January 2023 Books and TV reviews

We had two delightful whippets to stay for New Year while their people were away.


I didn’t watch much this month – or rather I did, but mostly ongoing things that I’ll review at a later date.

Detectorists Christmas Special***** Delightful long episode of the very British ‘comedy’ show. It has plenty of gentle humour but is not played totally for laughs. BBC iPlayer

Frozen Planet II: Worlds of Wonder**** Nice eye candy, as all nature programmes tend to be. BBC iPlayer

I did, however, do a lot of reading!

Familiar authors

The highly recommended:

Changing his tune by Blake Allwood**** Another in the Rocktoberfest series. This one has a pop star wanting to switch to rock or at least more ‘adult’ music, and his affair with one of the technical crew. Lovely plot with thriller twists, nice romance, and I am still totally hooked on these music stories.

Loving Daniel by Ruby Moone**** Great story in the MC Securities series. The romance is good and the thriller elements are suitably thrilling. The characters are great and it was lovely to meet some of the people from the previous books. The main setting is Manchester which is where I live so the story comes alive for me in a personal way. These books would probably get a five star top rating if the proof reading was better. There are far too many typos – and they are typos, not author errors. Examples: ‘there we’re’ instead of ‘they were’ and a whole sentence in punctuation marks instead of just the dialogue bit. We can all make or rather not notice mistakes like that but they come thick and fast in these books which is a pity. If they weren’t otherwise so good it would throw me out of the story.

The Love and the Anger by Rebecca Cohen**** As usual, a lovely addition to the Crofton Hall series. Lots of fascinating details and an exciting plot.

The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams**** This is a kind of bridge between Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and the next series. It is almost wholly concerned with a battle and siege and I only really continued with it because I need to know about the events in it before continuing. I love Williams’ writing, and I must say I was engrossed, which is not usual for me when military matters are concerned. However, the author made the whole thing fascinating by recounting the opposing points of view and it will be interesting to see what happens to both sides in the new series, the first of which I have ready to read.  All the books are set in a fantasy world.

The readable:

The Case of the Undiscovered Corpse by Charlie Cochrane*** I think this might be the first time I haven’t given one of this author’s books four stars. The plot was interesting and the mingling of the Cambridge fellows with the actor pair was clever, but there were altogether too many detectives. I lost count when various colleagues and staff started joining in. And then there was the multiplicity of possible suspects. My head was spinning. Readable, for the nice character portraits and the murder mystery, but needless to say, totally incomprehensible for anyone not familiar with the earlier books in either series.

The Witness of the Sun by Suki Fleet*** This was an ARC copy for review so there’s a more detailed review on Scott’s site. It was high fantasy with a YA vibe though with some explicit sex scenes that moved it into a adult category. Not really my ‘scene’ but might appeal to some readers and the writing is good.

A Body in his Bed by Sue Brown*** Nice enough addition to the series about the fledgling detective agency, with the most lucrative client of Skander and Owen arrested for murder. Because the guys are now civilians rather than cops there is less detailed detecting, and a lot of family interest and drama, which is pleasant but needs a thorough knowledge of both this and the general island series to appreciate fully.

The Family We’re Born With by Kaje Harper*** Quite a good Christmas story with various lost family members coming together plus some mm romance. I think there’s a sequel but I didn’t get into the characters sufficiently to care though I’ll read it if I come across it because I always enjoy Kaje’s writing.

The Prince and his bedeviled bodyguard by Charlie Cochet*** Pleasing story in YA fairytale style with a quest and a moral.

1979 by Val McDermid *** I usually like this author and the way they weave LGBT+ issues into their thrillers. The writing was as good as usual but I found the switch to investigative journalism not really to my taste and quickly got bored by the newspaper reporter lifestyle. I have the second book in the series and might read it if I run out of books…

Rainbow Advent Calendar – varied. I am not listing all the stories and can’t really give the calendar itself any meaningful star rating. I enjoyed it but had difficulty keeping up with the amount of reading, and then discovered a couple of forgotten files with even some of last year’s Christmas stories kept for this year but still unread. I think next Christmas I will opt out of the entire ‘read a story a day’ thing till I’ve caught up with myself. Though I’ve already had an idea for my own contribution… Many of the stories will still be available on authors’ websites etc. My own is. Check out the FB group for details.

Not for me:

Mage Bond by Eden Winters. Abandoned. I could see quite quickly that there was too much high fantasy plus pirates for my tastes. I love fantasy, but not all types of fantasy.

Authors new to me

Highly recommended:

The Silent Traveller in Edinburgh by Chiang Yee ***** A Christmas present I was really pleased with as this series has been out of print for some time and has only just reappeared. It’s a fascinating account of a stay in Edinburgh by an academic and artist from China, working in UK during the second world war and cut off from his family. We see Edinburgh through the fresh eyes of a foreign traveller and we also learn about similarities and differences in Chinese and Western culture. I think perhaps the fact that the book was written (and illustrated by the author) during wartime adds to the new perspectives. I understand there are similar books about Yee’s experiences in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, both of which are familiar ground for me. I shall be looking out for them.

