Short stories read in May

A neighbour agreed to cut back their weeping willow because it was affecting another neighbour’s fish pond. We now have a rather strange view…

Short stories, of course, are not cut back novels but are works in their own right, or should be.

Contemporary Romance Collection Vol 2**** Mixed, as is usual for anthologies. I liked Fiona Glass’ Heat Haze (a clever ficlet about a young man’s fantasies), Jamie Miller’s His Fragile Heart, Emma Alcott’s YA The Asshole Next Door and The Art of Christmas by Louisa Masters. I didn’t read a couple that were clearly about ‘kinks’ that don’t appeal to me, and I found Sophia Soames’ Honest depressing though well written. Some of the contributions were novellas rather than short stories and I thought the collection as a whole was well chosen and guaranteed to have something to appeal to most readers but nothing truly outstanding.

Come in out of the rain by Clare London**** This was a sweet mm ficlet in Clare’s newsletter. I could feel the rain!

Boys in Brief by Clare London**** – a group of short stories by the same author, well written and entertaining, as usual.

Trials and Tribulations of Online Dating by Louisa Masters*** An mf story – competent but boring and predictable.

Cascades by Charley Descoteaux*** A story about two older men and a second chance at love. I would have liked more back story to develop the characters.

A Picture Perfect Holiday by ZA Maxfield*** An unmemorable holiday story, well written but with nothing particular to recommend it.

Always for you by Becca Seymour*** This turned out to be a glimpse of characters from another series which I don’t know. If you follow this author you might like the story.

What I read in May

Our neighbour’s lilac from our landing window. Glorious while it lasts but it’s fragile stuff and doesn’t last long!

The excellent:

The Marriage of Likeness: same sex unions in pre-modern Europe by John Boswell***** I’d been wanting to read this for ages and finally got a cheap ‘used’ copy. It’s fascinating. However, it’s very academic and took me a long time. Also, as I have never learnt Greek I had to take the footnotes and the appendix on trust. The book sheds a lot of light on early Western European attitudes to same sex unions, and to the Church’s way of dealing with them too. It should probably be required reading in the ‘bible belt’.

Deefur Dog by RJ Scott***** A lovely mm romance. A harassed single dad needs a nanny for his daughter but also one that can cope with the Great Dane cross (the dog of the title).

Comfort Zone by Alexa Milne***** A sort of sequel to A Sporting Chance. We find some of the same characters. A lovely story and beautifully written as usual.

And the very good:

Darkness Falls by Jamie Lynn Miller**** An mm romance with the angst of blindness for one of the partners.

Dream by Garrett Leigh**** An mm romance between an ex-dancer and a CAB manager. The plot explores the problems brought about by ME

Mr Warren’s Profession by Sebastian Nothwell**** This would have been a five star read except for the author’s grasp of UK geography. It was a really good story about a mill owner and a clerk in late Victorian times, with a gripping plot and an angst ridden romance. However, even in the twenty first century, it simply isn’t possible to travel rapidly between Manchester, London and Wiltshire. I think American writers and others from outside UK look at our maps and think ‘oh, that’s not far…’ There were other non-Brit flaws, too, but they didn’t stop me devouring the book.

And also the abandoned:

The Elvish Deal by Paul Lockman. An ancient Middle Earth elf in NewYork in 2019 saves a suicidal veteran, Alicia. Not for me.

A few things watched in May

Close-up of the ornamental quince outside our front door. Over now, but glorious in May.

The Killing: Seasons 1 and 2*****We missed this first time it aired (maybe we were in Portugal) so thought we’d try it and ended up binge watching just in case they took it down from iPlayer. Great drama with convoluted plots and good acting and direction. The ending, plus the fact that it was made in 2012 (for the native Danish market) suggest there will be no more but at least it helped fuel Scandi-noir.

Second Wave: Did the government get it wrong? Dispatches.**** (UK: Channel 4)

Excellent drawing together of all the government mishaps and errors starting at the beginning of 2020. Of course it’s easy to criticise with hindsight, but this current crop of politicians doesn’t seem to learn from its mistakes. As usual with Dispatches, I wanted slightly more information.

