Reviews: June 2018

Films and TV

I seem to have spent most of the month on news and documentaries, with involuntary sports viewing whilst in the lounge. The only TV drama I have watched was the rest of the final season of The Bridge. I loved the whole series but I didn’t think this final season was quite as good as the preceding ones. The writers seemed to be too determined to bring things to some kind of conclusion, and lot of the minor characters were hard to bear in mind and identify on their random appearances. However, I liked it, and am sad that there will be no more.

Books

Here are the books that I would recommend highly.

First, three excellent books by Rhys Ford.

Down and Dirty by Rhys Ford (Cole McGinnis series5) ***** follows Cole’s brother and ex-partner in a delightful ‘side’ story to the main focus of the series. It’s a necessary diversion if the reader is to enjoy the sequel which is
Dirty Heart by Rhys Ford (Cole McGinnis 6) ***** In this volume we find out why Ben shot Cole and Rick, an event that predates the series but underlies a lot of Cole’s thoughts and actions throughout the stories. Bobby and Ichiro from Down and Dirty help to solve the mystery.
Murder and Mayhem by Rhys Ford***** I’m hoping to read more about ex thief Rook and his new boyfriend, cop Dante. The story was exciting and, as usual, extremely well written.

Two more excellent reads from Charlie Cochrane.

All Lessons Learned (Cambridge Fellows) by Charlie Cochrane ***** is set post WWI and deals with the psychological problems faced by soldiers during and after the war. Jonty and Orlando are able to overcome their problems and help others in the process.
Broke Deep by Charlie Cochrane ***** is set in the Porthkennack world, the fictional Cornish town that a number of authors have now used to good effect. Dominic and Morgan are affected by stories of an old wreck off the Cornish coast and must solve a mystery to rescue their new relationship from ‘the rocks’.

House of Cards by Garrett Leigh ***** is another story from Porthkennack. Calum and Brix introduce us to the work of tattoo artists, and the problems of rescuing battery hens. I didn’t know this author in advance but trusted that the Porthkennack ‘imprint’ would deliver a good story, and it did. I will look out for more of their work.

When a Scot Ties the Knot: Castles Ever After by Tessa Dare ***** This is a Regency romance with a difference, set in a Scottish castle rather than London. Maddie is a delightful heroine, Logan is an excellent hero, and there are, besides, lobsters which may or may not have a love affair.

Now for some I enjoyed but which were not, for various reasons, quite the same standard as the five star ones.

Urgent Care by DJ Jamison **** Hearts and Health 3 I was looking forward to this third volume and liked the story of Xavier and Trent, but there was too much explicit sex that did not further the plot. I know publishers (and some readers) want this, but it isn’t totally to my taste and explains why the book got downgraded to four stars. However, I will be reading further volumes in the series!

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan ****
The inheritance, which arrives in the first chapter, is a baby elephant, and Inspector Chopra, who is retiring, solves a mystery with the elephant’s help. (The elephant is loyal, and saves his life.) A quirky and pleasing concept, but the mystery was not particularly gripping and the characters, including Chopra, didn’t hold my interest. I won’t be following the series but it was well written and if you like a ‘cosy’ mystery story that gives an excellent insight into everyday life in India, give it a try.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers ****
A star ship crewed by a mixture of various humans and aliens helps to prevent universe-wide mayhem. The characters were well developed and I liked them, but the plot was slow and I really did feel, at the end, that I’d travelled a very long way with them. If you enjoy sci-fi with a hefty dose of feminism, you will probably like this.

The King’s Justice by EM Powell ****
This is an extremely gory mediaeval whodunnit. The main characters and the plot were all well developed, the writing was good and the historical research was impeccable. However, whilst I am happy to read about things like trial by ordeal, or various murder details in non-fiction, I don’t like fiction to dwell on them so gloatingly. Not to my taste at all, but well done of its kind.

Then two books that were mildly disappointing.

Devil’s Kitchen (a prequel) and Brass in Pocket by Stephen Puleston *** are the first two stories in a competent but ultimately boring Welsh cop series. I was interested because of the locations, which I know well, but found myself irritated rather than delighted. The constant references to driving up and down the A55 were annoying, and Drake, the inspector who is the focus of the books, was also an irritating rather than intriguing character. He’s supposed to be OCD but the author tells us about his quirks too often, and he does sudoku puzzles in a seriously strange way. There are a number of books in the series but I won’t be following them.

And finally, one I hated, though I have to give it three stars for the standard of the writing.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale *** has a fascinating theme, which was why I read it. An English clergyman and two scientists set out for Tasmania, to find the original Garden of Eden and scientific specimens. Their patron unwittingly charters a vessel of Manx smugglers intent on escaping the law. The eventful voyage reaches Tasmania at the time of the genocide of the Aboriginal Tasmanian people, and the book alternates between the voyagers (crew and passengers) and the Tasmanians (English and Aboriginal). There wasn’t, however, a single character with whom I could empathise. The Tasmanians were, perhaps deliberately, distanced from the reader by the way they were written, in what I assume was an attempt to show their very different culture and mindset. I have felt more sympathy for them when reading factual accounts. The book had too many major characters and the constant to-ing and fro-ing between their points of view was wearing, especially since I didn’t care much what happened to any of them. The writer won the Whitbread award when the book was first published and I am surprised, though the technical writing standard and historical research can’t be faulted.

Fanfiction

More fics and ficlets that needed knowledge of the fandoms before they would make sense. Then I found this one:
Liminal by GloriaMundi*****
on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/45789
It’s an AU (alternate universe) story in the Stargate Atlantis fandom and starts with Elizabeth Weir founding a commune on the Essex coast just after WWII. She calls it Atlantis and welcomes all those who wish to escape the world. John, Rodney, and others turn up, and there is some m/m romance but it is not the major focus of the story. There are supposed to be ghosts on the marshes but then some kind of contact is made. Rodney does not believe in ghosts but he manages to get in touch with the spirits or aliens. The writing was beautiful and I loved the way the characters were true to canon and yet fitted so perfectly into their roles in the story. I liked, too, the way those roles, and the ending, were alternate versions of the show. If you know SGA at all, go and read this!

It’s just over 56,000 words so short novel length, and don’t forget that AO3 lets you download in ebook versions.

 

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