September reviews

TV and films

Far From The Madding Crowd****
I quite enjoyed it and it’s a very beautiful film. However, I still prefer the old Julie Christie version and I didn’t think this was somehow as true to the Hardy source. It kept to the story, but the characters were not quite Hardy’s characters.

YouTube 2Cellos mix****
This is one of my go-to mixes and I love their work. As with all collections, some of the chosen music appeals to me more than the rest. My favourite is the Game of Thrones theme, set in Dubrovnik.

Kingdom of Heaven***
I wasn’t expecting miracles of this. Orlando Bloom is incredibly wooden, as usual, and there are far too many battle scenes during which I got bored and started reading/playing games/checking emails/etc. The history is well presented and interesting. Something that annoyed me was that the blurb ‘sold’ it as having Philip Glennister and Nikolai Coster-Waldau in it. Well, it did, but in tiny roles – blink and you’d miss them. False advertising in a way!

Vera Drake***
I’m sure this was very worthy and presented the problem of ‘back street abortion’ in an interesting way. Imelda Staunton is an excellent actress. However, I knew all the background to the story, and because I grew up in that era I was familiar with all the painstakingly recreated locations, indoor and out. So I got bored.

Books

The excellent:

Junk ***** and Barging In***** both by Josephine Myles
These were both excellent stories with well developed characters including the minor ones. The themes, respectively hoarding, and living on a narrow boat, were meticulously researched and interesting. I particularly like the ‘Englishness’ of this author’s work. Both highly recommended even if you don’t always read mm romance.

A Seditious Affair***** and A Gentleman’s Position***** both by KJ Charles in her Society of Gentlemen series.
Two excellent mm romances. Both explored serious themes and events, the first the undercurrents of English rebellion in the wake of the French revolution, and the Cato Street conspiracy, and the second, class differences and the effects of an ‘upstairs/downstairs’ society on thought. Again, highly recommended though as they are not stand-alones, you might want to start earlier in the series. I have been continuing my Heyer re-reads and this author gives us just as much historical detail together with similarly well-developed characters. As it is an mm romance series set at a time when homosexuality was criminal, all the books deal well with this aspect of society at the time.

Fish out of Water by Amy Lane *****
An ex-cop and a lawyer get together to fight corruption. In the process they become involved with each other as well as rescuing Jackson’s brother from a trumped up charge. Some thrilling action and I was desperate for them to succeed. I am glad to see there are sequels.

Polo by Jilly Cooper *****
This was a re-read. Some of my Jilly Cooper books seem to have escaped the fire, and were in a box that came home. I love her novels set in the fictional county of Rutshire and will be re-reading the ones that have survived. Her writing is not truly great and has far too many bad puns and purple prose passages. However, as well as making the reader empathise with the main characters, despite their flaws, the author educates us very carefully about the underlying theme chosen for each book, in this case the game of Polo. Other stories feature topics as diverse as education, murder, orchestras, and art galleries… Highly recommended though if you’re approaching them for the first time it might be best to read them in order or you’ll get confused by some of the families. Polo has the romances between Daisy and Ricky, and Perdita and Luke as its main focus. As with the Heyer books, I will not continue with reviews, but I will be carrying on with the books!

Tribute Act by Joanna Chambers ****
A story in the Porthkennack series of novels by various authors set in the fictional town of Porthkennack in Cornwall. This one deals with family tensions, highlighted by a young girl’s need for a liver transplant. It was good, though I didn’t quite get immersed in either of the main characters.

The mediocre that other people might like:

Alpha Delta by R J Scott ***
Niall and Finn connect on a north sea oil rig and then there’s a terrorist plot. However, the story is too short to develop either the heroes or the villains adequately and whilst I like this author I think she should stick to full length novels.

Special Delivery by Heidi Cullinan ***

Another author I usually like and the writing was good, but the plot, centred round a young man who runs off with a truck driver, lacked total plausibility for me.

Fire and Water by Andrew Grey***
The first in the Carlisle Cops series but I won’t bother with more. A cop protects and then gets involved with a swimming instructor. The story explores concepts of beauty and attitudes towards it. I was not particularly interested in either of the main characters though the story line was reasonably gripping, with an abusive ex making trouble.

Dead Things by Meredith Russell ***
A rather unlikely zombie apocalypse with some mm romance thrown in for some reason though as the characters had very little interaction with each other rather than with the zombies it was hard to see why.

And the poor:

Loaded by Casey Ashwood **
This was a novella and followed a rather tired ‘gay for you’ trope. Poor writing.

Fanfiction
I’ve been reading snippets from the Marylebone Monthly Illustrated (all kinds of original characters including talking animals set in the Sherlock Holmes world), stories for the Lewis Summer Challenge, which need an in-depth knowledge of the show, and the Bisto Con 2018 zine which needs familiarity with The Professionals for real enjoyment.

If you like mm romance, I would recommend
Love Is A Rebellious Bird by gloria_andrews and 100percentsassy*****
https://archiveofourown.org/works/1162438
This is a clever AU based on the characters from the One Direction band but setting them in the world of classical music and the LSO. You don’t really need to know anything about the characters to enjoy the story, the main focus is on music, and the plot is convoluted and interesting. However, forget the epilogue, which, although it contains a rather well done proposal scene, follows the main characters right up to old age in a short chapter. The story would have worked better if it had finished just before this but maybe the writers’ fans demanded more.

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