Two Tribes by Fearne Hill**** A thoughtful and well written novel about two very disparate characters falling in love as schoolboys then finding each other again in middle age. The first half was reminiscent of Heartstopper (Netflix) then the tragedy that separated the pair came as a complete shock and added immeasurably to the structure of the story and the explanation for so many aspects of the lives of both men.

Alia Terra (Stories from the Dragon Realm) by Ava Kelly and illustrated by Matthew Spencer**** An interesting and beautifully illustrated set of Romanian fairy stories, suitable for primary age kids. (I did a slightly longer review for Scott.) The adventures end with people and dragons accepting their lives and their differences rather than with princes and princesses getting married and living happily ever after. As such, a refreshing alternative to the usual Disney take on fairy tales so often marketed to today’s children.


A Bridge to a Troll’s Heart by Lee Colgin*** Quite sweet mm fairy tale based on Three Billy Goats Gruff. Suitable for YA audience but not very memorable for me.

Three Stupid Weddings by Ann Gallagher*** Pleasant enough mm (but ace) romance. Once the characters and situation were introduced my brain could immediately tell me the rest of the story… Dom agrees to be Vic’s fake boyfriend for three family weddings. I bet most of you could figure out what happens. The only marginally interesting bit was Vic’s eating disorder, triggered by his controlling ex.

Not recommended:

Last Fight of the Old Hound by Nils Odlund** Some great worldbuilding in this shifter story set in an alternate universe, but I couldn’t even work out whether it was going to involve mf romance or not. Then it ended on a cliff-hanger. I don’t mind knowing there’s more story to come, but cliff-hangers are an absolute no-no for me as endings unless the book is initially advertised as e.g. a trilogy like Lord of the Rings.

Southern Bound by Stuart Jaffe** A paranormal detective story. Hmm. Stereotyped characters, confusing investigation, no underlying explanation of paranormal phenomena. There’s to be a series. It will have to go on its way without me as a reader.

Whisky from Small Glasses by Denzil Meyrick ** I did actually plough through this police procedural set in Scotland on the west coast. The series (because of course there’s a series) is set in a fictional town which has unaccountably been given the name of a real town, some way off. (Cue much use of Google Maps until I read an interview with the author.) The writer is ex-police and the procedural part is no doubt accurate but not very interesting. There is a lot of head hopping which is irritating. There is also a fair amount of slightly shaky vocabulary. I wish most retired police would stick to some kind of police consultancy and leave writing to writers. The end was reasonably exciting once you got round the head hopping, but then the very final page had a twist that was presumably meant to entice the reader to buy the next book but left me wondering why I’d bothered with that one.

This Much is True by Miriam Margolyes** I like her acting and her contributions to TV discussion and so on. I didn’t enjoy this. It seemed very self-absorbed (though I don’t think she necessarily is) and came across as just a list of all the people she’d acted and interacted with over the years. Unless you knew the people concerned (and mostly, I didn’t) this quickly became very boring indeed. There were a few nuggets of gem-like quality but not enough to justify a whole autobiography.

Not for me:

The Goblin Twins by Kit Barrie. Abandoned. It started with reams of information about goblin languages (actually, these were dialects, not languages) – information that was not really informative. For example, despite what the author would have us believe, neither of the ‘a’ letters in ‘adorable’ is long, and long ‘a’ usually sounds ‘ay’ whereas ‘aa’ is normally used for ‘ah’. Having waded through this strange form of linguistic usage I found the next section concerned elf languages and I nearly gave up at that point. Then, when the story started, there were, indeed, goblin twins, royal ones at that, though why everybody had to be described as a goblin man or a goblin woman rather than referring to their gender in other ways was beyond me. Anyway, the twins seemed to inhabit a world of clichés and tropes and I couldn’t be bothered.

Meru by S V Divya. Abandoned. Sci fi by a scientist. The amount of world building involving scientific terminology, some of it quite abstruse, was overwhelming.

First Impressions by Jay Hogan. Abandoned. It started with a lot of sex and thoughts about sex between characters the reader did not yet know or care about. I persevered but the basic plot seemed to be very predictable. Two guys meet – lust plus hate at first sight – then they are thrown together. I might be wrong but Aukland Meds (this is book 1) probably isn’t for me, though I was initially attracted by the NZ location.

Right as Raine by Lucy Lennox. Abandoned. Dietician appointed as personal chef to footballer. Again, once I knew the characters and situation I couldn’t be bothered to read on.

The Botanist by M W Craven. Abandoned. Billed as a gripping thriller. It wasn’t. I got tired of the frequent switches to new sets of characters and  the amount of so-called humour.

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