November Reviews

Films and TV

Dublin Murders*****
I really enjoyed this, with the flawed detectives (well acted), the Dublin background and the story which reached a satisfactory ending but still left it open to the viewer to accept a paranormal explanation for some aspects of the events. One review I saw criticised the fact that the lead detective should not/would not have been involved because of his previous history but his eagerness to take the case and deceive his superiors was explored in great detail. I was disappointed to learn that much of the location filming was actually in or around Belfast…

Spiral Season 7*****
What can I say? My all-time favourite cop show. Season 7 didn’t disappoint. I love the ensemble cast, the views of lesser known parts of Paris, and the interesting exploration of the French police, judiciary and legal system.

Carnival Row Season 1*****
Gorgeous show. Fae and steampunk meet in an AU Victorian London. There’s a gripping plot with lots of nods to current issues such as immigration and racism, fabulous special effects, and, amazingly, Orlando Bloom can act. But then he was one of the people involved in making the film so perhaps he was better directed than usual? I really hope Season 2 doesn’t take for ever to arrive. I watched this on Amazon Prime, and sort of spread it out because I didn’t want it to end.

Wild China*****
Lovely series with a focus on wildlife but plenty of information about the various Chinese regions. Eye candy, yes, but intelligent eye candy that educates as well as entertaining.

Great Australian Railway Journeys*****
Michael Portillo, being his usual flamboyant self, introduces the viewer to Australia and links the various places and aspects of life via train journeys. He has done the same in UK and parts of Europe. If you liked those programmes you’d like these. And it’s a great way to learn more about Australia; I think even a lot of Australians would enjoy it, not just for the scenic rides but for the interesting interviews with Australians.

House of the Year (Grand Designs) ****
I mostly agreed with the judges, with one exception, the eventual winner. I found that house boring! I much preferred the ones that were completely eco-friendly or that merged into their surroundings.

The Accident****
Brit drama set in South Wales, where a combination of company greed, local council desperation and kids behaving recklessly lead to loss of life and an interesting (and grim) court case. Some excellent acting.

Cold Call****
Another Brit drama, where the wronged victim inches gradually into crime to retrieve her money. Good acting. And chilling information about how scams can work.

Gold Digger****
Yet another Brit drama, this time looking at an older woman who finds a young boyfriend to the shock and horror of her family. Good acting and interesting character development. However, it was quite slow, and I accidentally missed an episode but didn’t notice or find myself at all confused!

Goldstone***
An Australian film about a Native Australian detective. Some good acting and photography, and it was interesting to see David Wenham as a baddie. However, I gather it was a spin off from a series aired about ten years ago. I didn’t see that and I kept feeling I was missing fairly vital information. The immediate plot was fine, but there were mysterious references to the detective’s past, and his private life.

Books

The excellent and the highly recommended:

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco*****
A re-read, to go with the TV series. I will post a longer critique when the series is finished.

Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost by Z.A. Maxfield*****
A pianist finds himself falling for his used-to-be step brother. However, although this is a contemporary mm romance the most interesting characters are the ghosts who help the plot along and have an mm romantic (and possibly tragic) past themselves.

Skin After Skin by Jordan Castillo Price*****
This is a novel in the Psycops series. I’ve read all the rest but hadn’t come across the story of Crash, who is a minor character in the other novels. The book explores his past and gives the reader another view of Jacob and Victor, the main protagonists in the main series.

Tallowwood by NR Walker *****
A really thrilling detective mm novel where a Sydney detective is thrown together with an Indigenous Australian cop in a small town. Beautiful writing, too. I am now looking for other books by this author and have so far bought one. More will follow, I think.

A Litter of Bones by JD Kirk*****
A new series set in the Scottish Highlands. It’s a police thriller with lots of excitement as well as an interesting location. I might follow this detective.

Twice Shy by Sally Malcolm****
Pleasant contemporary mm romance in which teacher meets single dad. One of the protagonists has believable children which is always a plus.

Five Bloody Hearts by Joy Ellis****
The first volume in a new police procedural set in the north east fens. A gripping story and an interesting lead detective.

The Arrangement by Alex Jane****
A really heartwarming story in which friends push Gabriel and Nathaniel together. It loses a star because of poor proof reading.

The Replacement Husband by Eliot Grayson****
I really enjoyed the arranged marriage between Owen and Arthur, but found the world building less than stellar. I do think that if the main character is ‘Goddess Blessed’ and this affects their life and their future, the reader might be given an explanation.

The readable:

Silver Scars by Posy Roberts.***
A nice mm romance between two people with physical injuries and PTSD. However, although it was novel length, I found the writing rather repetitive and ‘padded’, and might have enjoyed it better if it hadn’t been written in present tense.

Bring Them Home by DS Butler***
This is another new police procedural set in Lincolnshire. The story was gripping enough but there was too much focus on procedure and the team seemed somewhat disjointed. I don’t think I’ll follow the series.

Survivor by TM Smith***
I enjoyed this story but thought it had poor structure. The author never seemed to make up their mind whether they were writing a thriller or an mm romance. Yes, you can cross genres to great effect, but there needs to be a main focus and that was missing here.

The Greater Freedom by Alya Mooro***

A book about feminism written from the perspective of an Arab woman. I’ll look at it in greater depth in a later post.

And the poor:

Dragonslayer by Resa Nelson**
I read the whole story and found it interesting and gripping enough, but won’t be following this series about Astrid, a smith, and her lover DiStephan in this AU mediaeval world. There were a lot of plot holes and I didn’t think the world building was adequate.

I can see you by Michael Leese**
How on earth can someone write a boring serial killer/spy story? This author managed it. I think the main problem was the way the story was structured so that the reader had too much knowledge before the protagonists did.

Short stories

The recommended:

Vlarian Oath by MistressKat***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21288197
I reviewed this in an earlier post. Gorgeous sci fi with an ff romance at its heart. An original story written for a story challenge that spanned original work and fanfic.

Trolling for Cupcakes by JL Merrow****
Short sweet ff ‘take’ on the tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff. Too short to get five stars. (I don’t mean that really short stories can’t get five stars, but that this one was too short for me.)

The readable:

A World Apart by Mel Gough***
Ben, a cop meets Donnie when the latter is wrongly arrested. Quite a nice story but for my taste there was too much focus on injury and medical care.

And the forgettable:

Cops, Cakes and Coffee by Sara York**
Fortunately short story. Drake is a cop and Adam is a baker, hence the title. It’s PWP (plot what plot in case you don’t know the genre) and has too much sex for too little reason.

Fanfiction

I read more Professionals Big Bang fic but there was nothing further I’d recommend to readers who are not already part of the fandom.

I also read more contributions to the Lewis FrightFest Challenge. I’d like to recommend:
In the forests of the night by greenapricot***** It isn’t actually frightening at all but is a lovely look at legends about shapeshifters and is set in Northumberland. https://archiveofourown.org/works/21281798

In other fandoms:

The Monster Next Door by Brumeier***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/21245204
This is a great short story written for a Halloween MonsterFest. I now want the author to write the story from the point of view of the cat…
It’s ostensibly a crossover between SGA and Labyrinth but takes off in a direction all its own.

I also found some beautiful poetry by silverr, based on folk tales, legends and art:
Wild of Branch and Root***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/14570421
The Black House***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/1088288

Two reviews in greater depth.

