books to read

recommendations by allaire mikháil

date: 06 Apr 2006




Jutta Ahrens - "Der König von Assur (King of Assur)"
history, m/m romance
Der König von Assur   In pre-Christian times the sovereign ruler of most of Mesopotamia was the former high priest of Assyria's war god Aschschur, proud and cruel Asarhaddon. He stole the throne from his brother Assurdan and then set out to conquer the neighbouring lands; those who did not surrender were mercilessly slain or sacrificed to Aschschur to satiate Asarhaddon's lust for blood and suffering. A life-threatening wound suffered at the hands of his mistress forces Asarhaddon to accept the help of a priest preaching altruism. In return, he has to spend a year as a commoner following the priest's peaceful teachings, and thus changed by the experience, he slowly learns to accept friendship and moderation in his rule. Falling in love with the prince of a subjugated kingdom ultimatedly seals Asarhaddon's fate.

( >>> click here for a more detailed summary)

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Lois McMaster Bujold - "Shards of Honor", "Barrayar"
sci-fi, m/f romance with m/m elements
Cordelia's Honor   Cordelia Naismith is an astrocartographer from Beta Colony, heading a company of scientific prima donnas on an expedition to map out and catalog flora and fauna on a newly discovered planet. She was expecting the unexpected: hexapods, floating creatures, odd parasites... She was not, however, expecting to find hostile humans on an uninhabited planet, and even less to encounter Aral Vorkosigan, Barrayaran career military, known as "The Butcher of Komarr", whose past and and present loyalties force her to reevaluate the principles of honor, duty and sacrifice. First stuck in a trek for survival with Vorkosigan and then on a mission with a predictable ending, Cordelia and Aral try their best to keep such a fragile thing as love alive during an interplanetary war, and later during the political unrest on Barrayar.

( >>> click here for a more detailed summary of "Shards of Honor")

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Diana Gabaldon - "Highland-Saga"
(Outlander aka Cross Stitch, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, Drums of Autumn, The Fiery Cross & A Breath of Snow and Ashes)

history, fantasy, m/f romance with m/m elements
Outlander   The epic tale begins when Claire Randall, a young combat nurse in World War II, travels to Scotland with her beloved husband to re-ignite their marriage interrupted by the war. Hiking one day, Claire accidentally passes through the stones of an ancient stone circle and wakes up to find herself in 16th century Scotland. Lost, alone, confused and unable to get back to the stone circle, Claire is regarded with suspicion by the English and the Scotsmen alike and forced into a marriage of convenience with Jamie Fraser, a young Highland warrior. When finally the Jakobite Rising looms on the horizon, Claire has already fallen in love with Jamie and is torn about returning to her time. Still, the dangerous situation demands it, and it will take her many years until she returns - to Scotland, Jamie's side and a New World across the ocean waiting for colonization.

( >>> click here for a more detailed summary of the first book)

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Antonia S. Byatt - "Possession"
history, literature, m/f romance
Possession   While doing research in the British Museum, Roland Michell, assistant to a literature professor in London, discovers some letters from Randolph Henry Ash, a poet Laureate during the reign of Queen Victoria, that suggest a romantic relationship with Christabel LaMotte, a lesser-known poetess. Ash was known as a paragon of devotion with regards to his wife, and LaMotte as a chaste spinster who prefered to live in solitude with a close female friend. Roland enlists Maud Bailey, a English scholar who studies LaMotte, and the two begin their journey as literary detectives. As they unearth the truth about the long-forgotten romance while desperately concealing their purpose from competing researchers, their involvement becomes increasingly urgent and personal and pulls each of them from solitude and loneliness.

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Anne Rice - "The Body Thief"
horror, gothic, m/m elements
The Body Thief   Weary of immortality and longing for some form of redemption, the vampire Lestat impulsively accepts the offer of a sorcerer to exchange bodies for two days. It comes as no surprise that there is a double-cross, and Lestat is trapped in the body of a human. He enlists the aid of his friend David Talbot, an elite member of the Talamasca, a semi-secret order of scholars dedicated to the study of the occult, while discovering the pleasures and pains of mortality, and getting closer to Talbot than he ever thought he would. Still, they must find a way to unseat the wizard from Lestat's supernaturally powerful body and restore the vampire to his rightful shell, or the consequences might turn out more bloody than Lestat at his worst.

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Nancy Baker - "The Night inside" (aka "Kiss of the Vampire")
horror, gothic, graphic m/f sex
The Night inside   Hired to research the history of a warehouse in Toronto, grad student Ardeth Alexander unknowingly becomes party to the capture of Dimitri Rozokov, a fifteenth-century Russian aristocrat - and vampire - who had preyed on the city one hundred years earlier. Ardeth is kidnapped to provide nourishment for Rozokov, who, aside from his taste for blood, is far less a monster than her captors who are using him in snuff movies. Once Ardeth breaks through the vampire's madness and sees the man within, the nightly feedings become more than necessity, even something to be longed for. Desperate to survive, Ardeth makes a daring decision - one fueled by the promise of immortality, the lust for revenge, and the fulfillment of desire...

