October Reviews

So I’m on time this month. I can’t really claim full credit. I had no internet for a week so had plenty of time to organise lists etc.

Films etc.
Other than news and political commentary I’ve only really watched Star Trek Discovery episodes 1 – 5. I liked the new concept, with good special effects, strong female characters and a very multiracial/multi species crew. But once the main characters were introduced, the plots were, I thought, tired, and I got bored. Three stars, and I would watch more if someone else was switching it on…

Books
A good crop of five star reads this month.
Foxglove Copse by Alex Beecroft*****
This was my introduction to Porthkennack, a fictional Cornish world which was the creation, I think, of Alex, but has been invaded by a number of my favourite authors. I have bought the next five books and am really looking forward to them. The stories are all standalones but set in the same town. This one was exciting and interesting, a well plotted thriller with an m/m sub plot. Sam, who is escaping his London family and job, joins Ruan, a local, to investigate an internet troll who is also responsible for nasty ‘curses’ in the form of sacrificed animals, intended to force Sam’s farmer landlord to sell. Recommended.
The Best Corpse for the Job by Charlie Cochrane*****
The introduction to another series by Charlie Cochrane who never disappoints. This is the start of the Lindenshaw mysteries, set in a small village with a teacher at the local school helping a local police inspector investigate a murder. Plenty of red herrings, a lot of realistic school detail, and some nicely developed characters. Again, I’m looking forward to the sequels. Recommended.
The Last Dragonlord by Joanne Bertin*****
A very competent fantasy novel with some lovely dragons and a lot of very well drawn characters and some great world building. The story was exciting and when the hero and heroine finally got together I heaved a sigh of relief. I bought the book, with its sequel, in a charity shop, and am looking forward to reading Dragon and Phoenix. Recommended.
An Unsuitable Heir by J.K. Charles*****
This was the final story in the Sins of the Cities series which has been consistently good. I love the depiction of Victorian London and society high and low. By the time this novel starts the heir to the earldom has been found, but turns out to be reluctant to take his place. He is someone with gender issues which are sensitively portrayed, as are his problems in denying the chance of a fortune to his twin sister, who luckily meets the man of her dreams. Well worth reading but it won’t make sense unless you’ve read the earlier books, An Unseen Attraction, and An Unnatural Vice. I recommend the trilogy.
Dating Ryan Alback by J.E.Birk*****
This was a fluffy contemporary m/m romance, but it was excellent fluff. Jason wins a date with a movie star, Ryan, in a talk show contest. The awkwardness is endearing and realistic, there is plenty of angst, the minor characters are well drawn, and although the ending is happy that is never a certainty. Recommended.
Dead Ringer by Heidi Belleau and Sam Schooler*****
Brandon turns escort/sex worker to pay the bills on a house inherited from his grandparents. Grandfather was a movie star and Brandon meets Percy, an avid fan of James Ringer (who I think is loosely modelled on James Dean). Percy is a partial invalid. The ensuing problems are engrossing and the detail on the escort business is fascinating. A great read and I will be looking for more work by these authors. Highly recommended.

Incidentally, I only found Dead Ringer and Dating Ryan Alback (see above) because they were part of Riptide’s Anniversary Sale. That shows that sales are an important way to get books, and their authors, known!

Then there were some good reads in the four star category.
The Heart of Texas by RJ Scott****
The son of an oil billionaire arranges a same sex marriage for himself in order to retain his inheritance but there are plenty of twists and turns in the story before the hero can breathe easily. As with a lot of this author’s work, the writing is excellent and the characters attractive, but the plot is slightly unrealistic.
Dirty Laundry by Heidi Cullinan****
I understand this was expanded from a short story and to be honest, I thought it would have worked better in a shorter form. Adam is ‘rescued’ by Denver when he is being bullied in a laundromat. Both men have problems and secrets that need to be sorted out before they can move on. Nicely written but for me, it has too much explicit sex which tends to get boring.
Back to You by Chris Scully****
Alex goes back to his old home town when his father is dying, and is reunited with his childhood friend Ben. However, the old mystery of Ben’s missing sister threatens them both when Alex, a journalist, investigates. Quite gripping but there is some unrealistic behaviour on everyone’s part, past and present.
The Law of Attraction by Jay Northcote****
Alec, a lawyer, finds that his one-night-stand Ed is his new temporary assistant. Competent writing but far too much explicit sex.

And one disappointment.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie***
After reading Half of a Yellow Sun, which is a wonderful novel exploring the Nigerian civil war, I was really looking forward to this. But the story of Ifemelu, who returns to Nigeria as an Americanah and is reunited with her high school/uni boyfriend, Obinze (who is married) meanders through their past and present with no surprises or excitement. The writing is beautiful, as one would expect from this author, but I kept waiting for the main story to start and it never did. The book explores American concepts of race from the point of view of an outsider, and is of interest in that respect (speaking as another outside who finds American ideas about race quite hard to understand) but I think I would have preferred the ‘blog’ that Ifemelu wrote which gave her her ‘living’ in America. The excerpts in the story, from the fictional blog, were perhaps the best bits! I found it hard to empathise with either of the main characters, both of whom were deeply flawed and at the same time less than interesting. I know Adichie is highly thought of, and that people are currently saying she should be on our university reading lists, but I think this example of her work is just ‘litfic’ with much less depth than I had hoped for.

Fanfic
I have been concentrating on the stories for the Big Bang for the Professionals fandom. For those of you who have never heard of Big Bangs, this is a fanfic tradition in which long(ish) stories are accompanied by art – paintings, photoshopped montages, videos – made by artist fans. The collaboration of the writers and artists together with encouragement from ‘cheerleaders’ once the contribution list is announced, and the beta/editing services of other fans give the whole concept great appeal. I am not recommending any of the works I have read, because unless you are in the fandom they would not be altogether appealing. Most of them are what are called AUs or alternative universe stories (I and a co-writer contributed one of these). The pleasure in the reading comes largely from seeing how the canon characters behave in entirely different circumstances.
However, a solid diet of Professionals gets to be indigestible, even for a fan, and I do have two recommendations for the month from other reading.
Of Witch I Am Familiar by Brumeier***** which you can find at https://archiveofourown.org/works/7825753#main
This is also an AU, this time with characters from Stargate Atlantis transformed into a witch’s animal familiars. The story is endearing if you like magic, cats, and ravens, even if you have no idea about the original show. 3,411 words.
An Extra Cup by Small_Hobbit*****: you can find it at http://archiveofourown.org/works/12442674
Back in my March reviews I recommended the writings of Small_Hobbit. You can find her work on AO3 at http://archiveofourown.org/users/Small_Hobbit/pseuds/Small_Hobbit and dip in almost anywhere. Some of her offerings are newspaper items or diary entries couched in the style of the original Holmes stories and the newspapers they appeared in. Some are pure fantasy, with Mouselet, a mouse who lives in the wainscot at Baker Street and is in love with Inspector Hopkins. It was my birthday in October and the writer (who I know quite well in real life as well as online) wrote me a birthday ficlet because she knows I love Mouselet. Only 252 words so do go and read it! Despite the fandom connection, it should be accessible to everyone who has ever heard of Sherlock Holmes!

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