I promised a couple of longer reviews and thought I’d start with a film and a book, which only get three stars from me. For four and five star works I would probably just bore you with enthusiasm and for anything less than three a long review wouldn’t be worth your while. My picture is for once from a set of royalty-free images, not my own photographs. The creator is Анатолий Тушенцов and I am told to credit Getty Images/iStockphoto

La La Land***

I was, I suppose, sufficiently ‘hooked’ to watch to the end, which is not always the case with films. However, although I quite enjoyed it, I have some serious criticisms to make.

First of all, this was meant, I gathered, to be a musical, echoing the ‘classics’ such as Singing in the Rain. But this was unlike any musical I have ever seen on screen or stage. Normally, in everything from the afore mentioned Singing in the Rain to the current hit Hamilton, the directors/producers cast good singers (these are musicals, after all) and either teach them to dance or use other ‘chorus lines’ for many of the dance sequences. La La Land decided to be different. The lead characters were mediocre singers at best though their dancing was extremely good. One review I saw suggested that this allowed the viewer to feel closer to the heroine in particular. Well for this viewer, that failed. I don’t expect operatic quality in a musical (and in fact I’m not fond of grand opera) but I do expect a level of competence that I felt was lacking.

Secondly, there was no real plot. I kept hoping and kept being disappointed. A brief summary (spoilers here): a wannabe actress/screen writer meets a struggling violinist in Hollywood. They fall in love. Eventually, as they both achieve varying degrees of success, they drift apart. The end of the film has the heroine looking back and wondering what life would have been like if she’d married the violinist instead of her current husband (with whom she is perfectly content). That’s it. No drama, no real angst, no plot points that have you on the edge of your seat.

It’s possible, of course, that the writers envisaged Hollywood itself as the major character (along the lines of A Hundred Years of Solitude). But if so, they failed again. I would have no idea, from this film, what Hollywood is like – either as a geographical location or as a way of life for anyone other than the two who met there.
Part of the reason I watched to the end was to see what happened. Well, nothing much did.

I was told by reviewers that it was a ‘feel good’ film. I can’t think why. Three stars because it was competent and some people might enjoy it. I’m personally glad I saw it on television and didn’t pay to go to the cinema.

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday***

This time it’s a book that gets three stars simply because I read to the end and some people might find it good. It was, I have to admit, mostly well written (there were a few clumsy constructions but let’s blame the editing) and held my interest. However…

Annika visits her uncle in Eastern Europe and accidentally enters another world which turns out to be a sister planet with a fae population. She is trapped there and has a series of adventures in the course of which she falls in love with an elf. To say that Annika’s middle name is Mary Sue should sum up my feelings about the whole thing. Plus, Talvi is a spoilt brat by most people’s standards and I fail to see why Annika a.k.a. Mary Sue should apparently straighten him out.

The plot is derivative and draws its very clear inspiration from a number of books and films, including: Lord of the Rings (a quest and the elf village), Pirates of the Caribbean (the ship and crew who take them across the ocean), Harry Potter (the ‘fairy poppins’ bag Annika can pack with all her needs), Life of Pi (trees that feed on blood), The Snow Queen (elks to ride) and Stargate SG1 (the portals match the Stargates in every particular). I know it’s difficult to find new ways to express fantasy but the author doesn’t even appear to try.

The fae population seems to encompass almost every type of fae you’ve ever encountered in fantasy: wood nymphs (Annika/Mary Sue shares some wood nymph heritage), elves, fairies, pixies, brownies, trolls, vampires, shape shifters, druids (who can be shape shifters or paladins…), demons, sirens, and intelligent wolves. Obviously there are going to be different kinds of fae but many of these are poorly developed and appear merely, it seems, to add to the sense of the exotic nature of the world where the story takes place.

There are also some wood nymphs of the east who are described and treated in a suspiciously racist fashion, and eco warriors (from our earth, like Annika), who are the villains of the story. Another marginally racist thing, that was mentioned more than once, was a T shirt with the message ‘I’m huge in Japan’; Annika is small and so is her elf lover but since when were all Japanese small?

The quest and the romance were in fact fairly gripping and the main characters were well developed which is perhaps why I managed to read the entire book. I shall not, however, be buying the further adventures of Annika and Talvi. I left them driving down the west coast of (our) America, and heaved a sigh of relief that the book had been free.

October Reviews

As promised or threatened (take your pick), I have reviewed two items in more depth and will post those soon, possibly tomorrow. I chose three star ones. Four and five star films and books don’t need lengthy critiques, just recommendations, and one and two star things don’t deserve the time I would have to spend.

Films and TV

The excellent:

The Fifth Element***** watched and loved for the umpteenth time.

Ian Hislop’s Fake News: A True Story***** Excellent and timely history of fake news.

A Confession**** Gripping drama series based on a true story of a serial killer and a detective who broke the rules to get evidence. I also watched and enjoyed the one hour programme which followed the series and had interviews with the actual detectives and lawyers involved.

The Post**** Interesting and well-acted film that is effectively a prequel to Deep Throat, since it deals with the newspaper’s fight for freedom of the press which led in turn to Watergate.

The watchable:

La La Land*** Reviewed in more depth in my next post.

Books

The excellent:

Honeymoon for One by Keira Andrews***** A well written about an American who meets an Australian when he is jilted and takes what should have been his honeymoon by himself. Nice slow build up of romance between Ethan and Clay.
Ends of the Earth by Keira Andrews*****Exciting romance between Ben and Jason, with a thriller element when Jason’s daughter is abducted.

The Power of Zero and Two Divided by Zero by Jackie Keswick***** Rio, a computer expert for the secret services, rescues Jack, an abandoned teenager with serious problems. In the second book Jack has grown up, entered and then left the army, and seems likely to join Rio in their attempt to protect and serve the people. Beautifully written with well developed characters.

The Wolf and the Pear by Alex Jane***** Gorgeous twisted fairy tale with echoes of all the wolf stories out there. Lev and his wolf have a happy ending, and so does the village once the wicked witch is defeated. I must look out for this author.

Pricks and Pragmatism by JL Merrow****
Entertaining story of Russell and Luke in the Southampton Stories series. Their friends try to steer them together but it all almost ends in failure.
Hard Tail by JL Merrow**** Second in the Southampton Stories series. Set in a bike shop which Tim is looking after for his brother. Matt is the assistant. Again, amusing and heart-warming.

Witch is When it All Began by Adele Abbott**** First of the Witch P.I mysteries. Well written and amusing. The focus is more on witches than detective work and I may well buy the sequel.

The readable:

The King’s Honour by JL Merrow*** Nice twisted fairy tale based on the dancing princesses but much too short for more than three stars, for me.

Snowflakes over Holly Cove by Lucy Coleman*** Boring het romance between a journalist and her landlord.

The Flame and the Arrow by Emigh Cannaday*** Reviewed in more depth in my next post.

A Village Affair by Julie Houston***
Boring romance between a teacher and a businessman (het). It was meant to be amusing but I merely smiled and then only at some of the school events…

Broadland by David Blake*** Boring then melodramatic police procedural.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole by Allan Ropper*** Stories about strange neurological disorders and diagnoses. I hoped it would be as good as Oliver Sachs book The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, but it wasn’t as well done. Poor structure and too little detail about some cases.

Fanfic

I’ve been reading through the contributions to this years Professionals Big Bang (based on the 70s TV show). Most of the entries require too much knowledge of canon to appreciate but I must recommend Buen Camino, Bodie by Sharon Ray. https://archiveofourown.org/works/20842268
After a life spent together, when Ray dies, Bodie sets out on a pilgrimage – the route to Santiago de Compostela that Ray had wanted to take. The journey through Spain is beautifully evoked and Bodie gradually discovers things about himself, his erstwhile partner and the world in general. A lovely and moving story. I know northern Spain well and was transported there by the descriptions. There is no romance in the story other than reference to the past life, but the whole thing simply throbs with love, not merely between two people but for everyone. It is, I gather, a kind of companion piece to the same author’s My Time. https://archiveofourown.org/works/8878033
This is an account of Ray’s sojourn in prison for an offence he did not commit. There is a similar attention to detail and an ability to get to the heart of a character. Also highly recommended.