Schitt’s Creek. Abandoned. (During ep 2)

I’d been told so much about this and had recommendations from all and sundry. It just wasn’t for me. It’s not that I dislike comedy/drama or the basic concept. I just can’t cope with what for me is over-acted American humour. Disappointed. I can sort of see why a lot of people love it, but I’m not among them..

Short stories read in April

Periwinkle blue or blue periwinkle – a sure sign of spring!

Quite a good ‘crop’ of short stories in April – perhaps because I stuck to authors I know and like!

Here for you by Jackie Keswick**** A lovely short story for Rock and Art., but probably not accessible to anyone who hasn’t read the first novel in the series.

Good Breeding and Hairy, Horny and Over Here, both by JL Merrow**** Stories with the subtle humour I’ve come to expect of this author. And a jackalope! I can assure everyone I have seen a horned hare, stuffed, mounted and displayed in a German restaurant…

A Sparks Gift and Just Like in the Movies, both by Clare London **** The first was an ‘extra’ for readers of Sparks Fly so it wouldn’t make sense to anyone who hadn’t read that. The other story is a stand-alone and is lovely.

Fake It ‘Til You Make It by Louisa Masters*** A competent but not very memorable.romance set in Melbourne.

Books I read in April (and some I abandoned)

I have no idea why these pretty spring flowers are called dead nettles. Because they don’t sting? Anyway, they’re currently all over the garden and the bees seem to like them.

The ones I read:

Excellent fiction:

Once upon a river by Diane Setterfield***** A haunting story of disappearing children in a river community in Victorian middle England. Gripping, satisfying and beautifully written.

Restored (and the prequel short Seasons Pass)***** The Bequest all by Joanna Chambers***** A delightful end to the story of David and Murdo, and a chance to find out about a couple of people who were mere minor vharacters in the first Enlightenment series. I can thoroughly recommend the series but if you haven’t read it, these later stories might be hard to follow.

Requiem Moon by CT Rwizi***** I just hope there’s another in the series… As good as the first (Scarlet Odyssey). High fantasy set in a world that uses African history and mythology as a starting point. This South African writer is brilliant.

Back in Black by Rhys Ford***** Another case of being hard to follow if you haven’t read the earlier books. This is purportedly a new series (McGinnis Investigations 1) but the various family members need their back stories. I love all of them and the mix of different cultures and attitudes in the books is superb.

The Well by Marie Sexton***** Ghosts, murder and mm romance. Dinner was late because I couldn’t stop reading.

Excellent non-fiction:

Tribes by David Lammy***** Excellent account of growing up with a foot in the ethnic minority south London community and another in the English public school. Really interesting and well written and gives a lot of thought provoking suggestions for political change.

Jew(ish) by Matt Greene***** This was a fascinating read in the light of Tribes! Matt is a non-observant Jew growing up in London, and he makes some hard hitting observations about how Jews are treated in UK as well as some enlightening commentary on anti-semitism in the Labour party.

Also The Commission on Racial Inclusivity in the Jewish Community by Stephen Bush who is one of my favourite New Statesman journalists. I learnt from this that he is a member of the Jewish community as well as being ‘black British’.

And The State of Hate 2021 – Hope Not Hate. A really good reference work to accompany the other books just mentioned about race in UK.

I’m not sure whether you can get those last two if you don’t subscribe to the relevant organisations but they’re well worth reading.

Good Fiction.

The Seattle Stories by Con Riley**** After Ben; Saving Sean; Aiden’s Luck. The constant use of the same theme (loss, comfort, etc.) began to irritate me but the series is interesting, dealing with the stories of a group of friends, and is well written.

Code Name: Liberty by Marshall Thornton**** Who is, and who is not a spy? And why? Lighthearted romance with thriller overtones.

Smailholm by C.L.Williams**** A story written as a kind of fairy tale set on the Scottish border during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots. The book is not only interesting and well written; it comes beautifully presented with a lovely cover and bookmarks though I don’t know if that was just because I took advantage of a special introductory offer. Wynn is an interesting heroine.

Tenacious by Blake Allwood.**** The main couple have to deal with a stalker from a previous relationship. Well written and quite gripping. The fact that each chapter repeats some of the events from different points of view makes the story feel ‘padded’ so that I thought of it as a novella rather than a novel but as it was free I didn’t feel cheated.

