February Reviews

    Films and TV

A lot to enjoy and recommend this month – some are available on catch-up or on other sites.

The really really good:

Universal Credit: Inside the Welfare State***** Thought provoking and timely

Scotland and the Klan with Neil Oliver
***** Interesting look at Scottish emigrants to US and their involvement in the politics of Southern states and especially the rise of the KKK.

Songs of the South with Reginald Hunter***** This was a re-watch and complemented the Neil Oliver programme. I loved the series, not least because I finally got a real idea of the southern USA landscape.

Death in Paradise: Season 9 ***** I really enjoy this series of ‘cosy’ police mysteries set in the Caribbean, though I do agree with some reviewers that it’s time to put either a woman or someone local in charge (and no, the Commissioner doesn’t quite count). They could promote Madeleine and bring in an outsider constable – that would deliver interesting dynamics.

Grandest Designs with Kevin McCloud***** Kevin went back over some of his favourites from past seasons. Delightful, especially his interactions with the people whose houses he features.

Rough Guide to the Future with Kevin McCloud***** Yes, I like this presenter, and I preferred his three episode look at the future to Click, which tends to be frenetic.

Vera***** Most of Season 10 though episode 3 was unaccountably missing from itvHub, plus Season 1 ep 1 and I believe there are more to come. Why had I never come across this? It’s set in ‘my’ part of the world where I was born and brought up, and I like the major character being a middle aged woman with no hints of glamour or sex – just competence.

And the merely good:

Britain’s Pompeii: A Village Lost in Time**** Interesting look at excavations in Cambridgeshire. Available on YouTube. Whilst the subject was intriguing, the presentation was less than stellar and I found my attention wandering.

Baby Chimp Rescue**** Gripping programme about chimp rescue in Liberia. I would have liked some kind of update information at the end.

Spy in the Wild**** (second series) I’m fascinated by the animal robo-cams used to film in the wild but must admit that by now the series is beginning to look a bit formulaic.

Mary Beard’s Shock of the Nude**** Well presented look at the nude in art through the ages. Some reviewers suggest the presenter should hog less of the limelight but I thought her style would attract more people than that of traditional art critics.

STHLM Requiem**** A new Scandinavian drama which was good in many respects but I never quite empathised with any of the main cast.

Followed by the ones I abandoned, which might save you making the same mistake of watching them in the first place.

Baghdad Central – abandoned because I couldn’t read the subtitles against the backgrounds. They knew they were going to use both English and Arabic – couldn’t they have put the subtitles on a plain background band? Husband didn’t seem to mind and was glued to it.

Dr Who – abandoned because I got tired of being preached at every Sunday on subjects I already agreed about. I gather from some of my friends that the finale justified my decision.

Hidden – abandoned because I both know and like Wales and thought this police thriller was far too dark, depressing and predictable

    Books

The excellent:

Herculine Barbin intr. Michel Foucault*****(Being the recently discovered memoirs of a nineteenth century French hermaphrodite, with a dossier of the medical evidence plus a novella, A Scandal in the Convent by Oscar Panizza, based on the story). Fascinating. Now being lent out for reading far and wide.

The Brightest Fell by Seanan McGuire***** I adore the October Daye series (urban fantasy) and am looking forward to the next book, which I have, and the one that’s soon to be published.

Culpepper’s Complete Herbal by Nicolas Culpepper ***** This was a re-read or rather a re-skim though this copy, bought to replace the one I lost in the fire, had an addition with some modern herbs and their uses. (Presumably ones that had not reached England when Culpepper was writing.) I used the book for research when writing my fae saga and was interested to hear JK Rowling, in a BBC interview, say she had three different copies.

Truth and Lies by Caroline Mitchell ***** (DI Amy Winter Thriller Book 1). Excellent thriller by an ex-policewoman. I will buy sequels.

Amateur Sugar Maker by Noel Perrin***** fascinating account of building a sugar house in modern Vermont, trying to spend as little as possible, in accordance with principles adopted by Thoreau.