The Lewis Frightfest started on 31st October but in fact I read one of the stories earlier since I did the beta and proofreading for it: Prey, by Fictionwriter https://archiveofourown.org/works/21246140 The author evokes a suitably creepy Victorian atmosphere in an Oxford lit by lamplight and the monster is genuinely scary without ever doing any lasting harm. Another member of the same fandom posted a story I read on Halloween evening: Angel in the Meadow by asparagusmama https://archiveofourown.org/works/21260744 The author hadn’t, last time I looked, added it to the Frightfest collection and I’m not sure why. It’s now after Halloween but if you want some short spooky reads for November evenings, try these two!

I’ve also been following the annual October Monster Fest in one of the social media communities I belong to and that got me plenty of ficlets to read plus some recs for longer pieces.

September reviews

Late again, but this time with a cast iron excuse. I was ill for a week at the beginning of October and only managed to keep switching on the TV and falling asleep to it.

From next month I’m intending to do at least a couple of more in-depth reviews/critiques, probably as separate posts.

Films and TV

Politics, politics, politics. I think most of UK has been glued to the News…

Darkness: Those Who Kill**** Danish police procedural – gripping even though we knew the identity of the criminal quite early. But I was startled to see a European cop series with the sort of glossy look (sets and actors) normally associated with American output.

Jamie Oliver vegetarian cookery series**** I must get the book. We aren’t veggie but our daughter is, and we like some veggie dishes anyway.

Long series about the Vietnam War**** I can’t remember the exact title. It was about eight episodes and was very interesting. I think our news at the time was quite curtailed in some ways, since we weren’t directly involved.

Books

The good:

Because Internet by Gretchen McCulloch***** The state and future of English in the age of the internet. Fascinating research and commentary.

Gentleman Wolf by Joanna Chambers***** Werewolves and mm romance in Edinburgh – plus there’s a sequel on the way!

Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune by Charlie Cochrane***** Cambridge Fellows mystery, set back when Jonty’s parents were alive. This long novella was really interesting.

Today by RJ Scott (Single Dads #2)**** A lovely story and well written. However, I wouldn’t re-read it because of the focus on the work of a firefighter. Fire tends to ‘trigger’ me since our loss in Portugal, and although I can read about it I’d rather not.

Lovers’ Leap by JL Merrow**** Nice romance story with plenty of humour set on the Isle of Wight.

Deep Magic by Gillian St Kevern**** Set in North Wales, using local legend about mermen, water horses, etc. I never quite suspended disbelief but enjoyed the tale anyway.

The Altered by Annabelle Jacobs**** Gripping thriller about werewolves, created when a medical/military research experiment went wrong. I loved the story but there was some less than stellar writing.

Going Home by Kris Ripper**** A clever exploration of the similarities and differences concerning slavery and BDSM in an alternative future. I got tired of the plot and the characters but finished it.

Scorched Haven by Amy Lane**** Urban fantasy with werewolves, fae, etc. I might buy series (Little Goddess), which sounds interesting. Well written, as usual. This was too short to merit five stars.

Not Every Time by Alexa Milne**** Shortish mm romance. Nicely written best friends to lovers story.

Flashbulb by Clare London**** PSTD after an air crash, explored through the characters of this mm romance.

The mediocre:

Nellie by Cynthia Woolf*** (Brides of San Francisco series.) I suppose the research about mail order brides in the nineteenth century was interesting but there was too much explicit sex and Nellie was a surprisingly modern heroine for the period.

Sweeter than Honey by CM Valencourt*** Pleasant enough short story about a beekeeper and a vegan.

And the poor:

Thunderpoint by Michelle Scott** A melodramatic ghost story with added mm romance and a whodunnit element. Not very well written.

Incognito by L.A.Watson** Tech industry spy/thriller but not well written. I felt there were plot holes, and the characters never really came to life.

The Clockwork Monk by Liv Rancourt** Steampunk thriller with a spy and his sister who is masquerading as a nun. Poor world building. The characters changed their names frequently which left this reader faintly confused. I’ve just bought a novel by the same author and am annoyed with myself.

Twins by Kevin L Nielsen** Nicely written but extremely short sci fi story. Winged twins save each other from death. That’s all…

And finally the dire:

The Woman without a face by Kendall Hanson* Police procedural but very short indeed with an unsatisfactory ending. There’s the threat or promise of a series but no suggestion this story will be finished properly.

Abandoned (mostly freebies):
The Society of Imaginary Friends by Kristen Pham. Valerie sees spirits which make her life difficult.
The Nuremberg Puzzle by Laurence O’Bryan. Thriller with so many characters in first chapters I lost track.
The Council by Kayla Kranz. This seemed to be a magic college story. It was boring and was told in present tense.
The Murder Diaries: Seven Times Over by David Carter. Serial killer? I couldn’t get into it.
Warrior by HJP. Confusing sci fi with too many characters somehow taking tech to the stars…

Fanfic

As usual, I’ve read odds and ends in various series, all too tied to canon to recommend to people not in the fandoms concerned. However, I’ve been watching the chaos caused by AO3’s Hugo Award. There are various stories and poems based on what happened but this was one of the first and, I think, sums it all up beautifully.
https://archiveofourown.org/works/20670977 Stanley Cup – What it Means by anonymous.

August reviews

Films and TV

Good Omens*** I confess to being disappointed. It stuck to the book but took too much time reaching some of the more exciting parts and skimmed over some aspects too quickly. Good acting, and I loved the introduction and final illustrations.

The Whaley Bridge dam disaster…. As I’ve already pointed out, in the post before this one, we spent the first half of the month glued to the local news.

The second half has been taken up with UK politics (ongoing…!!!)

Neither of these is something for which stars would be appropriate!

I have also watched quite a few natural history programmes but have forgotten their titles. An octopus in the home and the discovery of a frozen woolly mammoth were highlights.

Books

The excellent:

The Cracked Slipper by Stephanie Alexander*****
A delighful and intelligent exploration of the marriage of Cinderella and her Prince Charming, who turns out to have a lot of flaws. Well written (though better proof reading would have been good) and with echoes of Arthurian legend with Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot. I loved this book. It was one of the free novels I got either from the Smashwords sale or from Prolific Works, and was a really good find!

The Lodestar of Ys by Amy Rae Durreson***** Another freebie that was excellent. The mm romance in the royal arranged marriage between Celyn and Sjurd was intriguing but the major delight was the world building. The hanging islands became a character in their own right and I am hoping to read more stories set in them. I hadn’t realised, because the author name on the Smashwords blurb was not the same, that this was by an author I already liked. However, the cover showed the correct author name.

I would highly recommend the above two books.

Also very good:

Love in Every Season by Charlie Cochrane**** Four short stories. I liked the first – Horns and Halos – best. It centred on the work and training of people on school governing bodies and I appreciated the details since I’ve experienced that myself. I also enjoyed a further free short story by Charlie: Once we won matches****. This is set in the Cambridge Fellows series and was re-issued in honour of the cricket season.