The artist and his billionaire by CJ Turner**** Lovely detail at the start, with the main character as both a florist and an artist. Then the story peters out and the ending, although satisfactory, feels rushed. Definitely a novella, not a novel.

Acceptable fiction:

Red Heir by Lisa Henry*** Amusing rescue of a prince – but which redhead is the royal heit? A great concept but a lot of the characters could have done with much more detailed exploration.

Secret Admirer by DJ Jamison*** Nicely written but very predictable mm college romance.

Adore by JD Ellis *** Cooper gets a summer job as nanny for Ellis’ grandaughter.- the story is full of tired tropes but is nicely written

The Cipher by Isabella Maldonado*** The author is ex FBI and this is a competent thriller. It just isn’t wildly exciting.

Little Boy Dead by Marshall Thornton*** Another competent PI story in the Boystown series but again, ultimately boring, because I didn’t really develop any concern about the main character. Maybe you have to read the series, though I’ve read one other which struck me the same way. The author’s Pinx Video series catapults the reader into the lives of the amateur detectives and is much more satisfying.

And poor fiction, which I don’t recommend:

The Planter’s Wife by Ann Bennett** Take an unlikely plot and add an irritating structure. The narrative switches from 1st person to 3rd and swings between different times. It felt a bit like being on a see saw… I also found it hard to sympathise with the heroine whose life choices were strange.

Murderous Profession by DJ Small** Another unlikely plot pairing a female detective with a male sex worker. The villain was predictable and two dimensional.

Also, the ones I abandoned:

The Leadminer’s Daughter by Margaret Manchester. I thought this story set in the Yorkshire Dales would be interesting with its combination of historical romance and mystery in a familiar location but I got bored quite quickly.

The Complete Kate Hamblyn Detective Mysteries by David Hodges. There are 7 books in the box set. I gave up the first after just a few chapters. So much happened to the heroine from all sides (villains, family, colleagues) before we even really knew her, that I suspended all belief in the plot, plus she was clearly going to survive for another seven tales…

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A novel about transgender experience. It sounded interesting but was very American with almost impenetrable family, school and social norms. I’d like to read the same thing set in UK. Probably good for American readers.

Without Magic by Tye Tivillus. A boring account that began with a teen sold into slavery. I gathered he would later learn he could be a magician but it was taking its time…

The Wide Night Sky by Matt Dean. A novel about a dysfunctional family. I didn’t much like any of them so stopped caring.

Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross. I suppose I should have expected this to be a bit HP derivative but it was also very boring. I didn’t really care what Bianca was up to.

What I watched in April

First of all, before the weather turned wintry again, I watched the pear blossom coming out fully. I’m hoping the dearth of insects due to the cold spell won’t affect our crop too much. I love our pears: raw, poached, pickled or baked. A pear version of tarte tatin is wonderful.

But the weather drove me indoors so I watched TV instead.

The excellent:

Dogs behaving very badly***** We watched in awe as Graham politely and efficiently trained the owners…

Line of Duty***** I loved it, despite a lot of critical reviews of this season. I love the filming, the direction, and the main actors. It was fascinating, in the same week as the finale, to watch a programme (the name escapes me) about the very real corruption investigation in the Met. I suspect this was the last season, but some of the issues have been left open for another.

The Looming Tower ***** A very well executed (and acted) account of the events leading up to 9/11 and the lack of trust and co-operation between the CIA and the FBI which probably contributed to the general chaos.

The Truth about Franco: Spain’s forgotten dictatorship **** We saw most of episodes 1 – 4 (in the wrong order). It was interesting and it was good to see Paul Preston, author of The Spanish Holocaust, taking us beyond the end of that book to what came after.

And the abandoned.

BlacKkKlansman – This was a sad and unintended abandonment. I saw half then needed to stop (I think it was bedtime) and it wasn’t on a catch-up service. I will definitely watch the second half if it comes round again. The basic plot centres round the true story of an ethnic minority journalist who manages to infiltrate the KKK online then has to persuade his (Jewish) friend and colleague to do the in-person stuff.

Luther – I sort of abandoned this but as husband binge watched it I inevitably saw a number of episodes. I like Idris Elba but I don’t like the amount of bloodshed involved in the very convoluted crimes, and nor do I like frequent episodes where people stand on the edge of roof tops, etc.

