured here, clicking the cover image will take you to the right page in the Kindle store.
A CRIME UNSPEAKABLE: Australia, 1919. Quinn Walker returns from the Great War to the New South Wales town of Flint: the birthplace he fled ten years earlier when he was accused of a heinous act.
A LIE UNFORGIVABLE: Aware of the townsmen’s vow to hang him, Quinn takes to the surrounding hills. Here, deciding upon his plan of action, and questioning just what he has returned for, he meets Sadie Fox.
A BOND UNBREAKABLE: This mysterious girl seems to know, and share, his darkest fear. And, as their bond greatens, Quinn learns what he must do to lay the ghosts of his past, and Sadie’s present, to rest.
An Australian historical novel heavy on heartache from page 1. The first chapter is shocking but the book soon takes on a less melodramatic tone as it details the strange friendship between a damaged WW1 veteran and a young girl running wild in the Australian bush. Beware of the scene in which Quinn recollects his sister’s murder, which is a critical moment, though very painful to read. £6.64
Rhumba by Elaine Proctor.
Tottenham, London. Ten-year-old Flambeau waits for his young mother to arrive from the Congo, along the same dangerous route that the human traffickers smuggled him. Homesick and pining for love, he sees a glimpse of life in Knight, a fellow Congolese. Knight, a sapeur – dressed to the nines and dressed to kill – is a gangster who lives for two purposes: to be noticed, and to dance away the immigrants’ troubles on a Friday night at Le Pitch, Broadwater Farm. And, who knows, he might just be able to use his contacts to find Flambeau’s mother, Bijou. Knight has a girlfriend, Eleanor: a pale Scottish beauty whose love for him is total, but who can never be accepted into the world of Le Pitch. She becomes Flambeau’s confidante, and he her mentor in the art of the Rhumba – the dance that will help her steal her lover’s heart. But Knight’s past is so troubled, and his present so dangerous, that to challenge the traffickers to find Bijou might be more than his life is worth – something a ten-year-old child cannot be expected to understand.
A fascinating and sympathetic tale of a young Congolese boy’s new life in Tottenham and his subsequent search for his mother. The novel has one of the most haunting first chapters I’ve read, though it is not for the fainthearted. The growing friendship between Eleanor and Flambeau is touching, realistic and full of grit. The ending, though beautiful in imagery, could have packed a heavier punch. However, the prose in this book is so gorgeous as to be inspirational, and the novel is worth reading for that alone. £8.99
Lost Fleet: Fearless by Jack Campbell.
Outnumbered by the superior forces and firepower of the Syndicate Worlds, the Alliance Fleet continues its dangerous retreat across the enemy star system. Led by legendary Captain John “Black Jack” Geary, the Alliance is desperately trying to return home with its captured prize: the key to the Syndic hypernet.
Another sci-fi novel worth mentioning is the second book in the Lost Fleet series by Jack Campbell. Lost Fleet: Fearless is a compelling Space Opera that features high-octane, technically believable space battles without neglecting the more human drama that quite naturally arises between irritable colleagues stranded together in space. £5.47.
Last but not least, some. . .
Sadomasochism for Accountants by Rosy Barnes:
A quirky comedy of misfits: Sequin leotards and Excel spreadsheets go head-to-head when an overlooked but resourceful woman recruits the exotic clientele of a South London fetish club to help her win back her accountant ex.
Overlooked obsessive Paula may not exactly be setting the world on fire, but she’s happy enough with her quiet life and her boyfriend of eight years, accountant Alan. That is, until the day she comes home to find the office psychopath, Belinda, moving in instead.Told that she’s too boring, Paula puts her best thigh-length leather-booted foot forward and sets off for her local fetish establishment, Club Liscious: (“wrinklies welcome”). Together with Luda the transvestite brickie, Gretchen the vegan dominatrix and a naked man in a mask called Fred, Paula hatches a plan to prove she is exciting after all and win Alan back.When her nemesis, the ruthless Belinda, embarks on a sinister plan of her own, the scene is set for a surreal yet thrilling climax.
Rosy’s first book, recently re-released for the ebook market is a comedy novel that blasts along, tipping its hat to some typical chick-lit conventions whilst cheekily subverting them. If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the doors of your local friendly fetish club but you’re too shy to visit, Sadomasochism For Accountants is for you. £3.08
A Dangerous Man by Anne Brooke
Michael Jones, a young gay artist and part-time prostitute, will do anything to stage his first exhibition. When he falls in love with rich financier, Jack Hutchinson, he seems set to achieve his goal. But a net of antagonistic relationships and inner battles encroaches upon him, so that the consequences of Michael’s pursuit emerge in tragedy, leaving him having to fight for all he holds dear, and in the only way he knows how.
Anne Brooke is the most prolific of the Book Foxes and has literally dozens of novels, novellas and short stories available in the Kindle Store. Years before she was a member of Vulpes Libris, I found much to admire in Anne’s excellent thriller A Dangerous Man. The full Vulpes Libris review can be found here, but to summarise, A Dangerous Man is a dark and gripping tale of passion, art and betrayal. £1.88
Snake Beach by Lisa Glass.
“It was before the birds fell out of the sky. Before them girls went missing . . . “Life is good for Jenny Grand, living in a beachside chalet on the Cornish coast, chilling out and body-boarding, until one day her ex-boyfriend Han returns to her home town of Hayle. Shortly afterwards, the town is invaded by TV modelling talent show Britain’s Next Catwalk Queen, and everything begins to go wrong.Part romance, part mystery, and part coming-of-age story, Snake Beach is a gripping novel for young adults.
My own YA adult novel. I had high hopes for this novel after it was taken on by a top literary agency, but after some near-misses with the big publishing houses I decided to e-publish it via Kindle and Smashwords. The book is not easily categorised, which is possibly its downfall, but it has a dash of mystery, a dash of romance and a plot which involves a group of crazy wannabe models competing in a reality TV show. £0.98