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Susan Cooper - "The Dark is Rising" Sequence
(Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King & Silver on the Tree)

fantasy, teenaged readers
The Dark is Rising   Three siblings, Simon, Jane, and Barney Drew, are drawn into the ancient struggle between Light and Dark when during a summer vacation in Cornwall they find an old map that is somehow connected with the legendary King Arthur. But their search to find a golden grail is only the beginning. They later join forces with Will Stanton, a boy who, at the age of eleven, was introduced to his destiny: He is the Sign-Seeker, last of the immortal Old Ones, destined to battle the powers of the Dark, and stand beside a boy named Bran whose pivotal place in the upcoming events was foretold centuries ago. Together, the five children pit the power of good against evil in a dangerous race against time that includes crystal swords, the six great Signs of the Light, the Greenwitch and a silver-eyed dog that can see the wind.

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Mary Steward - "The Crystal Cave"
fantasy, Arthurian legend
The Crystal Cave   Martha Steward's take of the Arthurian legend tells of a young boy in Wales, a king's bastard grandson who is constantly treated with suspicion - Myrddin Emrys, later known as Merlin. Merlin's childhood is formed by the absence of his reticent, convent-bound mother and his unnamed and unknown father. As the bastard grandson of a local king, Merlin is the object of both envy and ridicule. His strange powers and predictions earn him greater status as a pariah, and he leaves home as a preadolescent. Returning years later as a young man, empowered by self-knowledge and magic, Merlin finds himself caught in the currents of the shifting kingdoms. His destiny leads him from prophesying before the High King Vortigern to the crowning of Uther Pendragon... and the conception of Arthur, the future High King.

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Della van Hise - "Killing Time"
sci-fi, Star Trek TOS, m/m subtext
Killing Time   This book is the most controversial one about the characters of the original series, first, because it is the most blatantly K/S of all the Trek novels published by Pocket, and second, because even Star Trek fans remain divided about it. It exists in two editions of which the original one is the one a K/S fan should be looking for (the German version, thankfully, is also unabridged). The novel is about a Romulan time-tampering project that has transported the Enterprise and the galaxy into an alternate dimension of reality. Now, Kirk is an embittered young ensign and Spock is a besieged Starship commander. Lured into a Romulan trap, Captain Spock and Ensign Kirk must free themselves from both their captors and their own altered selves before the galaxy hurtles toward total destruction.

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Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb - "The Wyvern's Spur"
fantasy, Forgotten Realms
The Wyvern's Spur   This story is set in Immersea, a relatively small city deep within Cormyr in the D&D world of Forgotten Realms. We learn early that someone has stolen a family heirloom from the Wyvernspur crypt. Giogini, the family's heir, attempts to find out who has done it and why, helped by a kender turned donkey, Olive Ruskettle, whose nimble fingers straying into other people's belongings caused the unwilling transformation. The answer lies buried in the past, and in the mysterious words of the crypt guardian Giogi is scared to death of.

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Dick Francis - "Whip Hand"
crime
Whip Hand   In "Odds against", ex-jockey and private investigator Sid Halley lost his already crippled left hand, and has since attempted to come to terms with his prosthetic and the emotional repercussions of being handicapped. In the new book, Halley has three separate mysteries dumped on him: a mail fraud, a syndicate fixing and racehorse tampering. The third proves to be the most harrowing for Halley when he agrees to help figuring out why the most promising horses of one of England's top racehorse trainers have been performing so poorly, and encounters a ruthless enemy determinded to stop the investigation in its tracks at all costs. When what's left of Halley's independence is threatened, Sid has to face his fears and self-doubts or give up the only job he can imagine doing after racing is no longer an option.

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Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins - "Left behind"
modern Christian literature, mystery, apocalypse
Left behind   The books of this series have spawned many spin-offs and sequels, are a huge financial success for the authors and remain disputed among the various Christian churches worldwide. Considering the authors seem to support Jerry Falwell, I am not entirely comfortable about them either. Nonetheless, they are certainly addictive. "Left behind" and its sequels depict the last days of the world. One day, in one cataclysmic moment, millions around the globe disappear. Those left behind, terror stricken, are desperate to determine what happened. The most absurd explanations are made, but a select few discover that everything has been foretold in the Bible: The disappearances - of all true Christian believers - have ushered in a seven-year period called the Tribulation, during which the earth will suffer from the most catastrophic calamities in its history, and those left behind face war, famine, plagues, and natural disasters so devastating that only one in four people will survive. Odds are even worse for enemies of the Antichrist and his new world order.