Ice Cold Murders – Italian noir. We watched one episode but won’t bother with more. It tried to be Montalbano without the scenic attraction and the crime was not particularly interesting.

Short stories read in March

The wallflowers have been in full bloom since early March. Rays of sunshine even on dull days!

I didn’t read any fanfiction worth mentioning last month though I downloaded a lot to read later. So this concludes my reviews for March.

As usual, I’m giving the best shorts four stars rather than five because I would have liked more lengthy explorations of the themes. Short stories have to hit a higher bar, for me, to get five stars.

The very good:

Bad, Dad and Dangerous by four authors. Rhys Ford (Wolf at first Sight), Jen Moffat (Kismet and Cadavers), TA Moore (Elfshot) and Bru Baker (Monster Hall Pass)**** I enjoyed all four stories and liked TA Moore and Rhys Ford best. All four have shifter fathers trying to have a life of their own despite needing to protect their children. Recommended for anyone who likes stories about shifters and appreciates some family life in their tales.

Blitz by Charlie Cochrane.**** Set in the London blitz. A delightful free short story from Charlie (on her website) embodying mm romance and world war two.

The readable:

Capital Crimes by various authors*** All the stories were about crimes that took place in capital cities. I liked Charlie Cochrane’s Game of Chance and The Drag Queen wore red by JL Merrow more than the rest but probably only because of already knowing the characters from the series. Karma by Alan McDermott was probably the best story in the collection but I couldn’t quite see how it related to the collection title. The rest were not inspiring.

Zikora by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi*** Reflections and discussions around childbirth, circumcision, marriage… Adichi is a good writer but I didn’t find much to inspire me in this story. However, I’m probably not the target audience. Also, I think her writing style demands long and involved storylines, not short glimpses of life.

The Poison Within by Kasia Bacon *** This was too short to get a real sense of the Order Universe where it takes place. It left me wondering whether I would enjoy the main series, and whether I would ever hear anything more about the protagonists. Disappointing, particularly because I approached it as an introduction to the writer’s work.

Abandoned

Wings of Change ed Lyn Worthen. YA stories about dragons. I read a couple of these and thought they’d probably appeal to teenagers. But not to me.

Rainbow Briefs ed Kira Harp. YA – I didn’t bother after the editor’s intro which made it very clear that these stories were for teens.

There is probably nothing to criticise about these two anthologies. It’s just that life’s too short to read a lot of work in a genre you don’t really enjoy!

Novels and longer books in March

I photographed the pear tree, just about to produce blossom, on the same afternoon as the flowering currant in my previous post. I hope this proves that the sky was in fact blue. Since then we’ve had snowstorms so I hope the blossom survives.

I seem to have read a lot in March. I am trying hard to get through all the backlog on my Kindle. I might manage it in April, at which point I will need to upload all the books I bought from other sites.

The excellent:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison*****(+) I adored this. A young prince inherits the throne when all the family are killed in what seems to be an accident. He is the child of an elf father (the emperor) and a goblin mother (an arranged political marriage). When he becomes emperor of an elvish empire the effects are immediate and far reaching. As well as coping with his unexpected position he has to find out why his father and brothers died, and find a wife who will be politically and personally acceptable. A fascinating story and a wonderful character study. I wanted more but I don’t think there’s a sequel. Highly recommended.

Romancing the Ugly Duckling by Clare London ***** A delightful romance between a stylist totally out of his depth on a Scottish island, and a man who has fled not just London but the mainland to nurse his hurt over his treatment by his family. The story has humour, excitement, and some excellent minor characters.

It takes two to tumble by Cat Sebastian***** Lovely romance set in nineteenth century lake district. Ben is a young vicar who falls in love with Phillip, a widowed naval captain with children. The children almost steal the show, and the locals are a fascinating bunch.

Say Goodbye for Now by Catherine Ryan Hyde***** This was a gorgeous novel with a very slow burn romance between Calvin and Lucy. The story deals with issues of race in the southern states, and much of the focus iis on Calvin’s son, Justin and his friendship with Pete, a boy from an abusive home who has been befriended by Lucy, a doctor. Friendship is a strong part of the theme, as are the miscegenation laws of the state. The romance has to be put on hold until the laws are overturned, and the ending is hopeful but I would have liked a little more about what the future held.

