This month has so far been totally rubbish and I have not managed any posts. I went to a Writers’ Meet in Southampton the first weekend and promptly caught Covid despite my best efforts. Well, you can’t wear a mask at a dinner while eating… I am only just recovering, and on Saturday I am setting out for the Lake District for a writers’ retreat which should prove both beneficial and productive! Please, everybody, cross your fingers, send good vibes, or whatever. I have simply put all my August reviews in this one post. Despite being part of a panel at the meet on links between fanfiction and original writing, I did not read any fanfiction in August.
Stranger Things Season 4***** NetflixThe trouble is we now have to wait till possibly autumn 23 or even early 24 for the next season… This ‘retro horror thriller’ with loads of brilliant teenage actors is totally gripping and I feel as if I actually know these people!!
Paul Simon: Under African Skies***** Excellent film exploring the making of the Graceland album and then the backlash from UN and ANC over sanction breaking and the eventual ‘rehabilitation’ by Nelson Mandela. Followed by the Simon and Garfunkel Concert in Central Park. All on Sky Arts so I have no idea whether they are still available – they aren’t to me because I don’t subscribe to Sky. (Sky Arts is on Freeview.)
Midnight Mass **** Netflix A horror story based around religious beliefs. Starts gently and ends up seriously gruesome. Any other comments would risk spoilers. There are 7 episodes and after each I spent ages wondering what was going to happen and who would survive which is a sign of some good writing and direction.
Red Rose**** BBC 1. Horror set not far from where I live. Teenagers are drawn into a weird scenario via mobile phone apps. Eventually their entire families are involved. Good, with excellent acting, but we found the ending rather rushed and could have done with one further episode to clarify a few things.
Sean of the Dead (rewatch)*** (Can’t remember which channel.) Husband loves it. I like it least of this ‘cornetto’ set of films. It’s well done and clever but I keep getting distracted (every time) and multi-tasking e.g. reading or emails so clearly, unlike Hot Fuzz (my favourite) and The World’s End, it doesn’t completely hook me.
The Sandman Netflix. Abandoned. I prefer my main characters to be mortal and we weren’t keen on the film direction either.
Hide and Seek Channel 4. Abandoned. We tried this Ukrainian thriller but it was made using a lot of dark backgrounds so was hard to watch, and the detective who was meant to be something like Saga in The Bridge was a pale copy.
The highly recommended:
Fang’d by Vin George***** I really loved this. I don’t always enjoy vampire stories but I trusted the writer so… And then – there was that wonderful world of various paranormals interacting and explaining themselves to each other. I’m looking forward to the next in the series, with more worldbuilding and further adventures for some of the other characters.
Into Deep Waters by Kaje Harper**** Interesting and occasionally exciting mm romance following two men from the start of WWII in the US navy through to old age. Superb depiction of war at sea, then well researched references to the various stages in their lives as gay couples gradually won acceptance. It will either be a celebration, or, in the current political climate, a historical document…
Emerald Earth by Adam J Ridley**** An unfamiliar pen name for an author familiar in another guise (not sure if I’m supposed to say who…). A very exciting foray into full blooded paranormal romance by this author whose work never fails to please! I liked the magic, particularly the way the Wiccan ways and the native American ones interacted. The series should be good – I assume the other curse victims are to be helped find their HEA and I look forward to further exploration of the entire community and its beliefs. Diamond Air by Adam J Ridley**** I enjoyed this second visit to the pagan community, and the exciting storyline. I did think Lance and Drew would have to work harder than Crea and Eli to make their relationship work (they weren’t such an obvious pairing) but I wanted them to succeed and look forward to reading about what will happen with Kyle, the other one of the witch brothers.
Melody of the Heart by Blake Allwood**** A sweet romance saved from sentimentality by some drama that comes from outsiders rather than any introspection. As a pianist (not a very good one) I could really empathise with the work Jonas and Orlando had to put in to succeed in the world of music.
Range of Emotion by Lissa Kasey**** (book 3 of Survivors find Love) Another interesting read in this series. Nice to meet some of the previous characters, both major and minor, too. Just enough suspense and action to keep the plot going nicely. Well written, as usual.
Much Ado about Lady Macbeth by Rebecca Cohen**** Absolutely lovely mm romance set in the Tudor period. The author must have done mountains of research to recreate the atmosphere of The Globe and its actors. I liked the way the book linked to the Crofton Hall series but was a stand-alone. Just missed five stars because of some iffy proof reading. Saving Crofton Hall by Rebecca Cohen**** (Modern Crofton 1) An interesting mm romance which fascinated me because it took place during the conversion of Crofton Hall (from the historical series) into a conference and wedding venue with possible tours. As I worked as a tour guide in a stately home when I was a student, this really ‘spoke’ to me and I enjoyed it immensely. As usual, the author’s research is impeccable.
Finding Finlay by Ruby Moone**** A lovely story with some nail-biting moments. I really like this series with the security firm set in my home city and was delighted to see characters from the first book again. Ruby’s characters, location, plot and style are great but I do wish she’d get a better proof reader.
