March Reviews

    Films etc.

Given that Game of Thrones is seven episodes, I watched ten things this month apart from my normal diet of politics and nature documentaries.

I, Daniel Blake*****
Excellent story that shows how people are affected by benefit cuts and the ways Social Services are obliged to deal with them. Sad, horribly true (despite being fiction) and hopefully influential in much the same way as Cathy Come Home was for earlier generations of politicians.

Game of Thrones Season 7 *****
What can I say? Apparently Season 8, which will be the last, will not be aired until 2019 and may have fewer episodes (though some might be feature length). And presumably the final book will not be available till after that. Whilst I deplore the marketing and production decisions, I love the story so much that I will just have to find a way to cope until 2019.

12 Dogs of Christmas 2****
I expected to be bored but it was a pleasant film with some good underlying messages. The dogs, of course, helped. A young woman who returns to her home town for a funeral is caught up in an effort to save the dog rescue centre owned by the person who died.

Mama Mia***
The Abba Music was nice. Other than that, I thought it was rubbish. Poor plot and dialogue. The actors did a valiant job with the material they were given.

    Books

I seem to have been reading non-stop this month (blame the weather?) and a lot of what I read was excellent. Remember five stars means highly recommended!

So let’s start with the excellent:

Jingo by Terry Pratchett *****
I thought I’d read this and it turned out I hadn’t. I really enjoyed it, but I can say that about all Pratchett’s books. This is the one that looks at war, particularly the beginnings.

Out! by JL Merrow*****
This is the third in the Shamwell series. A workaholic accountant gets custody of his rebellious teenage daughter and ‘retires’ to the country where he meets a charity worker who doesn’t approve of his work in high finance. Lovely writing, the teenagers are brilliantly drawn, and the main protagonists are well developed. I am beginning to wonder if this and one or two other series are realistic – I’m not sure how many successful gay romances one location can sustain. However, it makes good escapist fiction and it’s nice spotting characters from the previous books.

Forest Dancer by Susan Roebuck*****
Probably my favourite book of the month. Reviewed separately at https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/forest-dancer-a-review/

Heart Trouble by DJ Jamison*****
Vol 1 of Hearts and Health series
A nurse who is still recovering from a broken relationship meets a patient who he mistakenly thinks is a biker, an adrenaline junkie. The guy is in fact a teacher, trying out some extreme sports for a work assignment. The story has Ben and Gage at cross purposes for most of the time but eventually all is explained.

The Dinosaur Hunters by Deborah Cadbury*****
An account of the work of nineteenth century geologists to establish the concept of dinosaurs. I intend to review this (and other books on the same topic) in a separate post so won’t go into too much detail, but can say that this one comes highly recommended.

Crossfire by Jackie Keswick*****
A new boyfriend (this is an mm romance) turns out to be threatened by his (female) ex from a mafia family. The plot is gripping and the action is all the more interesting because of the central theme of the relationship between the boyfriend and his sister who helps save the day.

2018 State of Hate by Hope not Hate*****
I hesitated to class this as a book as it has a semi-magazine format but it’s long, with in-depth articles about the rise of, and current state of, right wing groups in UK and Europe. I knew most of the general information but there were details that were fascinating (especially about Eastern Europe) and it will make a good reference work on the subject.

A Gathering Storm by Joanna Chambers ***** Porthkennack series
This is an interesting historical story in the series where various authors set their stories in the same fictional Cornish town. A physicist has become fascinated by the occult and is researching the idea of contacting spirits using electricity. He is laughed out of Oxford and London and retreats to Porthkennack where he meets a land agent who has Romany ancestry but is nevertheless not a believer in any kind of spiritualism. The pair get off to a bad start and the slow growth of trust and an appreciation of each other’s beliefs and work form a fascinating tale.

English Place Names by AD Mills*****
(an Oxford dictionary spin-off)
Well, obviously I haven’t read it cover to cover. The introduction is fascinating and shows just how much of what we think we know about place names can often be wrong. Once I’d read that, I turned to various places known to me, and found I could get lost for hours, just as I can in an atlas or a dictionary. If you’ve ever wondered how various strange names turned up on UK signposts, you will enjoy this book!

The Dragon’s Tale by Harper Fox *****
Book 2 of the Arthur trilogy.
This follows When First I Met My King. Lance is summoned to a northern castle where Arthur lies injured. The book deals with the royal negotiations with the local tribes, old (British) and new (Anglo-Saxon) and in the course of this various legends are tweaked and brilliantly retold to bring about the arrival of Guinevere. Exquisite writing (as always) and wonderful world-building. The story of Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot is given a totally new twist in this series and I am really looking forward to the last in the trilogy.

Then the good:

10X10 Digital rights in the next decade by openrightsgroup.org ****
I think they sent me this because I signed up and subscribed to them. It was a really interesting read with articles by a variety of people covering disparate aspects of online rights, privacy, etc. As with most multi-author works, there were some sections better than others. Overall, recommended.

Pretty in Pink and Helping Hand by Jay Northcote ****
The Housemates series.
These are pleasant and well written mm romances set among students and recent graduates in Plymouth. They’re predictable and not really memorable but the quality of the writing plus the UK location means they are a cut above the usual offerings in the college romance genre.

The mediocre.

Discern by Andrea Pearson***
Vol 1 of Mosaic Chronicles.
This story was simply not to my taste. It’s reasonably well written but there is too much horror (and stupidity on the part of the students who experience it), too little magic for what purports to be a magic university, and a lack of real archaeology on a field trip. If you like that kind of thing, it’s the start of a series. I wouldn’t personally recommend it.

I was lucky this month – there was nothing poor or dire!

    Fanfiction

I read a lot of excellent fanfic this month but most of it required a knowledge of the ‘canon’ (the original book or show) for true enjoyment. However, I’m going to recommend one story with not just one but two canons.

Who Wakes As The World Sleeps by nagi_schwarz*****
The story is what is known as a crossover. The protagonists of Stargate Atlantis meet the concept of Westworld. So, two sci-fi stories collide. It’s an interesting story on various levels. It’s a perfect example of a crossover which is about as transformative as fanfic can be. It addresses questions about reality, what it means to be human, and how people express their feelings. It’s an mm romance but is not explicit. I think most of it is accessible to the reader who is not in either fandom though I suspect you might need to know the basic idea of Westworld before reading. Altogether highly recommended. It’s just over 31k words long so think in terms of a long novella.
https://archiveofourown.org/works/13037208

2 thoughts on “March Reviews

    • That’s one thing about putting reviews on a blog – they’re there for later reference rather than getting lost or buried in other ‘conversation’! Let me know if you get round to any of them!

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