The very good:

Bay City Paranormal Investigations Box Set by Ally Blue**** This set of stories, based round the characters who run the BCPI team, is absorbing and well written. There are various love interests, both mf and mm, though perhaps too much explicit sex for my taste. I was slightly disappointed by the fact that the major threat the team was investigating was not in fact something paranormal but some kind of sci fi alien invasion. This was never fully explained. They contained the threat – for now – but I would have liked more closure and more acknowledgement of the source of the danger. The conflation of paranormal and alien was slightly off-putting.

A Midwife’s Tale. The life of Martha Ballard based on her diary 1785-1812 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich (New England)**** This was an interesting read. It combines a detailed exploration of Martha’s diary with facts and figures about medicine, midwifery and the role of women in New England rural society during her lifetime. As well as being a portrait of a fascinating woman (and her family), it deals with issues such as feminism, social bonds, local justice and the gradual removal of medical matters from the hands of experienced members of the community to male ‘experts’. I was slightly annoyed by the tendency of the author to repeat what had just been said in the diary extracts. Presumably she did not trust her readers to concentrate on the content.

Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries (vol 1) by Ashley Gardner**** The boxed set contains three novels and two short stories. Captain Lacey is back in London after the Napoleonic wars, and is involved in a number of criminal investigations. His old sergeant is a Bow Street Runner and is able to offer some help. Early nineteenth century London is portrayed in great detail. Whilst I found the books interesting I did not altogether empathise with the main characters and will probably not buy volume 2. However, if you like historical crime stories, I can recommend the series.

Sea Kissed by Spencer Spears**** A young man is washed up on the shore with no idea of his identity or how he came to be half drowned. He is found by a recluse who is initially just glad not to be recognised. Their stories are gradually revealed, to them as well as the reader. The blurb suggested this was an mm retelling of The Little Mermaid, but it was a very long way from the original, particularly because the recluse did not really fit the role of the prince . However, it did have a fairy tale quality, albeit with a thoroughly modern happy ending.

Lessons in Solving the Wrong Problem by Charlie Cochrane**** A nice new problem for the Cambridge Fellows, though as usual, I prefer the longer novels to the novellas so this didn’t make five stars. I did enjoy revisiting Jonty’s family from the earlier books in the series. Recommended to all who are following Jonty and Orlando, but for anyone who isn’t, the story might not make a great deal of sense since it references other cases and events without going into detail.

Close to the Bone by Kendra Elliot**** (Widow’s Island 1) I prefer the longer Mercy Kilpatrick books by this author so, like Charlie Cochrane’s book, this doesn’t achieve five stars. Elliot is a good writer and her mysteries are well crafted. I liked the setting, with the islands just off the coastal resort being the venue for death as well as romance.

Cowboys don’t ride unicorns by Tara Lain**** A cowboy/bull rider meets an interior designer when the latter comes to the stud farm for a short holiday. The attraction of opposites is immediate and intriguing. There is plenty of angst, not least over the dangers of bull riding and the homophobia of the cowboy’s father.

The Custodian of Marvels (Fall of the Gaslight Empire 3) by Rod Duncan**** This final volume in the series was just as exciting as books 1 and 2 but I felt the end was rushed and then there was the kind of glossary as an epilogue. That gave a potted history of events, and distanced me from the actual ending. Altogether I enjoyed this steampunk adventure but I preferred the first two volumes.

The readable:

All Systems Red (Murderbot 1) by Matha Wells*** I read rave reviews of this but was disappointed. It was well written and the author seems to get into the ‘brain’ of the robot lead character. But I felt the plot was too slight and predictable (murder and mayhem on a planet during exploration) and I don’t feel inclined to follow the series. I think the use of a robot as narrator is an excellent idea, but I prefer my sci fi with more depth to the story and the world as well as the characters.

Stranger in the Room (Keye Street 2) by Amanda Kyle Williams *** This was a well written but improbable crime story centred round the cousin of the lead detective. Because of her previous addiction and other problems, the police have not believed the cousin’s reports of a stalker. I would (like the detective) have liked more clues. There are deaths and horrors that culminate in a threat to both cousin and detective.