Ghost of Truth by Alice Winters *** (Book 2 of Medium Trouble) Nicely written and quite exciting story about a guy who talks to ghosts and falls in love with the detective he is consultant to. However, although the ghost banter is amusing it gets to be a bit too much, and the characters in general are not as well developed as those in Jordan Castillo Price’s Psycops series which starts from the same premise (talking to ghosts). I might read book 3 if it’s in KU whereas I pre-order JCP and pay!
The Prince’s Frog by Eden Winters*** Quite a pleasant mm retelling of The Princess and the Frog but for me personally there was too much slightly heavy handed humour.
Heavy Petting by Kiernan Kelly*** A nice story about a hippo shifter but it was too short and I wanted more detail about the characters and location. I think it’s part of a much longer series about the magical rodeo they join so maybe the details appear at random. Meanwhile, on its own, this is readable but not memorable.
Authors new to me:
Nothing highly recommended this month but the following are readable:
The Past We Run From by Meg Jolly*** Competent but ultimately unmemorable police procedural set in Yorkshire. I wasn’t keen on any of the police characters so won’t be following the series.
The Prince of Gremalden by Anne Brooke*** I was intrigued because the theme (arranged mm royal marriage) is one I’ve written myself and it’s always good to see how other writers approach something. However, although the political twists were good the characterisation and world building were less than stellar, and I didn’t actually find myself believing in the romance.
Distant Gardens ed by JS Field*** This anthology of ff sci fi stories is mixed in quality, as is often the case with collections of stories by multiple authors. The romances are sweet enough but the sci fi is too weird and wonderful – I like my sci fi to have some kind of reality and to have elements that encourage the reader to compare and contrast their own physical or social world. Here, the authors seemed to be competing to create strange plants and fungi.
Winter Kills by JP Bowie*** The plot of this mm thriller was quite interesting but underdeveloped, as were the characters, and I felt it was really just a vehicle for the sex scenes. Strippers in New York are being murdered and it’s up to Tom Holt, the main detective, to find out why and stop the carnage.
A couple I thought were poor:
Storm Born by Christine Pope. ** I started reading this m/f paranormal romance/thriller (and enjoying it) then it ended on a cliffhanger and I realised that the ‘bundle’ of novels it came in were actually all by different authors, Obviously a marketing ploy and I must have realised at some point but it’s ages since I got them… So basically, I was very disappointed and won’t be following the story. I checked and there are about six so far in the series and none of them are cheap or in KU. Only recommended if you feel like buying a series. Well written. (It didn’t help that my Kindle kept playing up – I don’t think it liked the formatting because it’s fine for everything else.) I may not read the others in the ‘bundle’ either so as a marketing ploy it’s counterproductive.
The Anglesey Murders: Unholy Island by Conrad Jones ** I really didn’t enjoy this. The location was not well described (I’m familiar with it) and the mingling of a huge drug dealing racket (boring in the extreme) with a totally unrelated serial killer spree (unlikely and nasty) was confusing to the reader as well as the detectives. Police procedural but with a lot of wandering off into other points of view.
Finally, the ones I abandoned:
Deadly Motive by Liam Hanson. I didn’t like the style or the police characters in this thriller set in South Wales, then I found we knew who the villain was and just needed to explore the motive and have them caught. Not for me.
Candy Kings by NW Steel An mm romance set in UK but full of Americanisms and I didn’t like the style. Just – not for me.
The Prodigal Rake by William Hickey ed. Peter Quennell I thought this autobiography of a Regency ‘rake’ sounded intriguing (it was a charity shop find) but after a few chapters I realised I disliked the narrator so much I couldn’t cope with the idea of a long book about his romantic and sexual exploits. Interesting if you’re looking for period information but not otherwise.
Bodies in the Water by AJ Aberford. Thriller set in Malta with emphasis on people trafficking from Africa. I found the story disjointed and the location poorly described. I also disliked the lead detective intensely. Since he’s the one who features in the entire series I didn’t think it was worth continuing.
Sealfinger by Heide Goody and Iain Grant. Heavy handed humour and a very slow start to this thriller set on the east coast of UK. I got bored.
Names for the Dawn by CL Beaumont The premise was intriguing. Will, who is trans, works as a ranger in Alaska. He meets a man who is a British Indian ecologist. Can they ever get together or stay together? Sadly, I didn’t care. I couldn’t really empathise sufficiently with either of the characters. The prose was lyrical and I’m sure Alaska is a wonderful third person in the story.
We rather went off the end of series 3 of Stranger Things and weren’t sure we’d bother with series 4. Now we’ve tried it we’re liking it more than expected although I’m not convinced the longer episodes were necessary. So far I’m loving The Sandman, but my fave of any fantasy series is The Umbrella Academy which is just brilliant.
Husband dislikes The Sandman and as I’m not that keen we haven’t bothered after the first episode. I must look out for The Umbrella Academy. I gather it’s on Netflix.