Happy Valentine’s Day 2020

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I intended to write a story for you. However, the plot bunny grew to stupid proportions and necessitated quite a bit of research so will not be ready for publication for some time. By the time I realised that, it was getting too late to write anything else. So, as I was about to add pdf versions of some of my work to my free fiction page I decided that would have to be my Valentine gift to you this year. People who have been following my posts for some time will be familiar with the works but at least can now download to read at their convenience and on any device. So I’ll post now for the sake of my Australian friends. Click on the free stuff tab and download anything you want to read, re-read or share! Enjoy!

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!

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.


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.


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

BBC’s 100 books list

A number of my friends on social media have been posting this as a meme so I wanted to join in.

The theory is that the BBC estimates that most people will only read/have read 6 books out of the 100 listed. People are told to reblog the list bolding the titles they have read.

The BBC never said anything of the kind. I watched the original series of programmes that introduced the list, which generated a lot of interest and comment at the time. The ‘six books’ thing was someone’s unofficial throwaway comment intended to provoke discussion. It certainly did!

I did a bit of research before finding the definitive original list in a format that could be downloaded and edited. It didn’t contain the later additions of Jacqueline Wilson’s books for young teens, and there are one or two other titles ‘missing’ which I have seen on other lists. So far as I can tell, this is the 2003 version but is unranked. There were originally 200 books and that might explain the gaps. There were also versions where people added or subtracted books at will…

As requested, I’ve bolded the ones I’ve read, and have also added my own star ratings in line with my normal monthly reviews. It appears I’ve read 86 of the original 100 and a few of the ones I’ve missed were missed deliberately. I’ve put my five star reads in red.

I apologise for some of the extra line breaks. WordPress wouldn’t let me remove them.

1.The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafon***** (made special because I read it in Barcelona where it is set)
2.Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres****
3. Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden*****

4.One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Marquez****
5.The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
6. Watership Down, by Richard Adams*****

7.The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
8.The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold***
9.Atonement, by Ian Mcewan
10.Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. (I know it – was there a TV series?)
11.Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini****
12.The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins****
13. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams*****

14. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen*****

15. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien***** This came top of the nation’s list, and mine too!
16.Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë**** I went to the school in this.
17.Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling**** I prefer the films.
18.To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee*****

19.The Bible*** Yes, I’ve read all of it and really, you’d need stars or otherwise for the various sections.
20.Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë*** Too melodramatic for me.
21.1984, by George Orwell****
22.His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman****
23.Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens****
24.Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott***
25.Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy**** I ‘did’ this for A level.
26.Catch-22, by Joseph Heller***
27. The complete works of Shakespeare*****  All read but I really do prefer the stage versions.
28.Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier***
29. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien*****

30.Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks***
31.The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger***
32.The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger***
33. Middlemarch, by George Eliot*****

34.Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell***
35.The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald – started and abandoned twice
36.Bleak House, by Charles Dickens****
37.War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy***
38.Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh****
39.Crime and Punishment, by Fydor Dostoevsky***
40.The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck****
41.Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll****
42. The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame*****

43.Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy***
44.David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens****
45. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis*****

46. Emma, by Jane Austen***** My favourite of Austen’s books.
47. Persuasion, by Jane Austen*****

48. Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne*****

49. Animal Farm, by George Orwell*****

50.The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown**
51.A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving – I don’t like Irving but have read other books by him
52. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery***** I read all the sequels, too.
53.Far From the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy****
54.The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood****
55.Lord of the Flies, by William Golding****
56.Life of Pi, by Yann Martel**
57.Dune, by Frank Herbert***
58. Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen*****

59. A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth***** Vies with LotR for top spot in my personal pantheon.
60.A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens****
61.Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley****
62.The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon*****

63. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Marquez*****

64. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck*****

65.Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov***
66.The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas – I think I only know the film version but I might have read the book when at school.
67.On the Road, by Jack Kerouac
68.Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy****
69.Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding***
70. Midnight’s Children, by Salman Rushdie*****

71.Moby Dick, Herman Melville*** ( I confess to skimming this)
72.Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens****
73.Dracula, by Bram Stoker***
74. The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett*****

75. Notes From a Small Island, by Bill Bryson***** It seems odd me that this reached the list, along with the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare. They’re the only ‘non-fiction’. And yes, I know the plots of Shakespeare are fiction but they’re usually shelved as plays, not fiction.
76.Ulysses, by James Joyce – started and abandoned twice
77.The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
78.Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome***
79.Germinal, by Emile Zola
80.Vanity Fair, by William Makepeace Thackeray***
81. Possession, by A.S. Byatt*****

82.A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens****
83.Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell***
84.The Color Purple, by Alice Walker***

85.The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro**
86.Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert***
87.A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
88.Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White****
89.The Five People You Meet in Heaven, by Mitch Albom
90.Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle****

91.The Faraway Tree Collection, by Enid Blyton****
92.Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad***
93. The Little Prince, by Antoine de St.-Exupery*****

94.The Wasp Factory, by Iain Banks****
95.A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
96.A Town Like Alice, by Nevil Shute****
97.The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas***
98.A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess***
99.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl***
100. Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo*****


Somebody remind me not to do this kind of list again. Getting the formatting right for WordPress was a nightmare!