City of Perfect Moments by Annabeth Chatwin*** This is a YA mm romance – teens meet (and bond) and then face hostility for being weird rather than being gay – it’s well written but not my kind of book. If any reader has a teen who has problems with their sexuality it might be a good choice.

Winter Solstice in St Nacho’s by ZA Maxfield*** Another well written mm romance in the St Nacho series. This one spent most of the time following recovery from addiction which I’m sure is a worthy issue but not one I particularly wanted to read about. I was looking for an escapist romance and got a rather heavy and angst-ridden one. I enjoy the overall concept of the series, that the town draws those who will benefit from being there.

Haunted by Irene Preston and Liv Rancourt *** This turned out to be a short prequel and I was quite disappointed. A sceptical TV ghost hunter meets an insurance guy who has left the police force because of his reaction to what could be ghosts. A great concept, but this was too short to explore the characters properly, and the investigation was also too brief. I probably won’t buy the sequels in case they’re equally brief and unsatisfying.

Spellbreaker by Charlie M Holmberg*** Like Paper Magic by the same author, this story had a really fascinating and detailed magic system but this was combined with flat characters and plot. Elsie could be a good heroine but was never properly developed. Bacchus was an interesting character and I assume the pair will combine their skills in future volumes. However, I won’t be reading about them.

Next to Disappear by Malcolm Richards *** (Emily Swanson series) The crime in this novel is based on a true story about psychiatric treatment but amateur detectives Emily and Jerome are not very believable. Nor is the way Emily is first drawn into the investigation. I will not be following the series.

The Same Breath by Gregory Ashe*** A fairly good mm romantic thriller set in Utah against a background of Mormon upbringing. It was not as good as Pretty Pretty Boys, and I read it because I was waiting for the sequel to that. Tean is a wildlife vet and has to help Jem find out what has happened to his brother who has been investigating ecological damage.

The poor:

The Snowdonia Killings by Simon McCleave** I was looking forward to a thriller set in North Wales but the story was boring, about unlikeable characters, and was padded with unnecessary info dumps about Welsh history and legends.

A Light Amongst Shadows by Kelly York and Rowan Allwood ** This couldn’t make its mind up. Was it a ghost story? A school story? An mm romance? It was mostly unpleasant and was told in a style that didn’t quite match the intended Victorian England setting.

And the abandoned:

The Soul Killer by Ross Greenwood. When the tale switched from the killer’s life story (not a trope I enjoy) to a very boring detective I gave up.

Cathedral of Lies by John Pye. The blurb suggests the reader might solve the puzzle for themselves after the end of the book. So, as I don’t really play armchair detective games, I didn’t really start reading.

Confessions of a Curious Bookseller by Elizabeth Green. There were letters and possibly diary entries. There were a lot of italics which I find hard to read when they last for pages and pages. There was no ‘hook’ to interest me in whatever the story might have been about.

March viewing

It was a glorious spring day when I took this photograph and the sky was in fact a wonderful shade of blue. My camera disagreed. All attempts to restore the colour using e.g. Photoshop merely resulted in poorer colour for the flowering currant and the forsythia behind it. So you’ll have to imagine the blue.

Only one five star programme this month.

The Great Pottery Throwdown***** My comfort zone on Sunday evenings. I really enjoyed watching the competitors and second guessing who would win (I was usually right). I also learnt a lot about pottery, both the technical aspects and decorative techniques. A lovely series with an underlying educational focus. I think it was really pleasing that the winner was coincidentally an NHS nurse.

Then there are the ones I enjoyed.

Chris Packham: Aspergers and me**** I enjoyed hearing about Packham’s voyage of self discovery. It was not, of course, like that of my grandson. All people on the autistic spectrum are different, as are the rest of us! I would like people to stop referring to Aspergers – partly for that reason. Autism covers a wide range of things, and I don’t think separating one section of people with autism is very helpful. But if it keeps Packham happy, that’s his decision, not mine.

All the sins Season 2**** Finnish noir. I liked season 1 and wondered whether the fact that season 2 was a kind of prequel would spoil it. It didn’t. The focus on the religious minority cult was fascinating all over again. I would, however, have liked a little more about society in Finland in general, to make comparisons that I’m sure were clear to the original target audience.