One Night by RJ Scott**** A nicely written romance between a winery owner and a rich lawyer, set during a conference on the West Coast of America. What Lies Beneath**** is a mystery story with an nderlying mm romance by the same author. It was an enjoyable read but left a lot of loose ends. I’m assuming these will be addressed in the rest of the Lancaster Falls trilogy which I shall buy! I liked the world of the small town near the dam and reservoir, and was perhaps more intrigued than usual because of our Whaley Bridge connections.

Pluck and Play by Clare London**** A lovely story about an American rancher and a British courier set in the London ‘world’ of the author’s invented ice cream business With a Kick. I also enjoyed Freeman****, by the same writer, which was very well written. However, the mystery of the main character (Freeman of the title) was too drawn out and I never really managed to empathise with him.

Eagle Man and Mr Hawk by Dawn Sister****. A really enjoyable romance about an animal trainer; the animal crew was delightful. See you smile**** by the same writer was an exciting story featuring an author who meets a much younger guy who is deaf, and who is having problems with a possible stalker.

Perfect Love by A.M. Burns**** Ethan and Dusty are paranormal PIs. I loved the story though the book has poor editing and lacks tense control. The plot and the relationship were sufficiently amusing and exciting to keep my interest.

The mediocre

Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky*** Flashbacks to wartime Vienna again, and an unlikely plot. I was disappointed, since I usually enjoy this author.

Till Death do us Part by Addison Albright*** Sam thinks Henry is dead in an air crash and agrees to marry Nash. Meanwhile Henry survives on an island. The story had a strange structure and a lot of the focus was on the survival techniques. I found it quite interesting but then realised I was doing a lot of skimming.

Blue Fire by Z.A. Maxfield*** A pleasant novella about a firefighter who falls for the man he rescues.

Shifting Sands by Kiernan Kelly *** I realised this was a re-read and I liked the concept of the shifter ranch all over again, but the story has too much explicit sex and I won’t be reading any others in the series. Well written.

Making it by Christine D’Abo*** Devan’s husband Eli, a boxer, leaves him but comes back to find baby Matthew. I got bored and won’t be following the series but the writing was of a good standard.

Passing on Faith by A.M Leibowitz*** This was quite an exciting novel with a family mystery as well as romance. However, it was too religious for my tastes, perhaps because the churches concerned were very American and outside my real understanding.

Risky Behaviour by L.A Witt and Cari Z***. A competent thriller with a newly partnered pair set against what seems like the entire police force and local government. However, it was basically forgettable so the character development was clearly not stellar.

Synchronicity by Keira Andrews*** A nicely written short story about divers at the Olympics.

It happened in Vegas by various. An anthology *** Mixed – all the stories had happy endings but I was worried that some of the stories would turn out to be ‘dark’ which rather spoilt the experience.

And the rest…

Long Shadows by Kate Sherwood** A thriller with hints of romance between the (female) sheriff and a local criminal, with added ‘interest’ in the shape of a cop from LA. There were plotholes galore.

Hidden Talents by Claire Cray – abandoned. This set out to be a trilogy about psychics. It was very dark, which is not to my personal taste, but the main criticism was poor characterisation.

I also started and abandoned a number of ‘freebies’ because they turned out to be things I didn’t really want to read. I won’t bother listing them but can say I am relieved to have made inroads into my to-be-read list!

Fanfic

Nothing to recommend this month. What I read was mixed, but all needed a knowledge of canon.

July reviews

Another month gone and I haven’t posted since my last reviews… Must do better! Anyway, here are July’s offerings.

Films and TV
Either I didn’t watch much this month or I forgot to record my viewing which means it was forgettable anyway. I think most of my TV time was taken up with politics… UK politics in July veered between horror and farce and was definitely the only thing to watch! I did apparently see:

The Lawyer.*** I’m giving this three stars. I can’t remember a single thing about it but I evidently found it worth noting.

Books

The very good and the good:

I binged on the Mad Creek series by Eli Easton. Dog shifters and humans in a remote town. Lots of humour and lots of thrills. Highly recommended and I hope she writes more!
Mad Creek*****
How to Howl at the Moon / How to Walk like a Man / How to Wish upon a Star / How to save a life and How to run with the wolves.

All Things Bright and Beautiful by James Herriot***** I used to live in the Yorkshire Dales so there was a nostalgia element, but another pleasure was the information about pre-WW2 veterinary methods. You don’t need to have seen the TV series to enjoy the book.

Hot Summer Nights **** This was a charity anthology of mm stories by various authors including JL Merrow. As usual with any anthology the standard varied but I enjoyed the book, and her contribution in particular.

Love, Jamie by AKM Miles**** A pleasant mm romance involving thriller elements with a stalker.

Frank at Heart by Pat Henshaw **** Another pleasant mm story in the Foothills Pride series. Well written and I might read more if I ever get far down my tbr list.

Cutie and the Beast by EJ Russell**** A nice urban magic mm twist on Beauty and the Beast – I may well try more of this Fae Out of Water series if only because urban magic appeals to me (it’s the genre I mostly write in).

Total Recall by Sara Paretsky**** VI Warshawski, the Chicago PI, investigates a case that necessitates long flashbacks to WW2 Germany and England by one of the principal (present-day) characters. I could see the point of them but for me they detracted from the pleasure of the novel.

The acceptable. All well written but not particularly recommended.

Burning Fall by EJ Smyth*** Short mm story set in Frankfurt, seen through the eyes of an American who is one of the main characters. Ultimately unmemorable. I won’t be reading any more of the series (Volume 1 of Frankfurt Hot Seasons)

Fire Thief by Jordan Castillo Price*** An unusual short story but I was left vaguely dissatisfied. Clever but perhaps too much focus on the ‘twist’ and not enough on the characters. It was a ‘freebie’ and as I read most of what she writes, I read this. If you do, go ahead and read it. If not, it isn’t the best introduction to her work.

Loathing Leo by Ash Penn *** An mm ‘romance’ centred on an abduction supposed to be for the good of the relationship. I got very irritated with all the main characters and frankly disliked the story.

Imperfect by Cassidy Ryan***
Another short with the main focus on trying to please parents who held erroneous beliefs.

Fleeting Moments by Nic Starr*** A sweet short story about a couple and the mother of one of them. The mother has dementia.

A Blind Eye by Jane Gorman*** An ultimately boring thriller (yes, honestly) set in Poland where a Polish-American police officer is on some kind of diplomatic mission which seemed unlikely, and gets involved with old family problems. (Volume 1 of the Kaminski mysteries which I shall not be following.)

And the abandoned. None of these were well enough written to hook my interest.

Child of the Theatre by Caleb. Some sort of Regency mm – boring because it was too erotic even before we had any idea of the characters.

Castro Jack by Mark Cartwright. Experiences of a gay Brit in 70s San Francisco. Simply boring.

Tear Down and Die by Joanna Campbell Slan. A boring cozy mystery. The author claims to write ‘clean’ books with no explicit sex or bad language. Pity they also lack character and plot.

Off Broadway by Sarah Kay Moll. This was written in a strange style and I couldn’t get into it at all.

Hero in a Halfling by William Tyler Davis. A derivative and boring lotr style epic.

Crude Magic by Michael D Young. Magical, maybe, but it didn’t grab me and was too hard to get into.

Fanfic

As so often, the fanfic I read depended on a reasonably knowledge of the canon (the original shows or books). In fact I abandoned a long fic by astolat, whose work I would normally adore, for this very reason. I enjoyed some of what I read and left kudos on AO3 but would not review the works here for general readers. The only one I would like to mention is
Written by the Victors by Speranza***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/15 It’s an SGA fic and does require knowledge of the show but if you have seen that, then this is worth reading. It is clever and interesting, purportedly written many years later with all kinds of references. It consists of various articles etc. which pinpoint the way history can be skewed by the perceptions of writers. The articles are interspersed with apparent slices of ‘what really happened’. Whilst the idea and execution are brilliant, it won’t be accessible to anyone who doesn’t know the original story.

