This is the same tree that appears in my snowy post and in my social media icons. But, obviously, without snow. It’s the sycamore at the bottom of our garden. I watch it changing its seasonal attire all year round and also watch the magpies who live in it.
This is my last review post of 2021. I’m considering trying a new format for my reviews in 2022 but haven’t quite settled on anything yet. It might look something like ‘the very best of’ actually reviewed then the rest just listed with stars or no stars. Or I might do film reviews less often. Or…
Anyway, here are my December reviews – film, booksm short stories and fanfic.
TV and film.
Wheel of Time Season 1***** (Amazon Prime) Fabulous retelling of the long series by Robert Jordan, finished after Jordan’s death by Brad Sanderson who is consulting editor for the show. There are changes, yes, but I think they tighten and improve the narrative. The casting and acting is great, the locations, real and created. are superb and the filming is high quality. Now we have to wait for Season 2 but they’ve almost finished filming.
Terry Pratchett’s The Abominable Snow Baby ***** (Channel 4). Nicely done animated version of a Pterry short story. A slightly overdone Christmas message but saved by the actors voicing the characters. Granny (Julie Walters) is superb.
Hot Fuzz***** However often I watch it, I love every moment.
The Christmas Lectures**** BBC4. Jonathan Van Tam takes teenagers through various science and maths aspects of the pandemic. Very well presented and I liked the way he split the hour long lectures into shorter sections with different experts. That’s a good way to keep both his live and his viewing audience interested. Recommended viewing for anyone who wants the science/maths unpacked or for anyone who has teenagers.
Death in Paradise Christmas Special**** BBC1 I’m not sure this usually delightful series can stand the expansion to an hour and a half but the case had a great ending and there were some highly amusing moments in the tropical storm.
The Witcher (abandoned) Pales into insignificance beside Wheel of Time. Pretty actors but that’s about all I can say. I’ll be posting more about my tastes in fantasy, books and films, in 2022.
The excellent. (No five stars this month but these were very good.)
Boy Banned by RJ Scott**** Great story about a song contest and a romance with one of the main characters on the autistic spectrum, beautifully depicted. (RJ knows exactly what she’s talking about from family experience.) I have now read novels based on various competitions: baking, property refurbishment, magician skills, and singing. I think it has become one of my favourite tropes!
Love’s Bequest by Blake Allwood**** A great finale to the Big Bend series. Ghosts, villains, angst, archaeology, and a lovely re-visit to much loved characters from previous volumes. One tiny niggle: the family trees were ‘pictures’ so wouldn’t enlarge on my Kindle and were too small to read.
Transposition by Gregory Ashe**** Hazard and Somerset Bk 2. Fascinating case where detectives are marooned with killer and victims. Brilliant descriptions of snow and storm. Some slightly confusing head-hopping but I love these guys anyway and must get the rest of the series.
Changing Worlds by Cari Z**** Great culture clash and alien planet sci fi. Lost a star because once Jason and Ferran were married I couldn’t see the point of the erotic interludes.
In this bed of snowflakes we lie by Sophia Soames.**** Touching romance between two rather awkward students. Rescued from college romance trope by the setting (Oslo in winter) and the age of the students (not teens). I loved the protagonists and the all-encompassing snow, exquisitely described.
Thicker than Water by Becca Seymour**** I think this was a re-read but I couldn’t find any evidence… It’s quite an exciting story with shifters, drug crime and mm romance all set in and around Sydney, but since I kept getting those ‘read this, knew that’ vibes, I wasn’t as engrossed as I probably was first time round. I nearly downgraded it to three stars but then thought that would be unfair and anyway, I could recommend it.
The readable (and some of you might rate them higher)
Charles: Learning to love by Con Riley*** A pleasant and well written romance but it lacked the ‘extra’ elements of mystery or outside drama that I’ve come to want in the genre.
Cinder and Ashes Bk 1 by X Aratare*** Ends on cliffhanger so presumably you have to read Bk 2***. I did and guess what? Another cliffhanger. I may continue because they’re on KU but I wouldn’t pay to own them. It’s an mm retelling of Cinderella that threatens to continue for an entire series. Still, it’s an interesting twist on the original.
Double Trouble by Barbara Elsborg*** First in the Lost and Found series. The ‘trouble’ was that I didn’t like the characters, either the ‘heroes’ or the villains. Exciting story with shifters, fae, vampires, etc. but not really for me. I won’t be reading the sequel.
Lacuna by NR Walker*** I normally adore this author’s writing but this was a fantasy (unusual for her) and I found the style slightly jarring. There were moments of almost archaic formality in the dialogue then we got things like marmalade (where previous descriptions had fruit pastes) and ‘dick’. Plus, I wasn’t really invested in any of the main characters. If you like high fantasy, this could work for you and if you’ll read anything by her, go ahead. I was vaguely disappointed.
The Key to his Heart for Christmas by Rebecca James*** A novella. Quite well written and a pleasant story (fire fighter picks up a homeless man on the way home) but the romance is a bit too sudden and there is too much explicit sex for my taste.
The poor This is the point at which I tell you not to bother.
Ghost Hunted by BL Maxwell** There was far too much ghost activity for the story to be creepy! And the writing was very repetitive.