Bloodlands**** Another thriller set in Belfast. Irish noir? I quite like James Nesbitt so I enjoyed the series. I’m not sure it will sell well outside UK unless accompanied by a manual about the N.Irish ‘troubles’.

The Romantics and Us with Simon Schama**** An excellent set of programmes exploring the art of the Romantic movement. I particularly liked the way Schama linked the art, music and poetry to the politics of the time. I certainly ended up viewing some of the work from a new perspective. I did want another programme, to at least mention all the other creators who weren’t mentioned.

And the ones I at least watched to the end.

Miss World 1970: Beauty Queens and Bedlam*** An interesting look at the beauty queen world and the various attacks on the entire concept as well as the later lives of some of the participants. It didn’t entirely hold my interest and I found myself multi-tasking, but it highlighted a lot of things that were not at all clear in 1970 when I watched the news coverage in real time.

Man in Room 301*** Another Finnish noir. This time, I got fed up quite quickly with the flashbacks and the obvious red herrings, but stuck with it to find out what would happen in the end. Not really a thriller in the normal sense of the word, just a very sad look at some horrible family dynamics.

Unforgotten Seasons 3 and 4 *** I hadn’t seen Seasons 1 and 2 and by the time the series was recommended I think I only just caught Season 3. I liked the lead detectives and the format of one case per season. However, Season 4 was depressing, particularly the ending, and I was also slightly irritated at the way the two seasons followed the same pattern: four main suspects with a gradual untangling of their various stories and viewpoinst. If there’s a Season 5 I probably won’t bother.

As usual, there were a couple I abandoned

Grace (John Simm). Highly improbable – both cast and story. I watch a lot of cop shows and this one really didn’t make the grade for me.

Between the lines. I remember enjoying this first time around and we thought we’d try again but everything seemed very dated plus the film aspect ratio has changed. I’ve noticed this in other older films/series but they have to be better than this for me to ignore it.

I apologise for not having managed to make a note of the various channels and catch-up availability this month. I can, however, say that none of the above were on Sky (which we don’t have) or Sky Arts (which doesn’t have a catch up service for non-Sky customers).

Some great short stories and some abandoned reading

For once I can highly recommend all the short stories I found in February!

I watched Clare London reading her own mm stories on YouTube. The stories were very short and sweet – perfect for a brief retreat from real life. It was really good to have the author reading them and to see her face – I don’t often listen to audiobooks but these were delightful, mostly because of the feeling of closeness to the author. So five stars to the whole set!

Clare London on YouTube*****

BAH HUMBUG!  https://youtu.be/EFHdU6MY7iU
ONE OF THOSE DAYS  https://youtu.be/U7Co-6Fysfg
A NUMBERS GAME  https://youtu.be/h_J-YM7q3SU
COOKIES  https://youtu.be/Z3O5qNj8fGQ
SALSA  https://youtu.be/bfK9PwQkkOk

I also very much enjoyed: My Lonely Valentine by Jackie Keswick ***** The story centres round a misunderstanding about a ring on Valentine’s Day and was lovely.  

I abandoned three books in February. As usual, I must stress that since I only read a chapter (if that), this in no way reflects on the writing ability of the author, just on my personal taste. I hope this gives you both some idea of my preferences and also some flavour of the stories for those who might enjoy them – they were all perfectly well written.

Purrfect Murder (The Mysteries of Max bk 1) by Nic Saint

This seemed to be a cat as detective and I was disbelieving and irritated as soon as I realised the cat was going to talk to their detective partner. I enjoy animal stories (e.g. Watership down) and I like shifter stories. I quite like magical animals. Talking but otherwise non-magical animals, not so much. I believe the series is one of cosy mysteries and it might appeal to some of you.

Impossibly Fond by Tanya Chris

I have very little idea of where the plot was going. I just know there were far too many magical elements all introduced at the beginning and I felt overwhelmed. It appears to be a humorous story about a fledgling wizard. I suspect that for me, magic and humour don’t often mix well.

Don’t ever forget by MatthewFarrell

This crime story managed to confuse me almost straight away with far too many different points of view. It also annoyed me when the author described someone of 65 as old. I know 65 isn’t exactly young, but the general idea seemed to be that someone that age would inevitably be senile and in need of constant care. Rather than continue to lose my temper, I gave up.