June reviews

For once I had them ready on 1st, but had too much else to post!

Films and TV

Johnny English Reborn***** Hilarious spoof spy story – provided you like Rowan Atkinson.

War on Plastic**** Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall doing his bit for, or rather, against pollution. Some interesting information emerged, especially on how local authorities deal with waste, and how changes in packaging affect supermarket prices. I ended up feeling the ordinary person couldn’t do much, if they were already aware of pollution, recycling, etc. And if they weren’t, I doubt if they’d watch the three programmes.

Years and Years*** Russell T Davies looks at the near future. Well produced and acted, but I found it very depressing as it just confirmed all my fears about the way the world (and UK in particular) is going. Also, whilst it was interesting to have the drama focus on a single extended family, it was rather surprising and unlikely to find one with so many pertinent ‘problems’.

Montalbano*** I used to love this series but I was disappointed. There wasn’t nearly enough Sicilian countryside, and the detectives seemed determined to sit in their office waiting for witnesses to come and report to them. I watched the first two part story then gave up.

My Gay Dog and Other Animals*** I agreed with one reviewer of this who said that even though it was animals the watcher could end up feeling like a voyeur. And although there was some discussion of the reasons for the observed behaviour there was very little science.

Books

Recommended:

The Heights by Amy Aislin F***** This was a free e-book and I was surprised and impressed. A child is abducted and then found as an adult. The writer makes the various reactions of family members extremely interesting and of course the mm romance has the ‘found’ adult as one of the protagonists and it is rewarding to see how he copes.

Fallout and Body Work by Sara Paretsky***** I bought Fallout from the sale trolley at my local library, and remembered enjoying the V.I.Warshawski series so bought more for my Kindle. The female detective was one of the ones that inspired my own writing and the stories are still fresh and gripping. Vic is a fascinating heroine.

Seeing Red by Alex Beecroft***** I gave a whole post to advertising this latest novel in the Trowchester series, and the book itself was just as good as I expected. The ‘bad’ boy’s motives are interesting and well-explained, and the owner of the threatened tea shop is a delightful character. I love these series where we gradually get to know a whole community and meet major characters from other books as minor ones in the current story. The same applies to the next two recommendations here.

Resonance, Resistance and Renaissance by Lilian Francis***** Another mm series with a well developed village community in Slopy Bottom. I enjoyed the third book even more than the first two, since getting to know so many of the minor characters.

Choosing Home, Returning Home, and Staying Home by Alexa Milne***** Again, an entire community is brought to life on the north east coast of Scotland. The first book deals with the ex-footballer owner of a local hotel where people from the next volumes stay, eat and marry. The second book introduces a local policeman and his love for a man badly injured by a city gang, and in a wheelchair. The gang kill the husband of one of the minor characters, who becomes the ‘lead’ in the third story, which also features a Church of Scotland minister and his inevitable angst over coming out as gay. The author tackles each theme with great sensitivity and gives an illuminating look at current problems faced by gay men as well as developing the location in loving detail.

Single by RJ Scott*****After a breakup, Asher decided to keep the baby born to a surrogate mother. So as a single dad, his social life seems restricted but a trio of guys, policeman, firefighter and doctor, move in next door and his life changes for the better. Heartwarming and romantic.

Heat by RJ Scott and Chris Quinton***** Interesting romance with a touch of mystery set in a restaurant in Salisbury. I’m hoping to hear more about Lewis and Devon and their families and friends. This is a collaborative work and both authors are good – it’s impossible to tell who wrote what, though I suspect Quinton was at least responsible for the locations.

And the rest:

Creative Interior Design (Ward Lock)***Worth keeping as a work of reference. I must have skimmed through it when I first bought it years ago but to be honest it seems a little dated now. Some interesting information about various periods and styles. As is often the case in this type of glossy ‘coffee table’ book I wonder whether the photographer always reads the text. I’m also not sure about the title: Interior Design, yes, but Creative?

Broken Guns by teromain*** An original novel published on AO3 (which accepts original works with some connection to fanworks e.g. common fanfic tropes). Competent writing and I found the story, set in a steampunk au, fairly gripping but I’m not usually a fan of romance between minor criminals, however much the author differentiates between those who choose a life of crime and those who are catapulted into it, so won’t be seeking any more of their work.

Fanfic

I read some long (novel length) and excellent fics this month, in Sherlock, SGA and H5O, including one where Steve from H5O is a vampire who wants to become human, but basically, everything required too much prior knowledge of canon to recommend to the casual reader.

May Reviews

TV and film

In case anybody wonders, most of my TV viewing consists of news, in-depth politics, interviews, etc. I really enjoy BBC Parliament, for example, but am not about to highlight specific debates here! This section is for programmes I would recommend if they are still availabe.

The excellent:

Line of Duty season 5***** I adore this show and although season 5 wasn’t quite as good as the early seasons, it still gets 5 stars from me and I’m looking forward to season 6.

Wellington: The Iron Duke Unmasked (BBC4)***** Lots of interesting material about Wellington’s later life and his marriage. I’m a huge ‘fan’ of the Napoleonic war period – fiction and non-fiction alike – so I enjoyed this.

Our Dementia Choir with Vicky McClure ***** Vicky is, of course, one of the main actors in Line of Duty but here she showed her amazing skills as a presenter. She watched her grandmother suffer from Alzheimer’s so jumped at the chance to help with a scientific experiment to see how music affects people with the condition.

The good:

Adele: In her own Words**** I didn’t really know Adele’s music before I watched this – wrong generation, I suppose! Anyway, I now have some of her songs on my Spotify list and was fascinated by this exploration of her personality and work.

The Hunt for Jihadi John**** This was grim viewing. I knew about his ISIS actions, of course, but not much about the man himself. This programme corrected that ignorance.

Botany: A Blooming History**** An intriguing look at plants. As well as the inevitable eye candy we got, in three programmes, a history of botany and botanists ranging from early agricultural experiments to today’s genetic modification techniques.

The merely watchable:

Our Kind of Traitor (Ewan McGregor)*** Forgettable spy film but McGregor was, of course, watchable.

Killing Eve*** I didn’t mean to watch this, and didn’t like it much, but husband was hooked so… Brilliant acting, and I think all of them deserved Baftas, but the concept – assassins and so on – didn’t appeal to me.

Cowboys and Aliens*** I think I’ve seen this before but if so had forgotten a lot of the story. Mediocre plot, acting and direction.

Books

The excellent and the good:

Healing Glass by Jackie Keswick ***** I had an advance review copy. See my separate review during May.

Daughters of the Dragon by William Andrews***** A fascinating novel about the women who were forced into being ‘comfort’ workers for Japanese troops during WW2. It’s told from the point of view of a grandaughter of one of them, brought up in America.

A Merciful Silence by Kendra Eliott***** I didn’t realise I’d bought this fourth thriller featuring Mercy and Truman. It was as enjoyable as the first three but the series is becoming a little formulaic and I may not continue, especially now that Mercy and Truman seem to be engaged to be married.

Murder House (Psycop 10) by Jordan Castillo Price*****
I love the Psycop series. In this one, Vic is undercover, away from Jacob, investigating a house where someone died.
Hue Tint and Shade by Jordan Castillo Price***** A long short story, one of the Bittersweet Candy Kisses collection featuring the magical chocolatier Chance as well as Nathan and Tommy, the couple for whom he arranges romance. I love the whole series, including stories by other authors.