Three Nights with the Manny by AJ Truman** OK, it was a sort of prequel novella to The Single Dads’ Club but I didn’t find it at all likely. Instant lust, yes; instant love – in this case, no. There was no character development to underpin the reactions, and most of this short story was explicit sex.
And the abandoned but this is my taste, not necessarily yours.
Rock, Paper, Scissors by Alice Feeney. The reviewers who praised this ‘thriller’ said they were hooked from the start. At the 15% mark (on my Kindle) I was still bored rigid so I gave up. For all I know it might have brilliant twists, as mentioned in reviews, but as I didn’t care what happened to Amelia or Adam I wasn’t wading through the book to find out.
Scintilla by Elizabeth Noble. The story starts with BDSM in a club – I’ve discovered I can’t cope with too much erotica of any kind but especially BDSM without some initial character development.
Pity the Dead by Rylan Cavell. Ghosts plus humour but I didn’t get to grips with the characters living or dead, or the humour, so gave up.
Christmas Roses by Fiona Glass***** Gorgeous brief sequel to December Roses, free in Fiona’s newsletter and hopefully later available elsewhere. A really beautiful story that questions all kinds of aspects of time travel, ghosts, etc. but manages to be very sweet and both sad and happy.
Five Gold Blings by Clare London**** Sweet and gentle story of a delivery driver who ends up with a vlogger and a partnership – both personal and business.
By the pricking of my robotic thumbs by Mary Robinette Kowal**** Interesting sci fi story exclusive to New Scientist (Christmas Special Issue).
Stardust Wake by Si Clarke *** An introduction to the characters from The Left Hand of Dog (mentioned in November reviews). Interesting if you have read or intend to read that, but not really a stand-alone.
Christmas with the Lumberjack by Daniel de Lorne*** Competent short story about loggers in Australia.
I also read numerous really short stories and ficlets in newsletters and FB posts. Too many to mention individually but they have kept me well entertained.
I was still mostly reading in the Stargate Atlantis fandom. My own contribution, among others, to the Secret Santa went ‘live’ with authors revealed, on Christmas Day. (See my dashboard – https://archiveofourown.org/users/moth2fic – if you’re interested.)
Nevertheless, he persisted by mific***** Written for me in the SGA Secret Santa gift exchange. John, Rodney, Ronon and Radek get stuck on a planetary outpost during a routine inspection. Really gripping. 11k, https://archiveofourown.org/works/35838310
Not What It Seems by blackchaps**** SGA – an AU where scientists are slaves. 88k https://archiveofourown.org/works/743701 (and no, I hadn’t read this before I wrote my Secret Santa)
No Rest at all in freedom by Telesilla*** SGA. John ends up with wings when aliens see him as some kind of saviour. Although I like wingfic, these wings weren’t particularly appealing. 27k. https://archiveofourown.org/works/430985
And there is other fanfic out there…
A Bright, GuiltyWorld by Brumeier**** Trixie Belden mysteries but here Trixie is grown up with a new boyfriend and the mysteries are paranormal. I don’t know the original canon but I enjoyed the story and would like more! https://archiveofourown.org/works/34267990
Noah and the amazing multi-coloured dreamboat by Small_Hobbit**** Amusing Christmas ‘musical’ mash-up in this writer’s Sherlock Holmes AU with talking animals. 2739 words. https://archiveofourown.org/works/35070046
I listened to Rock, Paper, Scissors on Audible and enjoyed it. Admittedly Richard Armitage was one of the narrators, but in my own review I wrote that I could see the drama in my head. I’d abandoned the last Alice Feeney audiobook (something I rarely do) so I was pleased to enjoy this one. But I can understand you not caring about the characters. The twist is impressive for those who make it.
And thank you for recommending the silliness that is ‘Noah’.
I have such a huge tbr list (yes, it grew again while I wasn’t looking) that I really can’t be bothered to read if I don’t engage with the characters. But I’m glad you enjoyed it and I know it has had good reviews so I don’t think my poor one will do it any harm – also, it isn’t actually a poor review, just a comment that I didn’t like it. I always like your Sherlockian animalia…
Thanks so much for your stellar comments which brought warmth after a difficult couple of days. xx
You’re welcome!! I loved the novel and now I love the sequel!! And I’m glad it came just at the right moment for you.
ps I share your love of Hot Fuzz and find something new to grin at every time I watch it. It’s stuffed with ‘blink and miss it’ moments, in-jokes and general cleverness. Have you spotted the sound track matches the action?
I adore Hot Fuzz and have lost count of the number of times I’ve seen it. I even know in advance when I need to close my eyes…. I think it’s far and away the best of their output even though I always enjoy their work. Husband is the one who homes in on things like soundtracks, the way scenes lead to each other, etc. etc. but I listen to him and then forget the details. I just know it’s excellent!!
pps not reading your comments on Wheel of Time and Snowbaby as we haven’t seen/finished them yet but am loving WoT so far… although… dammit… I want more about each new ‘world’ they visit!
I have read the entire series but the show is even better. Partly because Jordan’s writing got very over-wordy and rambling and he just about lost the plot, but Brad Sanderson rescued it all after Jordan’s death and is, of course, consulting editor on the show. Anyway, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it. I can’t wait for Season 2!