December Reviews

Happy New Year to everybody! As usual, I fully intend to post more this year but it is already 8th January. Last year I made a resolution about it and then failed spectacularly so this year I won’t even promise, just cross my fingers! Anyway, here are my December reviews.

TV, films and theatre

I have to say that a mid-December trinity of a re-subscription to Radio Times (after a few years’ absence), a Firestick for our TV and an exploration of my Amazon Prime video possibilities changed my viewing habits – probably permanently.

King Tut’s Treasure Secrets. (UK Channel 5)***** Perhaps all the more interesting because I saw the King Tut treasures in the Cairo Museum.

Secret Life of the Zoo***** I’ve loved this, as usual, and am looking forward to the next season.

The Wave (2016) with Kristoffer Joner***** Excellent disaster movie set in Norway where an avalanche sets of a wave that inundates a village. Based on a true danger.

Dr Who**** The Season ended and was good, but perhaps a bit too ‘worthy’ in its focus on current topics and having a diverse cast. I like the new doctor but I did feel a bit preached-at.

Sherlock Holmes (RDJ) **** re-watch. Mad and fun! I did find that the sound was erratic on TV – I have got used to my laptop and headphones.

Escape from Dubai. *** Interesting (in-laws were just back from Dubai…) but it skated over a lot of the issues it raised.

Books

The excellent:

Lessons in Loving Thy Murderous Neighbour by Charlie Cochrane***** Excellent as usual. The neighbour in question is the college next door which features in a lot of the books. I am still missing the senior Stewarts but Jonty and Orlando continue to ‘hook’ me.

This is going to hurt by Adam Kay ***** (Subtitle: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor) Hilarious and frightening account of the author’s experiences. Makes you hope you never need a hospital. I definitely wouldn’t give this book to anyone pregnant – obstetrics were Kay’s specialty.

Magnificent Devices by Shelley Adina *****. This was a boxed set of three novels which I absolutely loved – steampunk adventure with feisty heroines. I certainly intend to buy the next books.

Joseph Barnaby by Susan Roebuck
***** Joe takes refuge in Madeira after problems in UK. He meets Sofia, niece of his employer and together they fight and overcome their difficulties. A gripping novel of action and romance with an unusual location and very believable characters.

Iron Garland by Jeff Wheeler **** The third gripping instalment of the Harbinger fantasy series.

Brit (ish) by Afua Hirsch**** (Subtitle: On Race, Identity and Belonging). I’m not sure I was as impressed by this as by the Why I’m not talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It was recommended to me by someone who read my review of that. Whilst this book raises, and in some cases explores and explains some interesting issues, it is largely based on the author’s own experiences as the child of a very middle-class ‘mixed’ marriage, and does not necessarily reflect the problems of ethnic minorities in UK. As an essay in coming to terms with her own identity it is extremely well done.

Mr Winterbourne’s Christmas by Joanna Chambers**** Adam and Lysander are the lovers in a delightful mm Regency romance. Only four stars because it was quite short and I desperately wanted more.

Rainbow Advent Calendar**** Four stars for a mixed bag of short stories. These were LGBT Christmas freebies with a new story each day. I didn’t actually read them all – I mostly ignored the ones that were part of a series I wasn’t familiar with and the vampire ones which didn’t appeal as Christmas fare. I also got slightly confused because I downloaded some other Christmas freebies from writers on Facebook or whose newsletters I follow. Anyway, most of the stories were lovely but too short to review individually. I have to say that by the end of the month I was suffering from a surfeit of sugariness but that’s because I read the stories as they came out rather than saving them for occasional enjoyment. My reason for doing that was that most of them had a Christmas theme! I have kept a few in my Calibre library for re-reading next December:
Cruising by Charlie Cochrane***** (inspired by her own 2018 arctic cruise)
Baubles by Jackie Keswick***** (a short and delicate budding ff romance)
Remembering You by Crystal Lacy**** (a Christmas homecoming leads to meeting a highschool crush again)
The Christmas Knife by Jackie North**** (a heartwarming story when the theft of a present leads to romance in the face of a blizzard)
The Elves of Christmas by Wendy Rathbone ****(an unusual ‘take’ on Santa’s elves)
A Frosty Tail by Dawn Sister**** (meeting Jack Frost with a huge dose of myths and legends with a twist)

The readable:

From Out in the Cold by L A Witt *** Neil and Jeremy both have PTSD (for entirely different reasons) and unsupportive families. But as usual, this author sets up the situation then has no real plot though again as usual there’s a hopeful ending and the writing technique is good enough to keep me reading.

The River Leith by Leta Blake *** This is a typical amnesia story about an amateur boxer who can’t recall his lover. It’s quite well written and researched but boring. Not enough happens and I have read better stories with this trope.

Adore by E Davies ** Caspian and Matt and their romance. I suppose it was all right. I didn’t abandon it.

Taboo for You by Anyta Sunday. Abandoned. I simply didn’t get on with the style.

The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous by Jilly Cooper
. Abandoned. I was surprised that I found both the style and the main characters unappealing as I usually enjoy this author.

Nova Praetorian by NR Walker. Abandoned. I couldn’t summon up any interest in the characters who seemed wholly unrealistic.

That makes 168 books read and reviewed this year. I discounted the ones I’d abandoned but added in the re-reads of Heyer etc. that I have only referred to briefly. I didn’t include fanfiction and of course some of those are novel length. So I seem to read about three or four books a week. Some are just novellas but on the other hand, some are seriously long!

Fanfiction

The books above kept me busy so I didn’t read many fanfic offerings this month but a friend recommended

A Kept Boy by poisontaster***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/253311 A fabulous exploration of slavery and power dynamics in an alternate universe that mirrors modern USA, using a number of American actors in the main roles. I couldn’t stop reading and will definitely be reading the sequels.

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