Montana Sky by RJ Scott (Montana 6)*****This is the last of the Montana series and I shall be sorry to leave Crooked Tree Ranch. I still think that statistics suggest there are too many gay men in the immediate area but I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Martin, Tyler, and the geology of the region.

Moonstruck by Aleksandr Voinov ***** I loved the fact that the author really understands fan fiction, and brings Anthony and Samir through Samir’s work in the ‘world’ of Anthony’s published series. The fact that the series involves werewolves made me want to read it though I am sadly aware that it is a plot device and not an actual set of novels.

Rewind by Marshall Thornton (Pinx 4)***** I’ve been enjoying this series of ‘cozy’ murders investigated by an intrepid group of gay men in Los Angeles during the worst years of the AIDs epidemic. In this volume, Noah wakes up next to a dead body but although the victim did have HIV that wasn’t the cause of death.

Surprise Groom (Marital Bliss 1) by DJ Jamison ***** I shall be following the author’s new series. Her writing is excellent and I think she is at her best when exploring themes with mild thriller elements. Caleb, Julien and an island dedicated to providing an exclusive marriage venue form an interesting story.
Special Nights by DJ Jamison **** This loses a star because there is less to grip the reader in this pleasant romance. Sam has insomnia and meets Hunter, a barista. It’s a short novel or a long short story and is well written.

Bone to Pick (Digging up Bones 1) by TA Moore**** This is a story of a police dog handler and an FBI agent. The thriller element, with the missing child, was well presented and the writing was good. However, my favourite character was the dog, Bourneville, and I don’t think I’ll be following the series.

Kip’s Monster by Harper Fox **** As with all Harper’s books, this was beautifully written, but loses a star because I found it thoroughly depressing despite the upbeat ending. I was glad Kip and Oz got together, and I appreciated the Loch Ness scenes, but I couldn’t stop wondering what life was going to bring for Oz’s grandmother and Kip’s mother. Nothing good, I suspect.

A Few Good Fish by Amy Lane (vol 3)**** I enjoyed this finale to the story of Jackson and Ellery and their battle against maverick military experiments. The main pleasures of the book lie in the explosions, and the romance, and the author points out that anyone wanting facts about the police or army should avoid it. It loses a star because, just like the middle volume in the series, some extra sections from the beginning and middle of the story which originally appeared in the author’s blog are tacked on at the end, just when the tale had reached a satisfactory conclusion. Poor structuring.

The reasonable:

Say You’re Sorry (Sacramento 1) by Karen Rose*** I’ve always enjoyed Rose’s books even though they’re formulaic (police or FBI agent meets woman investigator/witness/pathologist/lawyer etc. and romance ensues while the thriller continues). However, I was less than keen on this one. About half the book was told from the point of view of the serial killer. I can see why: it was necessary, to avoid too much telling instead of showing at the end. But I’m simply not a fan of criminal point of view. I won’t be following the series.

The ones I wouldn’t recommend:

Less by Andrew Sean Greer ** This was awarded a Pulitzer Prize and to be honest I wondered whether it was because a minor character gets a Pulitzer, which gives rise to a conversation about how to pronounce it… Arthur Less is a mediocre writer of gay fiction, who travels to avoid the wedding of an ex-lover. Most of the book reads like a travelogue with a lot of purple prose more suited to brochures. Arthur himself is not a particularly endearing character. The narrator seems too intrusive though the reason for this becomes clear at the end. I was mostly bored but persisted because I’d paid for the book and also wanted to know why the critics liked it. I still have no answer to that.

A Fistful of Emmett by Jambrea Jo Jones** Emmett and Kit are two-dimensional characters and the story had little to grip the reader. It followed the basic ‘gay for you’ trope but I was bored and only finished it because it was short. The writing was less than stellar, with lots of repetition.

No Brief Affair by Ryan Taylor. Abandoned. The story switches point of view between Liam and John, repeating the same events from a different perspective. There is also too much explicit sex. I got bored very quickly and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Fanfic

Another month with a lot of reading that relied on canon familiarity, including the Lewis Spring Challenge, and a new Supernatural series my daughter is writing.

I’ll recommend the following:

Running on Air by eleventy7
https://archiveofourown.org/works/3171550
Harry Potter fandom. Draco is missing and the case is given to Harry as an auror. Very slow burn mm romance with no sex during the story. Beautifully written.

To Steal a Kiss From Borrowed Lipe by corruptedkid**** https://archiveofourown.org/works/16958304
Bandom AU. I’m always interested in how other writers handle magic. Gerard and Frank accidentally exchange bodies when a magic user tries to ‘help’ their relationship.

April Reviews

I’m sure April this year was even shorter than usual. (*glares at April*). And here we are, already a week into May.

TV and Film

Line of Duty seasons 1, 2, and 3 *****
After watching Season 4 last month we binge-watched these prior to watching Season 5. Well worth the effort! I absolutely love the concept and the characters and particularly the long interview/interrogation scenes which are totally gripping.

A United Kingdom *****
The story of Seretse Khama of what is now Botswanaland and his marriage to an English woman. They found prejudice in both their countries and a great deal of British political manipulation too, but overcame it to provide themselves and what was then Bechuanaland with a hopeful and positive future. Interesting and romantic.

Sergeant Pepper’s Musical Revolution*****

Howard Goodall explored the album and the work of the Beatles in a fascinating in-depth look at the band and their music. No longer available on catch-up but if it returns, watch it!

Classic Albums, Paul Simon: Graceland****
This looked at Simon’s collaboration with South African musicians and had some interesting footage but was not as exciting, for me, as the Goodall programme about the Beatles.

Natural World: Tasmania****
I enjoyed seeing the landscape and fauna of Tasmania, not a country we often get to see on television. As with most Natural World programmes, however, I found myself just enjoying the ‘eye candy’ and almost falling asleep.

Legend of Zorro **
I didn’t deliberately watch this but was not about to be driven out of the lounge. I wasn’t impressed. I gather from family comments that it wasn’t as good as the more famous prequel.

Baptiste: abandoned
I got irritated with this Dutch/Belgian/British police show. I found the plot unlikely and the main character never really came alive for me, possibly because I hadn’t watched the earlier show, ‘The Missing’. I gather this was a spin-off.

The Bay: abandoned
Another series with an unlikely plot and some unlikely police officers with dysfunctional families.

Books

The excellent

Harry Potter: A History of Magic published by British Library and Bloomsbury*****
This is the book of the British Library exhibition which I was unable to visit. The book is beautifully illustrated and I loved the way it tied a lot of scholarly research to J.K. Rowling’s work. There were some wonderful photographs of antiquities from various museums, and some delightful art by Jim Kay and by J.K Rowling herself. Unless, like me, you write fantasy and want a magical reference book, I would recommend ordering this from your local library. It’s worth looking at the pictures in all their glory in the expensive hardback edition. The articles are by a variety of writers, and are introduced by specialists in each aspect of the history of magic.

A Merciful Death, A Merciful Truth and A Merciful Secret by Kendra Elliot*****
This series consists of police procedurals set in a rural town that was Mercy’s birthplace. She is now an FBI officer helping to investigate deaths that have possible links to terrorism, and there is the added interest of a very slow moving romance between her and the local Chief of Police. The books gain an extra dimension from the detailed explanations about ‘preppers’, the people (like Mercy’s fictitious family) who prepare for The End Of The World As We Know It. I thoroughly enjoyed the first book and bought the next two. The series continues and I might buy more but not just yet. Recommended.