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields***** (DI Luc Callanach book 1) Great thriller set in Edinburgh. Another one with sequels to buy.

Magic Mansion by Jordan Castillo Price
***** Stage magicians vie for top place in a TV reality show. Fascinating and gripping. The mm romance was almost an afterthought for me but was equally delightful! It was, actually, the device on which the plot hinged, but I was quickly distracted into wondering who would get voted out after each event. I don’t usually enjoy reality TV but this book was wonderful!

Caregiver by Rick Reed***** Dan becomes a ‘buddy’ to Adam who is dying of AIDS. Wonderful look at how AIDS impacted the gay community at the height of the ‘epidemic’.

The Corner Shop in Cockleberry Bay by Nicola May***** Lovely romance (Rosa and Josh) with a mystery to solve – who left Rosa the shop in a Devon village?

The good (I probably won’t re-read, though I may buy the sequels)

Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton**** nice mm romance involving a crossword setter who is in a wheelchair and a video game developer.

Promise by RJ Scott**** (Single dads 3) I will be buying the sequel because I now love the whole community/extended family.

A different light by Morningstar Ashley**** A property repairer meets a geek scientist and they teach each other to look at things differently.

Black Dog Blues by Rhys Ford **** Excellent and well written fantasy with fabulous world building but too violent for my tastes.

Thief River Falls by Brian Freeman**** gripping thriller with a strange twist.

Dying to Tell by Keri Beevis **** another gripping thriller but the ending was too violent for me.

The readable:

Strange Gospels by Ruth Tucker*** An interesting summary of the main offshoot sects of Christianity in America. I realised about half way through that the author was coming from the perspective of a mainstream committed Christian which at times made for some odd points of view involving a distinct lack of impartiality.

What You Did by Claire McGowan*** Murder and mystery involving six friends who had met at Oxford. Some had later married each other. Good thriller writing but I disliked all the characters.

And the poor:

Innocent Man by Louisa Mae* I was intrigued by the concept but irritated by the way the prologue told me part of the story then relied on flashbacks and retellings to deal with the rest. The ‘villain’ was predictable and so was the ending.

And three I abandoned, in each case because I couldn’t get on with the writing style. I have no idea whether the plots might appeal to people!

Ghosts of Timeless Cottage by TK Geering
Stephanie Steele: a futuristic sci fi thriller by Gary Moore
Quid Est Veritas: the Tynemouth Werewolves by Martin Clephane

    Short stories

Most of you will know by now that short stories almost never hit five stars for me.

Belling the Cat and other stories by JL Merrow**** Varied and quirky ff shorts.

Nothing Else Matters by Rhys Ford**** I was always going to read about Cole’s wedding to Jae but was seriously irritated by the way it appeared not only in daily instalments but in varied locations in a blog hop, so that I had to dive around all over the place to download and read it all in one piece. Nice story; annoying format. Altogether too reminiscent of a WIP on AO3 and although I trusted Rhys to finish the story I hated the way it was presented.

The Price is Right by Clare London**** Jez and Roman at the ice cream shop. Pleasant but too short. The ice cream shop is a ‘character’ in a number of her stories. A whole volume might be an idea.

    Fanfic

Unstealable (you’ve got the key) by dishonestdreams***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/22527235
I confess to doing the beta/proof read for this (because the author is a RL friend) and I loved it! It’s a Bandom AU where Ryan and Spencer, two of the Bandom musicians, are placed in a world of petty crime. The descriptions of the cars are wonderful, as are the subtle but ‘hot’ references to leather. I think this story shows the value of writing rpf (real person fiction) – any knowledge about the carefully cultivated media personae/looks of the musicians adds immeasurably to the pleasure of the story. The plot is quite brief and apparently simple but has so many references that it involves a huge back story to make up for the lack of length. Needless to say, nobody is accusing any of the musicians (others have minor roles) of any of the behaviour in the tale, either criminal or erotic, just stealing or borrowing their looks and names for an excellent story.

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