Films and TV
This is still ongoing and I’m still enjoying it. I downloaded it to iPlayer and husband, who has been away, was watching an episode. I was doing something else but could hear it (and of course not see the subtitles). Anyway, I had this strange feeling that I could almost-but-not-quite understand the Swedish and Danish. This is apparently the last series, and it’s very ‘dark’ but beautifully done.
The Secret Life of the Zoo*****
There were only a few episodes this year, unless they are going to show more later. I love the programme.
Brilliant acting and direction. However, I wasn’t convinced that this was how Holmes would have been in old age and I was never quite ‘hooked’ by the plot. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Mitch Cullin and I suppose it’s a kind of fanfiction.
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel****
Again, beautifully made and acted. However, although I enjoyed it, I do think there was a desperate attempt to cash in on the first film and make another. I would have been quite happy if they’d left it as it was…
Starting with the five star, which means highly recommended.
These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer *****
This was a re-read, chosen partly because I can always re-read Heyer’s novels but also because it filled a square on my book bingo (which I still need to post about). I love the whole premise of this novel, the initial setting in France, the move to England, the foreshadowing of the revolution and the setting up of the fictional families that will feature in later novels. I love, too, the way the heroine is initially disguised as a boy but later becomes a very fashionable young lady.
Judgement Day (Science of Discworld IV) by Pratchett, Cohen and Stewart *****
This was the final book in the Science of Discworld series and just as good as the others. I found some of the science, particularly the physics and astronomy, hard to grasp or at least hard to recall, because it was superbly well explained. Other sections, on genetics and evolution, were easier. As before, the factual chapters by Cohen and Stewart were interspersed with chapters of a delightful novella by Pratchett in which all the old favourite characters in Ankh-Morpork appear, and the day is saved for our earth by Marjorie Dawe, a brave and interesting librarian.
Lock Nut by JL Merrow *****
Number 5 in the Plumber’s Mate series. Just as full of humour, mystery and danger as the others, and perhaps particularly delightful for Brit readers with the local dialects, the locations, etc. This volume ends at the wedding of Phil and Tom and I just hope that isn’t the last we see of them. When you realise you seriously need to know all about the extended families of the most minor characters, you know the author is doing something right!
Spun by JL Merrow *****
This is a further instalment of the Shamwell series. Rory, the postman, meets David (Mark’s ex-PA from ‘Out’) when he takes him as a lodger. The settings and cast are as delightful as ever. Rory’s children probably steal the limelight. It’s a gentle romance, with Rory not quite sure whether he’s gay or bi, and David looking for stability. The difference in their ages and in their previous lifestyles threatens to separate them but as we can expect from this series, all is well.
One Under by JL Merrow *****
This is part of the Porthkennack series in which different authors get to ‘play’ in the fictional town of Porthkennack in Cornwall, initially created by Alex Beacroft. We meet some of the same characters who were in Wake Up Call, also by JL Merrow, and again, I enjoy getting to know the people. Mal, staying in Cornwall to recover from a traumatic work experience in London, meets Jory Roscarrock, from the family that upset his friend in the earlier book. Jory has to prove that he is not like his relatives before any kind of relationship can develop. An excellent story.
And yes – I seem to have had a JL Merrow month!
Then the good. Recommended but some of them are too short for my taste. I like either long novels or very short stories better than novellas, though I’ve been known to write a novella myself…
All China by various authors ed. Passport Books ****
This was slightly outdated – I think my father-in-law bought it when he went to China just after tourism opened up there. We have been talking about a possible trip so I wanted to read something that would tell me about the tourist angle rather than just the country in general. Very thorough and very interesting, but I think some of the holiday aspects will have changed quite a lot.
Bedside Manner by DJ Jamison ****
This second in the Hearts and Health series dealt with a slightly older doctor, just coming out of the closet, and a younger man who had been badly treated by his family because of being gay. It was a nice story and well told. The characters were minor ones in the first book in the series and I assume the later books will also deal with known characters. I like getting to know people and seeing them in the context of a series. The couple from book 1 figured in this novel, giving help and advice.