Midnight Flit by Elin Gregory*****
This is a sequel to Eleventh Hour and follows the later adventures of Miles and Briers in the 1930s. This time, there are threats to Miles’ parents and the duo have to protect them and themselves from mayhem and potential murder. The characters are well drawn and the period is wonderfully evoked. Highly recommended but you probably need to read the books in order.

Old Sins by Charlie Cochrane*****
This is a continuation of the series about Robin, a detective, and his partner Adam, a teacher. As well as being a gripping detective story it has a romance element (they are planning their wedding but finding it hard to decide on various factors) and a lot of well developed minor characters. Perhaps the main attraction is their dog, Campbell, a Newfoundland who enriches both their lives and their investigations. Again, highly recommended but start with the first book in the series!

Chaucer by Peter Ackroyd ****

I enjoyed this biography of the poet, which also contained a lot of detail about mediaeval London. I knocked off a star, not because of any criticism of the writing but because I had the paperback edition and found it irritating to be frequently referred to the coloured illustrations which I gather are only to be found in the hardback. I think a good editor should have dealt with this issue. There were black and white illustrations but these lost a lot of the detail I’m sure would be in the coloured ones.

Red Fish, Dead Fish by Amy Lane****

This is volume two in the Fish out of Water series and I found the continuing story of Ellery and Jackson trying to uncover high level corruption gripping and interesting. I have bought the third volume. However, I would criticise the structure of the book though this might be due to editing rather than the author. At the end, there are what are called Accompanying Stories. These, we are told, took place between volumes one and two, and are referenced in the main text. I think they could easily have been edited into the main story but if that was not the author’s wish, and if the publishers wanted to have them at the end I think at the very least this could have been highlighted at the beginning. The contents of the extra stories expanded and clarified parts of the main tale, and I found it annoying to be presented with them as what amounted to flashbacks after the volume was over. I have the third volume and am looking forward to it, and am very glad I read the extras.

The acceptable or even quite good.

Skythane by J Scott Coatsworth***
Absolutely no criticism of the writing but this was too much of a fantasy/sci fi mix for me. I prefer stories to be one or the other, and this straddled the two genres. There were winged people, a doorway between worlds, both those worlds in danger, and some worrying chases and villains. The characters were interesting, especially the young boy who ends up saving everyone. There is mm romance but it doesn’t overwhelm the plot and I never felt particularly keen to know whether the protagonists would end up together or not. There is some good world building but it didn’t seem to be able to decide whether the worlds were magical or science-based. I’m sure this doesn’t spoil the story, but it did mean it wasn’t quite for me. I’m not absolutely sure why. In some ways the concept (the joined worlds) echoes both the Harbinger series, which I’ve abandoned, and the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor, which I adored. I suspect I have to empathise deeply with the main character or characters before accepting the rest of the cross-world trope.

Rune Witch Mysteries (complete series) by Victoria DeLuis***

Urban magic set in South Wales. The concept intrigued me and I liked the characters and location. By the end of the series (four books) these had become almost overwhelmed with generic magic, demons, etc. and I felt less empathy with Summer and Thomas than at the beginning. I actually think the author should probably have given Summer and her non-magical boyfriend more cases to solve before setting them out to tackle the disappearance of Summer’s father and the family problems of fae royalty. Some good writing, and the stories are very readable.

My Partner the Wolf by Hollis Shiloh***
I like werewolves and this one, a cop who can trace victims in his wolf form, is no exception. But I would have liked more cop work and less about the relationship between Sean and Tom. A certain amount was essential, to get Tom estranged from his ex and established with Sean, but more police procedural from a wolf’s viewpoint would have made this a stronger story.

Knit One, Girl Two by Shira Glassman***
Quite a sweet ff romance between a young woman who dyes knitting yarn and an artist who inspires her. It’s fairly short and has pleasant enough characters, Clara and Danielle, but the story, despite some angst-ridden moments, is slightly thin.

And the dire

Wranglers (Rodeo Boys 1) by Gavin E Black: no stars

This was very short so I did finish it, hoping to find a plot. I failed. It was in fact just a series of mm sex scenes and I certainly wouldn’t read any sequels.

Dangerous to know: The Chronicles of Breed: Book 1 by K T Davies: abandoned
I didn’t feel any empathy for the main character, a rather vaguely drawn half-alien rogue, which after a couple of chapters made me abandon the book.

Fanfic

All the Important Words Unspoken by blamebrampton. *****

https://archiveofourown.org/works/5494034 73,456 words
This is a Harry Potter AU mm/mf/gen/auror casefic. I suppose that needs some clarification. If all the events of the HP books had taken place in Victorian times… Then if Harry as chief auror and Hermione as his ‘boss’ decided to recruit Draco with his knowledge of herbs and potions… And if Narcissa, desperate to marry Draco off, had chosen Astoria, who actually preferred Charlie Weasley… Then throw in smuggling of magical creatures and some delightful vignettes of real life muggle politicians. There is romantic subtext but it never goes further than a chaste kiss. Altogether delightful and highly recommended.

The other fanfic I read this month was probably impenetrable unless you were immersed in the canon stories of The Hobbit or Stargate Atlantis though I have to say And Maybe a Little Bit Wiser by Goddess47 puzzled me. There was no apparent connection with the SGA canon characters other than the names. The author admitted the story had initially been original then she decided to edit it to suit SGA which she’d had in mind all along. She didn’t do a very good job of it. I loved Small_Hobbit’s A Hobbit Bingo, a series of drabbles and ficlets with a short AU detective story featuring Thorin in the 1930s. However, I decided a detailed knowledge of canon was needed, not to enjoy it, but to appreciate it properly.

March Reviews

I know we’re nearly half way through April. I’ve been busy…

Films and TV etc.

The excellent

The Crimson Rivers*****

Really good French cop series that keeps suggesting supernatural explanations but always ends up with human criminals. Interesting cops.

Paddington*****

OK, late to the party – we didn’t think grandson would like it because of the death of the uncle near the beginning, so I never saw it… Lovely!

Shetland*****

Good cop series set on Shetland. I liked the cop team, the landscape and the plot.

Line of Duty Season 4*****

Cop series centred round an anti-corruption team. Gripping! So now we need to binge watch 1 – 3 before embarking on 5.

Early Man*****

I always like the animated clay productions. The humour was great and so were all the references to modern problems in this look at early man.

The good.

A Very British History ****

Excellent series looking at the history of various immigrants to UK (Gipsies/Black Brummies/Leeds Jews/Ugandan Asians).. Whilst it was good that each episode was told by someone who was part of the community, I would have liked something tying the programmes together.

Inside Europe: Ten Years of Turmoil****

The lead-up to the current Brexit problems. Well done but I would have liked more ‘before and after’ context, however brief.

Elizabeth Gaskell’s Heroines**** (see separate WordPress post)

Interesting lecture which included a look at the recently refurbished home of Elizabeth Gaskell in Manchester.

The Yorkshire Ripper Files****

The programmes had a focus on the victims and their families. It was interesting to see how and why it took so long to catch Peter Sutcliffe, and to see how police and media attitudes to women have had to change.

The poor.

Be Mine **

Very slight shortish film. It was mm romance so I thought I’d watch to see what the cinema did with it. Not a lot… Also, it was hard to work out what was flashback and which character was which.

And the ones where I gave up.

Baptiste: abandoned

Retired cop starts trying to find a missing woman and ends up involved in international crime. I missed an episode and found I couldn’t be bothered to catch up. I wasn’t keen on either the main character or the plot and found it hard to suspend disbelief.