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CLAMP - "Wish"
(Wish #1, #2, #3 & #4)

manga
Wish   "Wish" is a four-part manga created by the all-female manga artist team CLAMP, and perfect for introducing a novice to the genre. When Shuichiro rescues an angel he is granted a single wish. The problem? Shuichiro can't think of any wishes that he couldn't grant himself. Refusing to leave Shuichiro without granting a wish Kohaku, the angel, moves in with the young doctor to help out around the house and wait for a chance to return the favor. Of course, angels aren't the only supernatural beings wandering the Earth. Soon, demons and archangels alike are stopping by Shuichiro's house, making things difficult for his angelic roommate.

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Lynn Flewelling - "Luck in the Shadows"
(Luck in the Shadows, Stalking Darkness & Traitor's Moon)

fantasy, m/m romance
Luck in the Shadows   When young orphaned Alec of Kerry is taken prisoner for a crime he didn't commit, he is certain that his life is at an end - only to be freed by his cellmate, Seregil of Rhiminee. Seregil maintains several identities: spy, rogue, thief, and noble of Skala. Taking on Alec as his apprentice is only the first step of many adventures. On Seregil's side, Alec learns to travel many roads that lead him from Skala to the Oreska school of magic, to the royal court, into the middle of a Leran conspiracy, toward a war he never suspected was brewing, and even to Aurenen, the mysterious and mystical land to the south. He learns things about his heritage he never suspected, holds Skala's fate in his hands... and falls in love.

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Philip Pullman - "His Dark Materials"
(The Golden Compass aka Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife & The Amber Spyglass)

fantasy, religious critique, teenaged readers
His Dark Materials   Lyra Belacqua is a precocious 11-year-old orphan growing up within the precincts of Jordan College in Oxford, England - but a different England than we know. Here, in Lyra's world, everyone has a personal dæmon, a lifelong animal familiar, and science, theology and magic are closely intertwined. Lyra sets out on a journey to rescue kidnapped children that are cruely separated from their dæmons, and learns about experiments made with a strange substance called Dust. Meanwhile, Will Parry, a young boy living in modern-day Oxford, England, runs away from home and, on his own journey, finds a powerful knife that can cut windows to other worlds. Will and Lyra meet and discover that Dust, dark matter, dæmons, soul-eating specters, God and Angels are all connected, and that they are part of a prophecy that will determine the future of all worlds.

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Larry Niven & Steven Barnes - "Dreampark", "The California Voodoo Game", "The Barsoom Project"
sci-fi, fantasy, LARP
Dreampark   In 2050, Dream Park is a fantasy theme park offering live action roleplaying games - gigantic events financed mainly by the media rights of the game-in-progress, and full of high-tech cameras, holographic projectors, NPCs in form of actors led directly by the game developers, and other VR equipment that makes in-game "magic" and "battles" almost indistinguishable from reality. In each book, gamers gather at the Park for another event, but the park's security chief Alex Griffin has learned that things rarely run smoothly behind the scenes. Whether a Park security guard is murdered and a valuable research property stolen, a mentally unstable woman wants to find out the truth behind a decade-old in-park murder, or a highly-paid thief intends to smuggle out new technology during a game, Griffin learns that joining the game is often the only chance to catch the culprit, and stumbles from the world of the South Pacific's cargo cult into Eskimo mythos, and from there into magic and voodoo in the Californian desert.

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Peter Lefcourt - "The Dreyfus Affair"
sports, m/m romance
The Dreyfus Affair   On the surface, all-American shortstop Randy Dreyfus has it all - a brilliant career in baseball and the perfect wife and family. If only he didn't suddenly find himself falling in love with D. J. Pickett, the team's (black) second baseman. The more he tries to fight the attraction, the more he is willing to risk everything for it. The rest of his problems seem negligible in comparison: his wife thinks he's sleeping with another woman, his shrink is driving him crazy and he wants to kill his unruly Dalmatian. When Randy and D. J. are caught kissing in a Neiman-Marcus dressing room, they are banned from baseball for life. Their team, having just lost its two best players, faces formidable opposition in the World Series. When an outraged sportswriter rallies fans and team members behind them with his column, the political and professional fallout affects the World Series and the White House alike.

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Celia S. Friedman - "Coldfire Trilogy"
(Black Sun Rising, Crown of Shadows & When True Night Falls)

fantasy, m/m subtext
Coldfire   For over a thousand years, the colonists of the planet Erna have struggled to gain control over a land prone to seismic instability and infused with a wild, near-sentient natural force known as "the fae". While sorcerers and adepts manipulate the dark and light sides of this power, the Church maintains its stance in opposition to its use. As the dark side of the fae grows in strength, feeding off the nightmares and greed of the minds that are drawn to it, two unlikely men form an unwilling alliance to battle the source of evil: Damian Vryce, a warrior priest, and Gerald Tarrant, an immortal sorcerer reviled by the very Church he once founded. Together, they try to prevent the demonic domination of Erna and in doing so, must face the inevitable corruption of their once so clear-cut allegiances - none of them will emerge unchanged from the experience.

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