If it Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen ****
A short novel set in the Depression era in America. The anxiety and struggle are well described, and the main characters, a journalist and the son of a rich businessman who has committed suicide, are heavily involved in the community of job-seekers. Very well written, but as usual, I’d have liked something slightly longer on the same theme.
The Lonely Merman by Kay Berrisford ****
Ben works for the council and finds a man he thinks is a squatter in an old tower in a park. It turns out that Lyle is a merman, cursed to remain in the tower until his true love turns up. This is a beautifully twisted version of Sleeping Beauty, and my only complaint is that I wanted to know more about their later lives. There are, however, sequels, so maybe I can find out! It’s a fairly short story, but very well told.
Now for the mediocre. I read to the end but can’t honestly recommend these.
Wife Number Seven by Melissa Brown***
This was the story of a young woman married within a polygamous cult, who later chose to leave. It was reasonably interesting but I have read better accounts of cult life. Another book bingo choice!
Sultana’s Dream by Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain ***
I chose this for the book bingo as a translated novel (which the wikipedia page said it was…) but found that in fact the author wrote it initially in English so had to choose again. The blurb waxed lyrical about the science fiction aspect of the book and the feminist theme. I think it was probably fairly surprising for its time, but it was very short, and not particularly exciting, except as a curious though dated piece.
Jeannot Lapin by Beatrix Potter***
This was the eventual translation choice, which I read in French… It is, of course, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny and has the original illustrations. Yes, it’s a book for the very young, but reading in another language adds a further dimension to the work, and in any case, Potter’s works are delightful. However, this is not a recommended book unless you have (or teach) small children.
Seth and Casey by RJ Scott ***
I like this author and the writing was up to standard but the book was a novella so too short both for my taste and for the author to explore fully the themes she chose, centred round PTSD and the problems inherent in losing the ability to do a much loved job. It deals with an injured firefighter who has been refusing to share his stress and concerns with his teacher husband. He then has to rescue the husband and some pupils in a storm. I believe the storm was based on an actual event and was interestingly portrayed.
Starting from Scratch by Jay Northcote***
Housemates series book 5. I found the story interesting because it dealt with a young trans character and very few novels explore that issue. However, I do find the entire series (or at least the volumes I’ve read so far) contain far too much explicit sex attached to very slight plots. This was no exception and I don’t think I’ll bother with any more. The books are well written, with the characters mostly students at Plymouth University.
Holes by Louis Sachar***
Famous, so I thought I’d read it. Very well written, but I didn’t enjoy it much. Stanley is sent to a correctional facility after a miscarriage of justice, and one of the things the inmates have to do is to dig holes. To say any more would be to spoil the surprises in the plot. I found it too full of coincidences, and I didn’t really empathise with any of the main characters.
And finally, one I really disliked.
Call Me By Your Name by André Aciman**
This came with rave reviews but I didn’t like it. I know it has been made into a blockbuster film but I imagine the main focus is on the locations. Italy is lovingly and lushly described. I got intensely irritated with the young man who fell in love (or lust) with an academic summer guest (I disliked him, too) and with their ‘affair’ which was not terribly interesting and not even redeemed by tragedy.
I read quite a lot of fanfic this month. Well, I seem to have read a lot in general! As usual, much of what I read needs love and knowledge of the particular fandom to make a lot of sense, but there is one story I want to recommend.
On the Road to Come What May by rhymer23*****
This is in the Stargate Atlantis fandom and all you really need to know is that John, Rodney, Teyla and Ronon are a team who explore other planets. Everything else is explained within the story which is told from the perspective of Jasper and Kit, natives of one of these other planets. The basic plot is a quest, trying to get the team back to a stargate so that they can return to Atlantis. The world building is incredible and the character development of the two ‘aliens’ is rich and detailed. The team are presented just as they appear in canon. There is no romance; this is what’s known in fandom as a ‘gen’ fic where the adventure is paramount. You can find it at https://archiveofourown.org/works/2262621 and it’s both long (almost 102,000 words) and very satisfying for anyone who enjoys the sci-fi genre.