The Bay: abandoned

I got annoyed with the policewoman from the start, and with her inability to organise her family, let alone her work.

Mums Make Porn: abandoned

In theory they were making a porn film that respected women, but in the process of doing so they interviewed and watched professional porn stars doing just that so I couldn’t see the point.

The Yorkshire Vet: abandoned

I loved this programme for the location (I used to live near there) as well as the animals, but the ops were so gory I gave up.

Shadowlands (not the CS Lewis story): abandoned

It was billed as three short stories about people seeking love. The first was a narcissist and the scenes were thoroughly nasty. I didn’t watch for long.

 

Books

The excellent

Dim Sum Asylum by Rhys Ford*****

I adored this cop story set in a fae San Francisco. I kept thinking I’d read it before but then realised it was an extended version of a story that appeared in the Charmed and Dangerous anthology, which I’d loved when I read it. This book is well worth the re-read at the beginning.

Rising Tide by Susan Roebuck *****

As usual, Susan Roebuck makes us feel as if we have been transported to Portugal. The hero and heroine, both part Portuguese, are brought together in a fishing village at risk from the manipulations of corrupt businessmen.

Set in Stone by Elin Gregory*****

A gripping and delightful short story with a supernatural twist. I shall file it with my Halloween stories and re-read it!

Spies, Planes and Automobiles by Elin Gregory and Charlie Cochrane*****

A nice short mystery where one of the heroes of Eleventh Hour meets the Cambridge Fellows.

State of Hate produced by Hope Not Hate*****

This year’s look at the state of the far right and their activities. Worth reading and worth keeping for reference.

Bitter Legacy and Object of Desire by Dal McClean*****

I couldn’t put these down! Exciting stories featuring a gay cop and two of his cases, set against his search for a lover. Each novel stands alone, but I think the way they’re interlinked adds to the pleasure. Excellent writing.

Rapid Response by DJ Jamison*****

Another book in the Hearts and Health series. This time it’s a firefighter and a paramedic who get together. The main pleasure of the series lies in getting to know the entire community, the hospital, etc. The story explores mild BDSM, being in the closet and being bi/pansexual.

Hidden Treasures and Late Fees by Marshall Thornton ***** (Pinx Video Mysteries 2 & 3)

Noah is a fascinating hero, since he is gay but HIV positive and still angst-ridden about his past. This is unusual since it gives us a story about gay characters without any sex, and as a result gives insight into gay Los Angeles. The city is described in detail and for the first time (and I’ve read quite a lot of books set there) I felt I might be getting to know it. The first of these sequels is concerned with aging cinema stars and their costumes, and the second has Noah’s mother come to stay and inadvertently involve him in a murder mystery.

Invitation to the Dance by Tamara Allen*****

A newspaper reporter and his copy editor are encouraged to go undercover to get information, by their editor. As well as the wanted social gossip they uncover criminal activities. Tamara Allen deftly brings the pre-WWII world of America to life

The good

Justice in the Sarladais by Stephen Reinhardt 1770-1790****

Interesting detailed look at social and criminal issues in the area around Sarlat just before the French Revolution. At times the book read like an expanded Ph.D thesis (which it might well have been) but it was an illuminating look at the social change in a rural area during the years leading to the revolution, and at the beginnings of the modern French judicial system.

Lord of the White Hell vols 1 and 2 by Gill Hale****

Some good world building and I liked the culture clash described as Kiram tries to adapt to Javier’s different country. However, towards the end I got slightly tired of the antics of the demon and was simply glad the heroes got together and seemed set fair for an interesting life together. I gather the next book deals with Elizar, who was not one of my favourite characters so I won’t bother reading it, especially because Hale’s books are very expensive, compared with other Kindle volumes.

The Broken Circle by Enjeela Ahmadi Miller****

An autobiographical account of how the author and her family escaped Afghanistan when the Russians arrived. The details were interesting and I was anxious for the family to survive and come together again. However, I could have done with slightly more context and perhaps more pointers towards the Taliban future. Maybe the author didn’t have these herself.

The Dodo, the Auk and the Oryx by Robert Silverberg ****

A friend recommended this and I was glad I bought it. It is out of print (it was originally published in the ‘70s) and in a sense it needs a new edition with some up to date statistics. It was a great introduction to extinction by both natural causes and human intervention, and would be a good starting point for further research. I bought it with my grandson in mind but although I will lend it to him, I shall keep it for myself. It’s a Puffin book but I think would be too hard for most children, as it assumes quite a lot of knowledge. I imagine the author and the publishers wanted to influence young minds. Silverberg is known to me as a sci-fi writer but I had never read any of his science writing.

The mediocre

Prism Cloud by Jeff Wheeler (book 4 of the Harbinger series) ***

I have got tired of Cettie and Sera and their inability to affect either their own empire or the other kingdom in this steampunk series. Both heroines started out interesting and determined but they now seem to be at the mercy of other people’s activities and agendas. The events that were, I think, meant to be startling were in fact quite predictable and the book was somehow flat. I don’t think I’ll bother buying the sequel.

The poor.

Spoonful of Flavour Leafy Greens e-book **

There were some nice recipes but I felt cheated. The book was meant to be a freebie for signing up to the author’s newsletter. It isn’t really an e-book, because frequently it catapults the reader back into the blog with navigational difficulties and a complete inability to copy/paste good recipes. All it has really done is make me unsubscribe…

Dominus by P Kenwood:  abandoned.

This came highly recommended but I didn’t get far. There was a great deal of ‘bad’ language which might well be realistic but throws me out of a story, there was some odd choice of vocabulary, there were startling point of view switches, and I simply found the general style unreadable.

Buttermilk Ranch by Patricia Logan: abandoned

The writing was very repetitive with occasional lapses into info dump. Again, I didn’t get far.

Fanfiction

(I only review the excellent, which I recommend, and mostly only fics that are accessible to readers who are not in the particular fandom.)

The Man with the Clockwork Heart by danceswithgary***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/16644200 6967 words

The story was written in response to art, in what’s known as a reverse big bang and both pay homage to Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, an anime film, The fandom is SGA but this is so AU only the names really give the origins away. John is the one with physical problems and Rodney is the scientist who can put things right.

From the Pen of Inky Quill by okapi ***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/6848800/chapters/15633211 40,821 words (so far)

This is an excellent series of anthropomorphic crack!fic, poetry and ficlets set loosely in the Sherlock universe. It is added to from time to time and occasionally appears in my inbox to my delight.

 Tits v. Porny by jeeno2 *****  https://archiveofourown.org/works/18115103#main 5289 words plus the lawsuit that inspired it  https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/9757a1_8b7166541a084d5ebe957b896cdc8132.pdf

A fascinating look at copyright, publishing, porn, lawsuits, etc. with a very mild m/f love story holding everything together. It’s worth ploughing through the very real lawsuit as background; it’s relevant to writers everywhere.This story is set in the Starwars fandom but like the SGA one is so AU only the names are the same. As the summary says: Ben Solo and Rey Johnson are attorneys, working together to defend their client against claims of plagiarism and copyright violation brought by a published author of original A/B/O fiction.

A Sheppard’s Christmas Carol by Brumeier***** https://archiveofourown.org/works/17087363  7641 words.

Fresh and interesting retelling of A Christmas Carol with John (SGA) visited by the spirits. The author was very inventive with the spirits she used. Worth keeping and re-reading, probably at Christmas. Perhaps not quite as accessible to people who don’t know SGA but lovers of the Dickens story should find the treatment interesting.